Warns Any Radiation Exposure Is Unsafe
March 19, 2011
“There is no safe level of radiation exposure,” said Jeff Patterson, MD, immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The direction of the wind and the amount of radioactivity released is going to determine the extent of the impact on human health. If the wind changes direction, a large release of radioactivity from the Fukushima reactors would have far-reaching medical consequences in Japan. Medical treatment for radiation is limited, at best.”
“One of the basic tenets of medicine is that if you don’t have a cure for something, you should prevent it from happening in the first place,” said Alan H. Lockwood, MD, a member of the Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The only way to avoid nuclear accidents is to not build nuclear reactors.”
According to the National Academy of Sciences, any exposure to radiation increases a person’s risk of developing cancer. In the case of the Japanese Fukushima reactors, the primary radionuclides of concern are:
- Iodine-131, which causes thyroid cancer when absorbed thru inhalation and ingestion.
- Cesium-137, which when ingested spreads throughout the body. Cesium-137 has the potential to get into the food supply. As a result of Chernobyl, Cesium-137 was taken up by lichen and plants, and animals which consumed those plants became radioactive.
- Strontium-90, which is deposited in bone and teeth where it remains for decades; it causes bone cancer, and leukemia.
- Plutonium-239, which causes lung cancer and remains a severe threat for thousands of years.
The public health risk from a large radioactive release from U.S. reactors in the United States is substantial.
“Using US government-supplied computer models, we showed that a core meltdown at a nuclear reactor outside of Chicago (Braidwood) could kill tens of thousands, cause hundreds of thousands to suffer from acute radiation sickness, and would require the evacuation of over 6 million people,” said Andrew S. Kanter, MD MPH, president-elect of PSR.
“To protect public health, the United States must redouble efforts to make sure all reactors in the U.S. are operating in the safest possible manner,” said Peter Wilk, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
PSR is calling on the Obama Administration to take the following measures without delay:
- Suspend operations nuclear reactors in the United States with a similar design as those in Japan and those on fault lines while a safety review is conducted.
- Implement a moratorium on new nuclear reactor licensing and design certification without delay.
- Upgrade spent fuel pools and harden onsite fuel storage for all operating reactors immediately.
- Reject the renewal of any licenses for existing reactors until all the lessons of the Fukushima accident are incorporated, including how to deal with station blackouts.
- Eliminate subsidies for new reactors, especially loan guarantees, and prioritize safe, clean renewable energy sources that can meet today’s energy needs.
ABOUT PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (PSR)
Physicians for Social Responsibility is the largest physician-led organization in the country conveying both the health risks and threats to human survival posed by nuclear weapons, climate change, nuclear reactors and toxic degradation of the environment. Founded in 1961 by physicians concerned about the impact of nuclear proliferation, PSR shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War for building public pressure to end the nuclear arms race. PSR is dedicated to improving national policy formulation and decision-making about security, energy and the environment through the combined efforts of credible, committed health professionals and our active and concerned citizen members. For more information, go to http://www.psr.org.