by STEPHANIE HILLER
"Contamination of our food and land now affecting the way we think"disease of the mind has set in world leaders."
--Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Statement by the Council of Elders to the UN, November 16, 2013
Seals with skin ulcers "never seen before" have been showing up in Alaska and also in Japan. The sardine industry on the North Coast has collapsed. Herring are hemorrhaging from their gills. A sea star broke in two and then turned into goo. Northern whales, reputed "singers," have become silent. Birds have been washing up dead along the Alaskan coast showing "the radioactive isotope, C-137, which has been so prevalent in the Fukushima releases as to carry its signature."
What can be the cause of a mysterious die-off of moose and deer in the western United States? Childhood cancers have increased by 28 percent in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington; in Japan, 58 thyroid cancers have been reported in young children, where one to two cases had been the norm. The Japanese government is no longer reporting the incidence of cancer.
Welcome to the new "Pacific rim", two and a half years after the catastrophe at the huge Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, where, according to scientists, bluefin tuna from southern California were found to be contaminated with radioactive cesium after only a month in Japanese waters; ""absolutely every one of them had comparable concentrations of cesium-134 and cesium-137," said marine biologist Nicholas Fisher at Stony Brook University in New York State. It had to be from Fukushima.
Lake Barrett, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official and now an adviser to the Tokyo Electric Power Company that manages the plant ( TEPCO ) commented in March 30, 2011: "The environmental release is the growing challenge; you're going to read more and more about it in the paper. Wait until the first cesium-137 shows up in Alaska salmon, which is only a matter of time. You're going to find it right back in the headlines."
Daniel Hirsch , a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire: "We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish."
But perhaps there's nothing to worry about. According to the New Scientist, "even if all the waste from Fukushima was dumped neat into the Pacific, dilution would eliminate any radiation risks to distant countries like the US, says Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK."
We better hope they're right, because despite real concerns, the United States is not monitoring the amounts of contamination in fish and is unlikely to do so due to sequestration. The World Health Organization, which in 1959 entered into an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency giving the unequivocally pro-nuclear IAEA a veto over WHO research into the effects of radiation unsurprisingly reported in February of this year: " A comprehensive assessment by international experts on the health risks associated with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) disaster in Japan has concluded that, for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated." Confusingly, the report also admits that " the estimated risk for specific cancers in certain subsets of the population in Fukushima Prefecture has increased."
Whom should we believe? Judging from the listings that come up on my Google search, a great many people are in a high state of alarm, and not very many of them believe the assurances coming from the government. The consequences of previous nuclear accidents, if they are ever revealed to the public, are usually minimized. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have caused far more deaths than projected. We've never had anything as big as Fukushima; nor have we had contamination of the ocean on such a huge scale. But it's a big ocean. What harm can a tiny bit of strontium, cesium, plutonium or tritium do?
Says Dr. Helen Caldicott, a lifelong critic of the dangers of nuclear energy, "The extent of the cover-up tells you the size of the problem."
Ever since Hiroshima, scientists have debated the effects of "low-level" radiation such as that released by Fukushima into the Pacific. While there is no question of the consequences of a criticality event in the damaged fuel pool while the rods are being removed there has been widespread disagreement about the dangers posed by low-level alpha and beta radiation. Mainstream scientists and industry advocates have asserted, sometimes smugly, that low level radiation is no problem, while worthy independent scientists like Rosalie Bertell, PhD, Dr. John Gofman, Dr. Alice Stewart, and father of Health Physics Karl Z. Morgan have warned, to quote Morgan, that "there is no safe level of exposure and there is no dose of radiation so low that the risk of a malignancy is zero." (Fact Sheet, "There is No Safe Dose of Ionizing Radiation," from Beyond Nuclear.) Finally, in 1990, the U. S. Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation concluded that the frequency of cancer and hereditary genetic effects "increases with low-level radiation as a linear, non-threshold function of the dose." (National Research Council BEIR V 1990, quoted in Beyond Nuclear Fact Sheet.) Since then, the idea of an exposure "threshold" has been continually challenged.
"Low dose" and "low level" are not the same thing. The dose, of course, is the amount received by the body. Low-level, on the other hand, refers to alpha and beta emitters; these do not penetrate the skin, but if ingested or inhaled: as Dr. Chris Busby (see below) writes, "they can have huge effects on cellular DNA at low average "doses'. It is like comparing warming yourself in front of the fire with eating a hot coal."
While studies have shown that the bombings of Japan did not create the level of illness and death that had been expected, suggesting, as some believe, that radiation may not be as bad as we thought and may even be good for us in very small doses ( the theory of hormesis, similar to the theory of homeopathy that poisons in small doses may be curative, has been applied to small doses of radiation, but that theory has been thrown out by all established scientific authorities on radiation), the fact remains that cancer rates have escalated ever since the bomb was first detonated near Alamogordo, as have genetic abnormalities, learning disabilities, fertility problems, reduced sperm counts, miscarriages, immune diseases and chronic disorders; and ionizing radiation is certainly a key factor in all of these. The health of the newborn in the United States has actually declined over this period despite medical advances that have made it possible to prolong life from birth to older age. Expensive treatments prolong life but do not necessarily restore health, and the cost of all these treatments has crippled health care delivery systems. The contamination of our environment and the deterioration of our food supply have certainly impacted our health in negative ways.