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.



Cancer risk 70% higher for females in Fukushima area, says WHO

People in the area worst affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident two years ago have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

Girls exposed as infants in the worst hit areas have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime.

In the most contaminated area, the WHO estimated that there was a 70% higher risk – up from a baseline risk of 0.77% to 1.29% – of females exposed as infants developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime. The thyroid is the most exposed organ as radioactive iodine concentrates there and children are deemed especially vulnerable.

The report estimated that in the most contaminated area there was a 7% higher risk of leukaemia in males exposed as infants, and a 6% higher risk of breast cancer in females exposed as infants. The Guardian


Researchers plan to study effects of Navajo Reservation uranium exposure on pregnancy and child birth

Three decades after the end of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation, researchers plan to conduct a study in response to community concerns about the effects of exposure to uranium waste on pregnancies and child development on the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Birth Cohort Study is a three-year study on the Navajo reservation. It will provide early assessment and education on environmental and prenatal risks from exposure to environmental contaminants.

In 2009, Congress mandated and awarded money for the Navajo Birth Cohort Study. The money will support the University of New Mexico Community Environmental Health Program as it designs and conducts the study in collaboration with the Navajo Area Indian Health Services, the Navajo Division of Health, Southwest Research and Information Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., director of the Community Environmental Health Program, Health Sciences Center, at the University of New Mexico, is the principal investigator in the project. She coordinates the professional research team drawn from the five agencies responsible for implementing the project.

"This particular set of funding is for Navajo, but this is not just a Navajo problem," said Lewis. "There are 10,400 abandoned uranium mine waste sites in the western U.S., many of those on tribal lands. So I think the information we gain from this study will have impacts much further reaching than just Navajo."

More information on the Navajo Birth Cohort Study is available by calling toll-free (877) 545-6775 or contacting a Clinical Liaison at the nearest IHS facility. Navaho-Hopi Observer


UN special report on Fukushima criticizes handling of radiation catastrophe, suggests positive steps forward

Anand Grover, the United Nations Special Rapporteur reports on Fukushima, some highlights:

-potassium iodine was not handled properly.

-government did not evacuate properly or communicate radiation doses and implications to the public.

-government neglected hotspots and used 20msv/year limit implying this was safe which is not.

-radiation monitoring stations did not adequately reflect exposure data. Therefore all validated data, alot being collected by private individuals, should be made public.

-provide holistic and comprehensive treatment for ALL radiation effected zones and include wider health consequences than the current health survey.

-err on side of caution and monitor health outcomes for an extensive period of time.

-allow individuals access to their health data and that of their children.

-initiate long-term monitoring of sub-contract workers at the ruined plants.

-evacuation centers did not provide adequate facilities for women with children and the disabled and elderly. Separation of families due to inadequate evacuation procedures has caused unnecessary anguish.

-government needs to strengthened food contamination monitoring.

-adopt an action plan with clear timeline to reduce contamination to 1msv per year.

-restore subsidies to all evacuees so they can make proper decisions about whether to return or leave.

-government ensure that TEPCO is held financially accountable and that taxpayers are not.

-ensure participation of effected people, particularly vulnerable groups during all parts of decision-making process, including health services and decontamination. This is not currently being done.

-implement the “act on protection and support for children, and other victims of the Tepco disaster” which was enacted in June, 2012. This act provides a framework for those affected by the disaster and provides opportunity to enlist affected people in decision-making. video


Uranium Exposure Linked to High Lupus Rates in Community Living Near a Former Refinery

High rates of systemic lupus erythematosus have been linked to living in proximity to a former uranium ore processing facility in Ohio, according to new research findings presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Science Daily. Cincinnati Children's blog.


Cancer study around nuclear facilities to move forward

The US NRC has announced that a study examining cancers around NRC-licensed facilities will move forward through the National Academy of Sciences. The study will be conducted according to study designs set forth in the report Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities: Phase I. Beyond Nuclear has released a statement to the press outlining our expectations and the necessity for conducting such a study. When the Phase I report was released, Beyond Nuclear, along with several other citizens and interest groups, submitted comments to NAS. Phase II of the study will focus on seven pilot sites - San Onofre, CA; Millstone and Haddam Neck, CT; Dresden, IL; Oyster Creek, NJ; Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, TN; and Big Rock Point, MI. The final phase could expand to multiple US nuclear sites.

The Phase I report recognizes many of the shortcomings of prior health studies including the imperfection of relying on data from the atomic bomb exposures in Japan, and investigation of cancer deaths only rather than examining incidence.

In general, Beyond Nuclear supports the case-control study as outlined by the NAS phase one report but NOT the ecologic study if it contains dose estimates which rely on industry data or if it includes adults. In general, a case-control study of childhood cancer will be the most scientifically defensible and probably the least expensive, especially if assumed doses to children rely on place of birth rather than any dose derived from industry data. The Phase I report recognizes the daunting task of reconstructing doses for individuals (rather than whole groups of people) using industry effluent or monitoring data and the impossibility of doing this consistently.

Dose estimates are not necessary to perform a health assessment, and if based on bad data, may actually act to obscure the truth. If a dose assessment is to be performed it should be de-coupled from an epidemiological assessment and done as a separate investigation. This holds true for environmental contamination assessments as well.

Viable, scientifically independent and defensible studies can be conducted based on many of the principles and methods detailed in the NAS Phase I report. But clearly, some of the Phase I report assumptions must be abandoned in order to obtain a scientifically supportable and publicly acceptable picture of cancer risks around nuclear facilities.

Beyond Nuclear is concerned that, based on recent statements by nuclear proponents, the industry will force the study to start with the assumption that no health effects will be found. This assumption, is itself based on incomplete, inaccurate or inappropriate industry-generated data and exposure assumptions. This methodology creates a circular logic with an inescapable, and ultimately unsubstantiated, conclusion that radioactive effluent carries very little health risk, an assumption questioned in several health studies including ones from Germany and France. When, as in the case of these two studies in Europe, increased risk of disease is found, and the previous assumption was that the radiation exposure was too low to cause this risk, this increased risk is left with no explanation. In fact, the assumption that radiation wasn’t the cause should never have been made in the first place.