Children and Health

Children are among the most vulnerable to - and least protected from - radiation exposure. Current "acceptable" exposure standards in the U.S. are based on "Standard Man" - i.e., a robust young male. This does not take into account the more serious effects of radiation exposure to pregnant women and children in particular, including to the unborn. Beyond Nuclear supports efforts to change these standards.



Chernobyl reactor explosion impacts greater than claimed, especially for children

Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, claims that by 2004, 985,000 additional deaths worldwide were caused by the disaster, 212,000 of them within European Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. These numbers contrast greatly with the United Nations’ Chernobyl Forum 2006 estimate of 9000 cancer deaths in the same areas for the period of 90 years after the meltdown. Children have been and continue to be particularly affected with multiple adverse health outcomes. Before Chernobyl exploded, eighty percent of children were considered healthy. After the explosion only twenty percent of children are healthy in some areas.

This report summarizes published data from the many regions contaminated by radioactive fallout, and is based on over 5000 studies, most of which were not available in English or outside of the former Soviet Union. Contact the New York Academy of Sciences to purchase a copy See Beyond Nuclear’s press release for more detail.


Higher birth-defect rate seen in Chernobyl area counters UN reports

Reuters reports that higher-than-normal rates of certain birth defects plague one Ukrainian region affected by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power reactor explosion. The findings were reported in April’s journal of Pediatrics and counter a 2005 United Nations report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which stated that there was no increase in birth defects. Dr. Wladimir Wertelecki, researcher at the University of Southern Alabama, says that this official conclusion had a “chilling effect” on study of prenatal disease and that these findings show more research is needed into congenital defects, especially in regions of chronic, low-dose radiation.


Tritium: a universal health threat released by every nuclear reactor. 

 “…as an isotope of hydrogen (the cell’s most ubiquitous element), tritium can be incorporated into essentially all portions of the living machinery; and it is not innocuous." R. Lowry Dobson MD, PhD quoted from The toxicity of tritium 1979.

Beyond Nuclear presents a new fact sheet on tritium discussing where it comes from, how it acts in the environment and humans and what the health hazards of exposure are. References are included.


No safe dose

Although the scientific community recognizes that there is no safe dose of radiation, federal agencies permit “allowable” or “legal” levels of radiation exposure to humans that are neither conservative nor protective enough.

These levels are based only on the obsolete “Reference Man,” a healthy, white male in the prime of life, and ignore the more vulnerable fetus, growing infant and child, the aged, those in poor health, and women who are, according to the National Academy of Sciences 37- 50% more vulnerable than adult men to the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. These levels, therefore, do not take into account the far greater vulnerability of women and children, especially pregnant women and unborn children.

Beyond Nuclear is supporting efforts to have these standards revised.


Case Study: The children of Illinois – an unfolding story

In Illinois – the state with the most nuclear reactors (11) in the country – Beyond Nuclear has been tracking disturbing cancer incidences and other health abnormalities - especially among children – around the Braidwood and Dresden nuclear reactors.

At Braidwood, dozens of known tritium leaks and spills hidden from the public for more than a decade have contaminated area groundwater and seeped into private wells. This has prompted concern about health effects, including cancer “clusters.” Yet the owner – Exelon – and government officials downplayed the potential harm of ingesting tritium despite the fact that prolonged exposure to even low doses of tritium are known to cause cancers and birth defects.

Around Dresden, also owned by Exelon, there has been an unexplained increase in rare childhood brain cancers, heart ailments and birth defects, in most cases proving fatal. Dresden had also leaked tritium into drainage ditches and is listed by the NRC as having the highest airborne radioactive emissions in the country.

Families around every nuclear power plant could face similar risks. That is why Beyond Nuclear will work to bring these stories to national media attention. Every family has the right to make informed choices about their environment and health.

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