Friday, November 9, 2012

Environmental Health Perspectives Magazine: "Radiation and the Risk of Chronic Lymphocytic and Other Leukemias among Chornobyl Cleanup Workers"

I found the paper by the University of California - San Francisco researcher Lydia B. Zablotska et al regarding increased risk of leukemia for Chernobyl cleanup workers even at a low (less than 200 millisieverts) cumulative radiation exposure (see my previous post).

From Environmental Health Perspectives Magazine, advance publications (11/8/2012):

The media report on this paper in Japan is causing anxiety. People are worried that any low level of radiation exposure from the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident would lead to leukemia, as it has been "proven" by this paper. It seems only Nikkei Shinbun actually cited the radiation exposure levels in the study (less than 200 millisieverts, with over 90% less than 100 millisieverts).

Speaking of "low level radiation exposure", I happened on an old article from June last year by Yomiuri Shinbun that mentions the radiation exposure sustained by Self Defense Force soldiers during two-day work (March 12 and 13 last year) at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, pouring water into the reactors to prevent core melts. Of 12 soldiers who had dosimeters on them, 2 soldiers got 80 millisieverts in 2 days, and 8 others exceeded 30 millisieverts. 8 soldiers didn't even have dosimeters.

Ministry of Defense at that time said there would be no health problem because the exposure was within the limit set by the ministry. What's the limit? 100 millisieverts. For 2 days' work.


Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, 100 mSv during *your whole life* is the limit above which most scientists agree there is an increased risk of cancer. Below 100 mSv only some scientists believe there is such a risk.
According to this paper it seems there is a measurable increased risk of leukemia even below 100 mSv.
Fukushima folks who are being told that it is safe to go back to a place where they will be exposed to 20 mSv/yr just from the environment (assuming their food has 0 Bq/kg), should probably consider their options carefully.

Anonymous said...

The documentary The True Battle of Chernobyl can be found on Youtube. If you see the horrible equipment and conditions the liquidators had, you'll see it's doubtful that anyone got an accurate measurement of accumulated dose. If their official record says 200 mSv, it was probably much higher. It serves the interest of governments and the nuclear industry if accurate measurements are not taken during a crisis. In this way, cause and effect remain clouded forever.

Anonymous said...

It is worthwhile to read one serious analysis of the paper here:

Yes, on a pro-nuclear site, but a well constructed comparison of what the paper actually says scientifically, versus what the press about the paper is saying. Feel free to comment there if you feel that the analysis is faulty.

Anonymous said...

@Above: it is true they "left out" 20 cases where analysis actually showed a negative dose-response curve. If they include them (which they actually did in the discussion for comparison), the numbers become very small, maybe 10 excess cases.
If you extrapolate the numbers to ca. 200'000 highly exposed liquidators, or even 600'000 for those who came later (lower doses), you might get on the order of 100 excess cases (equivalent to about a single HOUR of coal fatalities in the world, just by "normal" combustion and pollution).
This said, the people who had to deal with Fuku in the first days will clearly have a significantly increased cancer risk, and the least decency would demand the Japanese government provide them free regular screening for the rest of their lives. It is saddening to hear they are being ostracized by some people.

Anonymous said...

I see pro nukers have decided to 're-educate' us. It's always interesting when they want to talk about coal instead - yes...let's all forget about the abuses, lies, and mismanagement of the nuke industry and talk about coal instead.
This article is about leukemia. I see that the comments tend to indicate that being above or below the level of 100ms determines whether or not one suffers lasting harm from the Fukushima disaster - note the comment directly above mine pities the "people who had to deal with Fuku" as if the others have been spared illness because, they speculate, are believed to have received less that 100ms.
One thing that really stands out when reading reports on Chernobyl is that people suffer a "host of medical illnesses". What about cardiac arrest (cesium collects in the heart muscle and slowly destroys it), thyroid cancer (iodine to the thyroid) early dementia (isotopes collecting in brain tissue and destroying it) and all those other cancers and genetic abnormalities tormenting a population for....well...the foreseable future? Few thousand years? The documentation of the damaging effects of radiation on an entire population which is still occurring over 20 years later - and will continue to occur, can be found here:
Those whom you believe are below the 'magic threshold' you'd like to set at 100ms will continue living in contaminated zones and eating/drinking and breathing radioactive isotopes for the rest of their lives and...sadly...encountering that "host of medical problems" which extends well beyond leukemia.

Anonymous said...

Wow - can't believe someone would today still dare cite this fraud (i.e. Yablokov report)! Even the New York Academy of Science (which published the English translation) now feature it with a disclaimer and two very critical commentaries.
Seriously, Chernobyl was bad enough, but you'll get a more balanced view here:
(Of course, inhabitants in the most exposed zones WILL be expected to have a slightly increased cancer risk, most critical being thyroid dose to children from iodine.)
Anyway, if you believe Strahlentelex, you can forget about doing away with nuclear, coal, etc.: even a perfectly clean electricity supply will give you (according to them) all kinds of disease, including leukemia, brain tumors, breast cancer, sclerosis, or even drive you to suicide, as long as you live near a power line, mess around with mobile phones, tablets, laptops... or even simply have electricity at home! Have a (fun) read (it's in German, so you might try Google translate if needed):
My personal "favorite": child obesity and electromagnetic fields:
Better go back to being cavemen (oops, I forgot about radon)!

Anonymous said...

Nope, not fraud. But a very unpopular piece given that there is more money behind nuclear energy than there is behind researchers dependent on government grants. You are apparently unfamiliar with peer reviews. Let me explain. Scientists disagree. There. that should explain it. For more information - read up on what is happening to those poor unfortunate souls living a lifetime of infirmity. Oh you could also watch the youtube titled "The Battle for Chernobyl" and then ask yourself what the Japanese gov meant when they bragged about having learned much from "The Lessons of Chernobyl".
The pro nukes always act like the diseased, suffering individuals forced by the government to continue living their lives, raising their families in regions contaminated by radioactive waste do not exist (Chernobyl ). And they will continue to live shortened lifespans full of suffering as long as they live in contaminated areas. But there's no place for them to move and the region around Chernobyl is, to the dismay of researchers, measuring higher levels of radiation than before so the problem isn't going away.
Don't believe me? Maybe you should read state of the art research conducted by the us on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VI) which uses long term logitudinal studies to prove that even low levels of radiation damage human health.
Oh and you resort to the pro nuke reflex of throwing coal into the conversation. This article is about radiation and apparently it was disturbing enough to attract a few pro nukes to try to distract and deny and start shouting COAL! COAL!

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Anon at 6:42AM, thank you for the link. I'm reading the paper as best as I can, and will read the link. What I'm puzzled about is, is the number of cases well within the margin of error, or not? It seems too small to be statistically significant. Any opinion on that?

BTW, "pro nuke" seems to be used as an insult of sort, which I do not agree. There were "pro nuke" scientists and engineers who were here on this blog in the early days of the accident, offering valuable technical and scientific insights as to what may have happened in Fukushima and how. Many were driven away by people hurling insults at them because they were from the industry. I should have monitored more closely but I didn't have and do not have much time for that.

Pro nuke or anti nuke, or for that matter "radiation is safe" or "any radiation is dangerous", I want to know the facts, and truth.

Anonymous said...

BEIR VI is about radon, which is one of the most complex substances to analyze due very strong synergy with fine particles, in practice mainly smoking... BTW, coal soot will also "nicely" do the job of increasing radon sensitivity -:)
The reports (BEIR VI & corresponding UNSCEAR) mostly agree and can be found here:

On the question in the paper (is the leukemia stuff significant?), the data is unfortunately not very good, as doses were only estimated. Nevertheless, I'd carefully accept it, since leukemia is well known to be caused by radiation.

As to the final question (is any radiation dangerous?), the jury is still out, with many studies suggesting it is, somewhat contradicted by others on people living in naturally high-dose environments... In the latter case, is the low or non-sensitivity caused by adaptation (selection?) or by chronic exposure itself? Unfortunately, we don't really know yet.

Anonymous said...

Well, if workers wear no dosimeters, monitoring posts conveniently stop working when accidents occour, food contamination is not measured etc. etc. the jury will be out forever.
Fortunately, economics of nuclear power generation tell us clearly that the only reason countries build npps is to stockpile plutonium, so when people is given a chance to vote on nuclear power they can say no without having to know exactly how much Cesium will make their kids sick.

Anonymous said...

@November 11, 2012 11:16 PM
Thank you for noting my error. I listed BEIR VI when I meant to list BEIR VII. Here's some quotes from BEIR VII:
"A comprehensive review of available biological
and biophysical data supports a “linear-no-threshold” (LNT) risk model—that the risk of cancer
proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential
to cause a small increase in risk to humans."
"Very high doses can produce damaging effects in tissues that can be evident within
days after exposure. Late effects such as cancer, which can occur after more modest doses including the lowdose exposures that are the subject of this report, may take many years to develop."
"The BEIR VII report defines low doses as those in the range of near zeroup to about 100 mSv (0.1 Sv) of low-LET radiation."
Beir VII: Health Risks from Exposure to
Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation

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