The Significantly Underestimated Effects of Constant
Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation
SMALL AMOUNTS OF RADIATION DO HARM.
A number of independent researchers have demonstrated that long-term, relatively low levels of radiation may wreak up to 1000 times more biological havoc than the currently accepted “risk levels” that are being used as reference points for decisions about licensing and operating nuclear plants.
In 1972, a researcher in Canada, Dr. Abram Petkau, found that when cells were irradiated slowly, a smaller total dose was needed to cause damage. Since this critical discovery it has been verified that a small dose of radiation over a long time is more damaging than one larger dose. Imagine the ramifications! This means that the small amounts of radiation that are released from the everyday operation of the world’s 400 nuclear plants are doing much more damage than calculated.
This discovery, known as the “Petkau Effect,” showed that the amounts of radiation that are legally released from nuclear power plants, combined with the leaks, spills, and accidents, are a cause of extreme damage to our health because continuous low-level exposures produce hundreds to thousands of times more free radicals than the same dose delivered at one time, as in an X ray, for example.
Dr. Ernest Sternglass, retired Emeritus Professor of Radiological Physics at the University of Pittsburgh and a pioneering researcher in the field of radiation health, explains in his 1978 book Secret Fallout the implications of this new understanding: “Doses of radiation delivered slowly and continuously over extended periods of time are hundreds of times as damaging biologically as short, high intensity exposures of the same total dose. This was made clear in 1972 by Dr. Abram Petkau who discovered that at low doses of radiation absorbed at low rates, the dominant biological damage is produced by highly toxic molecules called free radicals.”
The everyday releases of radioactivity by nuclear power plants has been found to cause several kinds of health damage, including premature births, congenital defects, infant mortality, mental retardation, heart ailments, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, cancer, genetic damage and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has been linked to previously unknown infectious diseases and generally weakens the immune system. Radiation shortens the life span of most organisms, according to Denham Harman in Free Radical Theory of Aging. Even at low levels, radiation may increase mutations of bacteria and viruses, as Andrei Sakharov described in his 1992 Memoirs.
A 1966 report by the Atomic Energy Commission, The Genetic Effects of Radiation, concluded “there is no threshold on the genetic effect of radiation. There is no safe level of radiation insofar as genetic effects are concerned.”
But humans evolved in an environment that contained naturally occurring radiation. So why is radiation so hazardous to us? The answer to this has to do with the type of radiation. Radon, which was always around (see below), is known as alpha radiation. The particles cannot travel very far. Strontium 90, which is a man-made radiation, is a beta particle. It can travel far. So how does this affect us? Our bones are hollow inside, they have a space for the bone marrow. This is the place where the white blood cells, which are key operatives in the immune system, are made. Nature did a brilliant design here because the bone protected the delicate bone marrow from the then-prevalent type of alpha-radiation. Nature did not foresee that humans would come up with a type of radiation that did not suit its original design. Because beta particles can travel through bone, they are able to zap the white blood cells. What happens? We gradually have a more and more weakened Immune system. What is the answer to this dilemma? This seems to be the question confronting humanity.
In his ground-breaking book The Petkau Effect (Four Walls Eight Windows, NYC 1992) Ralph Graeub describes the mechanism whereby small doses of low level radiation are far more damaging in their cumulative effect than previously thought. He says in the forward:
“The present book provides additional reasons why nuclear energy is not ‘environmentally benign’ so that the public that continues to be deceived by nuclear propaganda can make a more informed judgement as to whether it really wants a ‘new generation’ of nuclear plants for both bomb-making and civilian power generation. Among the most important of the recent scientific discoveries that have been successfully kept from the public is the Petkau Effect, the discovery that showed low-dose protracted radiation exposures such as those produced by radioactive fission products to be hundreds to thousands of times as damaging as the same dose received in a short medical X-ray…The biological damage is not confined to humans, but applies to other forms of life, from fish to birds and mammals, and even to our trees. Only an immediate shutdown of all reactors can end the threat to our health and that of future generations.”
As well as health damage, The Petkau Effect presents a direct link between the death of the trees and plants and the effects of low level radiation.
The following excerpt from The Petkau Effect explains why plants are so much more sensitive to air pollution than animals. Also look at photos of deformed plants from the Pennsylvania Three Mile Island nuclear power plant area in chapter 7. The plant deformities were observed after the nuclear accident there in 1979.
“The decline of the forests has grown from a disturbing trend to a catastrophe of dramatic proportions. Hardly has one study on the subject been finished than it is surpassed by another bearing worse tidings. Not so long ago, the march of death was confined to certain species in certain locations – today it is a virtually global epidemic. Fruit trees are showing the same symptoms as those of the forest. 30 percent of the fruit trees in the Canton of Thurgovi in Switzerland are destroyed. Now they fear the vineyards will follow.“We now have proof of the risk of interrupting the very basis of the life cycle of plants, animals and man – in brief, photosynthesis on Earth is endangered!
“There is a fundamental difference between plants and animals, and this determines why plants are so much more sensitive to air pollution. We animals need air for its oxygen, to burn our food so as to obtain energy. The plant, however, gets almost all of its nutrition in the form of carbon, which is contained in the air in the form of carbonic acid (C02) and is made available to the plant through the process of photosynthesis. The plant must take in MUCH more air than animals to get enough carbon.
“The prodigious aeration of the plants explains their tremendous sensitivity to air pollution. The toxic effects of airborn pollutants show up earlier in plants than in the human.
“Carbon 14 is produced by cosmic rays, bomb tests and nuclear power plants. By 1963, Carbon 14 in the Northern Hemisphere had increased by 100 percent, and by 1984, about one decade later, it had increased another 25 percent. An increase in radioactivity of only one percent eventually translates into a decline in tree growth of about 18 percent. It is interesting to note that a global increase of Carbon 14 – one such as has never before been seen – parallels the slowing growth and the endemic death of trees from Lebanon to the Himalayas.
“This is why we must give immediate priority to clarifying the influence of radioactivity in our environment.”
The article is titled Gulf War Syndrome, Depleted Uranium and the Dangers of Low-Level Radiation. It is available on the website of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, where you can find more studies relating to this topic. (www.ccnr.org)
“In the past few years the information available on the health effects of exposure to low levels of radiation has increased. We are no longer dependent on the commercial or military nuclear researchers who since 1950 have claimed that studies of the effects of low-level radiation are impossible to undertake. The new information is unsettling because it proves the critics of the industry to have been correct as to its serious potential to damage living tissue.“There have also been significant new releases of findings from the atomic bomb research in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the self-acclaimed classical research of radiation health effects.
“Because the nuclear industry has always maintained that the effects of low dose radiation exposure are so small that it is impossible to study them, they proposed extrapolating the effects from those observed at high dose, using a straight line to zero (zero dose, zero effect), together with “correction factors” for low dose/slow-dose rates.
“The effect of this ‘correction’ is to reduce the fatal cancer estimates calculated by D.L. Preston, then Director of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation at Hiroshima, using the new dosimetry, from seventeen fatalities per million people to five fatalities per million people per rad exposure. The corresponding estimates based on actually observed rates for nuclear workers is between ten and thirty fatalities per million per rad. Obviously, for the adult healthy male, the dose-response estimate should be about twenty for fatal cancers per million per rad.
“However, although we can make a strong case for increasing the ‘official’ estimates of harm by a factor of four, this fails to deal with non-fatal cancers, depressed immune systems, localized tissue damage (especially the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts), damage to skin, and reproductive problems. Radiation can cause brain lesions, damage to the stem cells which produce the blood and, when the radioactive material is carried in a heavy metal (uranium), it can be stored in bone, irradiating body organs and nerves within its radius.”
Dr. Bertell points us to some supporting data:
“I would like to bring your attention to the following significant new reports on the effects of low-level radiation:• Health Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident, Results of the IPHECA Pilot Projects and Related National Programs, Scientific Report, World Health Organization, Geneva 1996.
• Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe: Human Health, E.B. Burlakova, ed. Co- published by the Center for Russian Environmental Policy and the Scientific Council on Radiobiology, Russian Academy of Science, ISBN 5-88587-019-5, Moscow 1996.
• Radiation Research 1994, Volume 137, which published for the first time the dose- response data on cancer incidence rate observed in the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Prior to this publication, only cancer death data was reported.
• Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR V), U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington 1990. This provides new radiation risk estimates based on the newly assigned doses of radiation in this atomic bomb survivor study.
“Also available now are the long term follow-up of workers in the nuclear industry. This industry has now been operating for more than fifty years in the United States and for about fifty years in the United Kingdom. These include:
• “Inconsistencies and Open Questions Regarding Low-Dose Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation”, by R. Nussbaum and W. Kohnlein. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 102, NO.8, August 1994.• RERF Technical Report TR9-87, by D.L. Preston and D.A. Pierce, Hiroshima 1987.
• “The Effects of Changes in Dosimetry on Cancer Mortality Risk Estimates in Atomic Bomb Survivors” Radiation Research, Vol. 114,1988.
• “Mortality and Occupational Exposure to Irradiation: First Analysis of the National Registry for Radiation Workers” by G.M. Kendall. British Medical Journal, Vol. 304, 1992.
• “Mortality Among Workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory” by S. Wing. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 265, 1991.
• “Reanalysis of the Hanford Data, 1944-1986 Deaths” by G.W. Kneale and A. Stewart. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 23, 1993.
The above is from: Gulf War Syndrome, Depleted Uranium and the Dangers of Low-Level Radiation, by Dr. Rosalie Bertell. It is available on the website of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility:www.ccnr.org
Scientific research is done and public health policy made in the service of military and corporate interests while honest scientists are marginalized by lack of funding and access to the media. So, today we have regulatory policy which is based on the ‘negligible effects’ of small amounts of radiation, when it is exactly these small amounts which are so damaging!
Bertell R (1985) No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth Tennessee, Book Publishing Co. Bertell R (1993) “Internal Bone Seeking Radionuclides and Monocyte Counts”
International Perspectives in Public Health 9: 21-26
Graeub R (1994) The Petkau Effect Trans. from German by Phil Hill,
New York, Four Walls Eight Windows ISBN: 1-56858-019-3.
Sternglass EJ (1974) “Environmental Radiation and Cell Membrane Damage”
Dept. of Radiology, Univ. of Pittsburgh, PA Feb. 28
Sternglass EJ (1981) Secret Fallout New York, McGraw Hill
This book is available free on www.ratical.com
US National Academy of Sciences
BEIR VII Report 2006
This book, the 7th in a series, addresses the effects of low dose radiation
and human health. See: www.nap.edu
Websites that have information about the health effects of low level radiation:
Book on Radio-protective Foods:
Radiation Protective Foods: A Menu For The Nuclear Age
by Sara Shannon, Author House 2011 at: www.amazon.com
“There is no safe amount of radiation. Even small amounts do harm.”
Dr. Linus Pauling
Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1954
Nobel Peace Prize, 1962
“The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold exposure below which radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless.”
Health Risks from Exposure to
Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation
BIER VII Phase 2
National Academies Press 2006
“There is no safe level of radiation. Period.”
A geoscientist who worked at the
Lawrence Livermore Lab. CA.
“There is no longer a cold war to justify the continued operation of hundreds of nuclear plants daily releasing highly toxic radioactivity into our air, our milk and our drinking water, constantly adding to the nuclear wastes no one knows how to keep out of the environment for thousands of years.”
The Petkau Effect, 1992