Dr Patrick Crowley of the Irish Association of General Practitioners, in a letter published last Thursday (THE IRISH TIMES, Dec 08, 05), challenging the arguments of those recent correspondents who claimed that Chernobyl did not have devastating health consequences for the local population, states:
"As a practising doctor who writes death certificates regularly I am fully aware that the cause of death will not be written down as radiation. Instead a physical classification will appear: leukaemia, hydrocephalus, cardiac valve deformity, etc. So Prof Reville's source statistics are meaningless.What about the estimated 25,000 liquidators who have died since 1986 of various causes linked to radiation exposure, but again are not recorded as such."
And this is also what is happening in our situation.
I have included the complete text of Dr.Crowley's published letter below plus that of the earlier letters and article ("MENTAL ILL-HEALTH BECOMES CHERNOBLY'S BIGGEST PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM") which have led to his rebuttal.
You have also archived at
earlier information I've sent you on this topic.
Best, Imelda, Cork
THE IRISH TIMES, THURS, DEC 08, 2005
PLAYING DOWN THE EFFECTS OF CHERNOBYL
Madam, - Prof William Reville's piece on Chernobyl (Science Today, December 1st) is disturbing on a number of fronts. Firstly, it plays down the medical impact, classifying Chernobyl as a serious accident rather than a disaster, and having the UN's Chernobyl Forum go guarantor to these alleged scientific truths/facts.
Prof Reville writes that, as of mid-2005, fewer than
60 deaths can be directly attributed to radiation. What bunkum! In 1995 I travelled as a doctor to Minsk and Gomel, visited hospitals, orphanages, clinics, talked to physicians, surgeons, paediatricians, saw things with my own eyes and was filmed in what I called the "death wards". These are places in orphanages and clinics where children with congenital birth deformities are left barely attended, with no therapy, to the inevitable outcome -death. I probably saw 60 of those types of cases in that week alone.
As a practising doctor who writes death certificates regularly I am fully aware that the cause of death will not be written down as radiation. Instead a physical classification will appear: leukaemia, hydrocephalus, cardiac valve deformity, etc. So Prof Reville's source statistics are meaningless.What about the estimated 25,000 liquidators who have died since 1986 of various causes linked to radiation exposure, but again are not recorded as such.
If Chernobyl is presented as so much less important than a natural disaster such as the Asian tsunami or the Kashmir earthquake, one must ask who gains by playing it down. One answer is that governments do. In the age of 9/11, terrorists may attack nuclear plants and future Chernobyl-type disasters don't bear thinking about.
Honourable scientists know the reality. Albert Einstein knew that "the splitting of the atom has changed everything except our way of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe". - Yours, etc, PATRICK CROWLEY MB, Kilmoganny Health Centre, Kilmoganny, Co Kilkenny"
[Association of General Practitioners c/o Dr Pat Crowley, Kilmoganny, Co Kilkenny Tel: 051 648 007 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE IRISH TIMES, THU, DEC 01, 05
"MENTAL ILL-HEALTH BECOMES CHERNOBLY'S BIGGEST PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE "MENTAL ILL-HEALTH BECOMES CHERNOBLY'S BIGGEST PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
[by] Prof William Reville
The greatest accident in the history of nuclear power occurred on April 26th, 1986, at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. A massive explosion released a large inventory of radioactivity to the atmosphere to be carried widely over Europe and deposited as fallout.
Nearly 20 years later an international team of more than 100 scientists has issued a report entitled Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts (September, 2005). The group, called The Chernobyl Forum, is made up of eight specialised UN agencies including the International Atomic Energy Agency, World Health Organisation, UN Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, UN Environment Programme, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the World Bank. The governments of Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine, the three most affected countries, were also involved.
The report concludes that although 4,000 people could eventually die as a result of exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl accident, as of mid-2005 fewer than 60 deaths can be directly attributed to radiation from the incident. Almost all of these deaths were among highly exposed rescue workers most of whom died shortly after the accident, although others died as late as 2004.
The chairman of the Chernobyl Forum, Dr Burton Bennett, said: "This latest research can help to settle the outstanding questions about how much death, disease and economic fallout really resulted from the Chernobyl accident. This was a very serious accident, especially for the thousands of workers exposed in the early days who received very high doses of radiation and for the thousands more stricken with thyroid cancer. By and large however, we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health, with a few exceptional, restricted areas."
About 1,000 on-site reactor staff and emergency workers were exposed to high levels of radiation on the day of the accident and more than 200,000 emergency and recovery operation workers were exposed during 1986-1987. Some 2,200 radiation-caused deaths can be expected over the lifetime of these people. This figure rises to 4,000 when residents of the most contaminated local areas (270,000) and evacuees (116,000) are taken into account. These figures would qualify Chernobyl as a serious accident, but not a disaster.
Fifty-six deaths have been directly attributed to the accident to-date. This figure comprises 47 emergency workers most of whom died early on from acute radiation syndrome (ie, died within months from massive exposure to radiation) and nine deaths among young children who developed thyroid cancer after drinking milk contaminated with radioactive iodine.
These figures are considerably less than popular worldwide and local perception of the impact of the Chernobyl accident would suggest. Confusion over the impact of the accident arises because thousands of people in the affected areas have since died of natural causes unrelated to radiation, but a widespread expectation of ill-health and a tendency to attribute all ill-health problems to radiation have led local residents, and many observers from afar, to assume that Chernobyl-related fatalities were much higher than they were in reality.
The greatest harm was inflicted on emergency workers, many of whom displayed great heroism. In the wider region, residents who ate food contaminated with radioactive iodine in the days following the accident received relatively high doses to the thyroid gland - iodine in food concentrates in the thyroid. Children who drank milk from cows fed on contaminated grass were particularly affected and there was a high incidence of thyroid cancer in children - about 4,000 cases. Ninety-nine percent of those cases were treated successfully, but nine children died.
Most people living in contaminated areas received relatively low whole body doses, comparable to natural background levels of radiation. No evidence of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found. There is no evidence of effects on number of stillbirths, delivery complications or overall health of babies.
A modest increase in reported congenital malformations in both contaminated and uncontaminated areas of Belarus appears to be related to better reporting and not to radiation.
Ecosystems affected by Chernobyl fallout have been studied for the past 20 years. More than 200,000 square kilometres of Europe were contaminated. The extent of contamination was patchy, depending on whether it was raining when contaminated air masses passed overhead. The recent report shows that, except for the still closed, highly contaminated 30km area around the reactor, and some closed lakes and restricted forests, radiation levels have mostly returned to acceptable levels.
The report concludes that the largest public health problem resulting from the accident is "the mental health impact". Residents in the region, who were victims of a tragedy they poorly understand, continue to suffer grave anxiety and this has prevented them from restarting their lives. This "paralysing fatalism" has led to an increase in drug and alcohol use, unprotected sex and unemployment. The report recommends that the first priority should be to encourage these people to normalise their lives by providing them with realistic information about the minimal risks they face.
However the report acknowledges that about 200,000 people continue to be severely affected by the disaster in a very real way. These include poor rural dwellers who live in the few severely contaminated areas, people with thyroid cancer and people who were resettled after the accident but who never found a home or employment in their new communities. These people "need substantial material assistance to rebuild their lives".
William Reville is associate professor of biochemistry and public awareness of science officer at UCC - http://understandingscience.ucc.ie
© The Irish Times
THE IRISH TIMES, COMMENT AND LETTERS, MONDAY, NOV
Madam, - Prof Philip Walton (November 11th) makes the point that misinformation about nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl, has caused misconceptions about its safety and its ability to help solve the problem of satisfying energy demand without damaging our environment.
Unlike other accidents, such as plane crashes, dam failures, mining disasters, etc, the health and environmental consequences of nuclear accidents take time to confirm because much radiation damage cannot be determined until years, even decades, after the exposure. An exception, of course, is severe radiation exposure, which, thankfully, is rare.
The accidents which have coloured our view of nuclear energy are: the Windscale fire (1957); the partial meltdown of the core of a reactor at Three Mile Island in the US (1979); and, of course, the Chernobyl disaster (1986).
We now know that there were no serious after-effects for human health or the environment in the cases of the first two accidents. This is based on published epidemiological, environmental and other scientific studies.
Although the same cannot be said about Chernobyl, its effects have been greatly exaggerated over the years and this is plain to see in the recent report of the Chernobyl Forum.
Experts from the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, the World Health Organisation and seven other UN organisations have sifted through the evidence over the past two years and have comprehensively described their findings.
Among these is that the majority of the 700,000 rescue workers and the 5 million residents of the contaminated areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia received relatively minor doses which are comparable to natural background levels.
Of the few hundred rescue workers and reactor operators who received high doses some 50 have died - not thousands or even tens of thousands as hitherto believed by many people. Also, there was no evidence of congenital disease. Several thousand cases of thyroid cancer were found in children, of which 99 per cent are reported to have been successfully treated.
Finally, radiation levels in the Chernobyl environment have reduced by a factor of several hundred due to both natural processes and countermeasures taken by the authorities. The majority of the contaminated land is now safe for living and working.
The risks of nuclear power must be put into the perspective of increased difficulties with the supply of oil and gas and the consequences of detrimental climate change, which I expect will be more dramatically revealed in about 12 months' time when the International Panel on Climate Change releases its next report.
I hope that politicians will act on Prof Walton's message. An in-depth examination of the potential of nuclear power to alleviate impending energy shortages would be a sensible first step. No energy option can be ignored. - Yours, etc,
FRANK TURVEY , Church Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow.
THE IRISH TIMES, COMMENT AND LETTERS, THU, NOV 24,
Madam, - Having just completed research for an energy policy for the Progressive Democrats, I have spent the past few months looking at all the energy options to help Ireland overcome the challenges we face with power generation. Naturally such research looked at the nuclear power option.
The cost of developing nuclear power in Ireland would be disproportionately high, given our lack of nuclear infrastructure, our high construction costs and the considerable opposition to nuclear power. In addition, the true cost of nuclear power is indeterminable because of the nature of decommissioning costs.
Our research also revealed that, given Ireland's very favourable location to harness wind and wave power coupled with our favourable climate to grow biomass, nuclear power would never be able to compete on an economic basis with these renewable energies.
Rising oil and gas prices have made the economic case for renewable energies much sooner than expected. We are uniquely positioned to exploit these green energies and, if given the right fiscal climate, to pioneer research and development,much as we have done with information technology.
Ireland is facing a huge challenge with fuel security. We have the right climatic conditions to develop a green energy industry. All we need is the right attitude.
The business case for nuclear power in Ireland does not stand up when we have cheaper, cleaner alternatives to hand. - Yours, etc,
FIONA O'MALLEY TD,
PD Energy Spokesperson,
Dáil Éireann, Dublin 2
THE IRISH TIMES, COMMENT AND LETTERS, FRI, NOV
Madam, - May I support the letter from Somhairle Mac Aodha (Nov 1st) concerning the end of cheap oil. It is true that world oil production will peak within the next few years and then decline at an annual rate of about 2 per cent.
This comes at a time when demand is increasing, especially from developing countries such as China and India.
Industrialisation has been almost totally dependent on the plentiful supply of cheap oil and gas. We will have used, in about 200 years, half of the oil/gas reserves which were created over many millions of years.
Our profligate use must be curtailed if we are to extend the life of this vital resource which, as well as being an energy source, is a vital feedstuff for agriculture and the whole chemical industry.
With impending shortages we need to use every available source of energy such as renewable sources, strict conservation measures and the use of nuclear power.
It is unlikely that renewables will ever contribute the major fraction of our needs and nuclear power is the only option for the base load which produces negligible greenhouse gases. (We hope that nuclear fusion will ultimately be an answer but that seems a long way off.)
The well known environmentalist, James Lovelock (guru of the UK Green Party) has now come out very strongly in favour of nuclear power.
France generates about 80 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power with very few problems or public objections. Radiation phobia, fuelled for example by misconceptions and misinformation about Sellafield and Chernobyl, have impeded the growth of nuclear power but things will have to change.
The legacy of nuclear waste buried in stable underground sites for many thousands of years is of little consequence compared to the problems we are going to face. - Yours, etc,
PHILIP W WALTON, Moycullen, Co Galway.
THE IRISH TIMES, COMMENT AND LETTERS, TUE, NOV 01, 05
A chara, - As the media well know, we have reached the end of cheap oil (as Jacques Chirac has recently stated and as even Chevron-Texaco admits on its website).
Regardless of whether the peak in world oil production
("peak oil") occurs this year or in 2015, according to the Hirsch report we need at least 10 years of preparation for the coming oil crisis. The world is about to change dramatically and permanently as a result of oil depletion, and it is no longer just the opinion of Colin Campbell, Matthew Simmons, Richard Heinberg, et al. We are hopelessly addicted to oil, relying on it for everything from plastics, transport, heating, pesticides to delivering fresh water.
Given that 87 per cent of the fuels to produce Ireland's electricity are imported, and that a large proportion of our gas comes from the UK's rapidly depleting gas supplies, what radical action is Ireland taking? Surely, relying so heavily on imported oil and gas at a time when prices are rocketing is utterly ludicrous?
I urge the media to stop the scandalous silence over this enormous issue and to do an in-depth reportage into the topic of "peak oil" and Ireland's energy security. - Is mise,
SOMHAIRLE MAC AODHA,
Páirc na Labhras,
Chernobyl Heart On "Chernobyl Heart" and EHS
I've just come from viewing "Chernobyl Heart" an opening day entry at this year's Cork Film Festival. What a poignant and honest film, unsparing in showing closeups of children with horrific deformities, teenagers with tyroid cancer, and of countless other manifestations of shattered lives due to that ghastly Chernobyl radiation disaster. In the film it was stressed how invidious radiation is as it is invisible (a silent killer) and how it weakens the immune system's resistance to diseases.
At the Question and Answer session following the film, I asked Maryann DeLeo and Adi Roche whether any attention had been given to the possibility that these young victims now resident in hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions might also be EHS. I added that nearby masts and cellphones could cause these children further distress.
As my hearing is impaired I could not catch Maryann Deleo's response but later another attendee told me she--Maryann-- responded that their focus in "Chernobyl Heart" was solely on the health hazards of ionizing radiation.
I spoke briefly with Adi Roche before leaving the cinema and asked her to please take note of factors such as flourescent lighting, etc, that could cause those unfortunate children even worse discomfort. I directed her to some online EHS sources.
Frankly, I don't think my introducing the subject of non-ionizing radiation effects was well-received by the audience, but such a cold-shoulder reaction should come as no surprise to any of us. We activists on this EHS beat know ours is the most unpopular cause in evey country--except of course for our small number of dedicated supporters and ever increasing number of EHS affected.
But there are also some highly respected scientists who deny that the Chernobyl nuclear radiation accident had any disastrous health effects. And Irish professors feature among these, as can be seen in my posting to you earlier this year (EMF-Omega-News
28-02-04) which I have now pasted in below.
Best, Imelda, Cork
Pasted from EMF-Omega-News 28-02-04: http://tinyurl.com/5pb7z
There are, however, some prominent academics and other radiation specialists here in Ireland who continue to deny in the face of astounding contrary evidence that the Chernobyl radiation accident has had any significant health effects on the population of Belarus. For instance, Professors Philip W. Walton, (Applied Physics) and Wil J.M. Van Der Putten (Medical Physics) at NUI (National University of Ireland),Galway hold this view and cite the published findings of UNSCEAR (the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) as presented to the UN General Assembly in 2000 in their support.
The text of letters to the Irish Times by Professors Walton and Van Der Putten, and others are archived at Citizens Initiative Omega on these dates:
9/5/03 Subtitled: "Chernobyl bio-disaster is a myth say two Irish Professors" http://tinyurl.com/5x8ot
14/5/03 Subtitled: "Effects of Chernobly Disaster" http://tinyurl.com/7xram
15/5/03 "A measured response letter to Chernobyl nuclear disaster" http://tinyurl.com/6yu5o
http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/chernobylheart/ http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/03/6cb4b823-8b6a-4051-97b2-537daf5f0c45.html http://www.showbizireland.com/news/october04/04-u2167.shtml
Chernobyl, WHO and Utteridge's mice: Is there a connection?