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The Fukushima nuclear disaster is ongoing

Andrew R. Marks

The 5th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the two most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history, both occurred recently. Images of Chernobyl are replete with the international sign of radioactive contamination (a circle with three broad spokes radiating outward in a yellow sign). In contrast, ongoing decontamination efforts at Fukushima lack international warnings about radioactivity. Decontamination workers at Fukushima appear to be poorly protected against radiation. It is almost as if the effort is to make the Fukushima problem disappear. A more useful response would be to openly acknowledge the monumental problems inherent in managing a nuclear plant disaster. Lessons from Chernobyl are the best predictors of what the Fukushima region of Japan is coping with in terms of health and environmental problems following a nuclear catastrophe.

Five years after a tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, cleanup of radioactive contamination is ongoing and a formerly vibrant farming region lays largely fallow. A recent visit to northeast Japan revealed wholly unexpected aspects of the impact of the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. The area devastated by the nuclear accident is easily accessed by a two-hour train ride from Tokyo to the city of Fukushima. It is then possible to rent a car and drive to within 18 kM of the reactors, which are still in meltdown.

On the train, digital banners in Japanese and English encourage passengers to visit the beautiful cherry trees in the Fukushima district. In the rental car agency, glossy pamphlets exclaim the beauty of the region and feature the brilliant pink blossoms. On a recent April afternoon, the cherry blossoms were indeed spectacular. The roads deep into the region affected by the radioactive plume that engulfed the area in March of 2011 are clearly marked and readily accessible in a car rented at the Fukushima rail station. My Japanese-speaking colleague translated the rental agency’s map as indicating an “area not to return to,” which we carefully avoided.

Following route 114 traveling east toward the coast, progressively larger piles of large black plastic bags filled with dirt appeared on the roadside. At first, there were piles of several hundred such bags, each approximately five feet wide by five feet in height, methodically stacked one upon the other. Of note, similar bags appear to be used elsewhere in Japan to hold debris at construction and yard cleaning sites. Each bag was numbered with a white marker.

Approaching the eastern coast of Japan, the piles of bags on the roadside were more frequent and larger and larger and larger. As route 114 progresses toward the exclusion zone indicated on the car rental agency’s map, the piles of plastic bags filled with dirt reach unimaginable dimensions. Numbered in the many thousands, they eventually fill entire valleys that recede off into the horizon. In some instances, the piles of black plastic bags are covered with blue tarps with pipes inserted into their tops, presumably to provide ventilation.

Roadside radiation monitoring stations are placed near now abandoned homes, many of which are still decorated with plantings of flowers and the blossoming cherry trees that are found in the yards of most homes in this region. The readings on the radiation monitors ranged from 0.2115 to 1.115 microsieverts per hour, a measure of the relative risks imparted to biological tissues by ionizing radiation. One microsievert per hour is equivalent to four airport security screenings per hour and is almost twice the annual limit for occupational whole-body radiation dose limits established by the nuclear regulatory commission. One sievert total exposure causes a 5.5% risk of cancer (1).

To understand the health risks associated with ongoing radiation contamination and cleanup in the Fukushima region, the best comparator is Chernobyl. Two of the most important public health issues related to both the Chernobyl and the Fukushima disasters are thyroid cancers and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Assessing the effects of these nuclear accidents on the risk of thyroid cancer is confounded by the fact that the mere collection of data required to make the diagnosis (e.g., thyroid scans and ultrasounds) necessitates extranormal surveillance. Thus, true control populations are not available. Nevertheless, there have been reports of increased rates of thyroid cancer following the Chernobyl nuclear accident (2), and extrapolation from that incident to Fukushima is reasonable but as-yet unproven. The incidence of PTSD is understandably quite high following nuclear accidents (3). There are no controlled experimental data available to assess the ongoing risks of chronic low-level radiation now present throughout the Fukushima region. Thus, it is imperative that epidemiological data are collected as thoroughly as possible to provide insight concerning the risks of long-term low-level environmental radiation. Similarly, it is imperative that data are collected concerning the spread of radioactivity from the nuclear plant disaster via water (e.g., streams running through the region should be sampled regularly) and via animals (in particular birds should be banded and monitored to determine how they may be vectors for spreading radioactivity in seeds and other forms throughout Japan).

Just outside the town of Iitate, brilliant pink flags, which are the same color used for the advertisements designed to attract tourists to view the cherry blossoms in the region, flap in the breeze, announcing (only in Japanese) “radioactivity removal.” At one particularly large site near the town of Iitate, a constant stream of large trucks with entirely open containers was streaming into an excavation site located at a large mountain of brown dirt. Huge shovels were digging dirt and placing it onto conveyer belts pouring the dirt into the open trucks, which were leaving the site heading south. The men and women handling this contaminated dirt were wearing outfits similar to construction workers observed in other regions of Japan, including helmets, masks, gloves, and overalls (Figure 1). Over an approximately 5-hour period of driving through the region, the only police observed were at the turn around marking the edge of the restricted zone. No military presence was observed. On several occasions, workers were seen handling the plastic bags of radioactively contaminated dirt without gloves.

During the entire afternoon of driving through the region not a single sign warning of the potential dangers of radioactive contamination was observed in any language other than Japanese. There was no security at most of the contaminated sites, and thousands of plastic bags of contaminated dirt were piled high in areas without any supervision or even a fence to prevent access from the public roadway. Birds flew all through the area, presumably transporting radioactive seeds and leaving contaminated droppings throughout Japan.

It is estimated that over 100,000 individuals have been displaced from their homes due to the reactor meltdown (4). Some have been relocated to far away cities, including Tokyo. During my visit, a group of five elderly women arrived on the same train as we did and were escorted onto a waiting bus to be driven to see the cherry blossoms decorating the village they used to live in. Other displaced former residents of now unlivable villages are perhaps less fortunate and have been relocated to one of the numerous “temporary” dwellings dotting the region indicated by convenient roadside signs. Many of these were immediately adjacent to radioactivity detectors indicating levels of at least 1 microsievert per hour.

Ironically, during my visit to Fukushima on April 14, 2016, an earthquake rocked the Kumamoto region of Japan, ultimately causing at least 42 deaths and displacing thousands. This region contains the only working nuclear reactor remaining in Japan. Too far away to be felt in Fukushima, it was nevertheless a harsh reminder of the continued risk for further damage to the reactors already in meltdown.

The continued high level of radioactivity removal efforts in the Fukushima region (entire hill sides have been denuded of surface soil) indicate that the Japanese government knows the health threat caused by the contamination remains. The lack of security, the failure to provide any of the internationally accepted protective warnings against radioactivity contamination (e.g., the universal three-armed black and yellow sign warning of radioactivity), and the absence of any warning signs for non-Japanese-speaking individuals, despite the active advertising campaign to attract tourists to view the cherry blossoms on this beautiful region of Japan, is disturbing. The possibility that individuals could access enormous amounts of radioactively contaminated dirt and transport it to a sensitive area in Japan or elsewhere is frightening.

Credit:

http://www.jci.org/articles/view/88434#B2

Teacher adopts ‘holy terror’ student

(NEWSER) – Cruz Riojas came from a troubled home: He was reportedly beaten by his stepfather, lived in a decrepit one-room lean-to with six other family members, and wore the same clothes to school every day, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

He also caused trouble in school and was known as a “holy terror,” says Linda Hooper, a teacher who first encountered Cruz in the early ’80s, when he was 12 years old.

But then an amazing thing happened: He started spending more time with Hooper, who would give him tasks to do around the classroom. He eventually began coming for visits at her home, where she lived with her husband and four daughters, often running the nearly eight miles between their two houses to get away from his stepfather.

After an incident with his stepfather in 1983, Cruz’s mother asked if he could stay with the Hoopers for a few days till everything blew over. “He never left” after that,” Hooper says. “I had him from then on.”

He became a part of the Hooper family, taking on a paper route to make money and doing better in school, placing out of special education classes by the time he graduated. More than a decade later, he was still part of the Hooper family—but he wanted to make it official by asking the Hoopers to adopt him right before his 30th birthday.

Credit: http://www.usatoday.com

University of Hawaii attacks Guatemalan professor for speaking out about GMOs

by: Jennifer Lilley

(NaturalNews) Isn’t freedom of speech a wonderful thing? The ability to say what’s on your mind and freely express yourself is incredible, unless you’re Hector Valenzuela, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s (UH) College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. He’s worked there for more than 20 years but has repeatedly been bashed for speaking against GMOs.

Some of his colleagues have resorted to childish verbal attacks that insult his birth country, Guatemala. In that instance, they told him the country was “worthless,” which was very hurtful; such words are brimming with racist undertones and imply that as someone born in that country, he is also worthless.

Their harsh wording also suggests that native-born Americans are the only ones who understand GMO issues; their elitist attitude conveys that because he’s Guatemalan, he should have no say in such matters. This completely discounts the fact that he’s an educated, concerned man who has been living and teaching in Hawaii for decades. It’s as if he is expected to sit back and take it, ingest GMOs and embrace a mentality that mimics Hawaii’s courts and politics, which are known for repeatedly striking down anti-GMO efforts.

Elitist attitude, disregard for Guatemalans‘ lives and their intelligence prevails at University of Hawaii

Thoughts such as this, in which Guatemalans are considered subhuman and “worthless,” are a disgrace to humanity. Sadly, it’s been going on for a long time; an investigative report commissioned by President Obama found that horrific medical crimes have been conducted specifically against Guatemalans throughout the decades, including purposely giving them STDs illegally and without their knowledge under the guise of research. Thousands of them were used for secret experimentation by the government (including those from the National Institute of Health), and their rights were severely violated. It would appear that many of Valenzuela’s colleagues are on board with similar thoughts that Guatemalans’ lives and their beliefs are meaningless.

In addition to hearing that the country he comes from has no value, his intelligence has been insulted and he’s even been blatantly told to keep quiet on the topic of GMOs (unless, of course, he is going to praise the cancer-causing Frankenfood circus). For example, a UH co-worker once sent him an email urging him to stop talking against GMOs, writing, “Hec, please stop already. You’re simply working so hard to prove what a scientific idiot you are about items like transgenes…” Although the human resources department said the email was inappropriate, no disciplinary action was taken.

Faculty chair tells professor to stifle his anti-GMO views

Another outrageous display against freedom of expression occurred earlier this year during his post-tenure review. UH professor Mark Wright, who is also the faculty chair of Valenzuela’s department and an avid supporter of GMOs, told him that he could speak about his opposing GMO views during his “own private time but not as a faculty member.”

Although Valenzuela passed his review, it is no surprise that Wright has no recollection of his comments; he denies saying any such thing during the review. He does, however, maintain his stance that genetic engineering has done wonders for Hawaii’s papaya industry and that GMO opponents are junk science groupies.

Welcome to America: the land of corruption, greed and human experimentation

Wright is likely thrilled by the corrupt actions of Judge Susan Oki Mollway, who prevented hearings from occurring that would stop Monsanto and Dow from continuing their untested, open-air experimentation involving GMO chemicals in Maui County despite the fact that a referendum was passed by residents last year. These voters are now left in limbo, their efforts intentionally thwarted by a woman driven by The System, Big Agrochemical and greed. This is human experimentation where people have no choice in the matter and their health is seriously jeopardized. Does this utter disregard for the value of lives sound familiar?

Sadly, Valenzuela goes through life without knowing the next time his race, intelligence and beliefs will be attacked. “I know they’re still trying to muzzle me,” he says of the fact that he can’t shake off the numerous times he’s been told to stay quiet when it comes to anti-GMO discussions.

Unfortunately, Valenzeula continues to experience what is quickly becoming the norm in America: academic one-size-fits-all (or whoever has the deepest pockets or largest secrets to cover up) teachings, a bowing of heads to mainstream media and a hypocritical system that goes to extremes, ordering us to keep our mouths shut but swallow the politics.

http://www.naturalnews.com/050170_University_of_Hawaii_GMOs_censorship.html

 

World GMO production
World GMO production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Opposition to Highly Radioactive Liquid Shipments Continues

opposition to highly radioactive liquid shipments continues

For Immediate Release          February 3 2017

In spite of a disappointing ruling by a US Judge on Thursday afternoon, February 2, public opposition remains to an unprecedented plan to ship 23,000 litres (6000 gallons) of intensely radioactive liquid from Chalk River, Ontario, to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina – a distance of over 2000 kilometres. The liquid is an acidic solution of dozens of extremely radiotoxic materials such as cesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium-239.

The first armed convoy, in a series of 100-150 truckloads over a period of four years, had been put on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge in US federal court. Plaintiffs had urged the court to either suspend the shipments, or to require a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in compliance with US environmental law (NEPA), because such highly radioactive material has never before been transported over public roads in liquid form.

But on February 2 the court ruled against the Plaintiffs, deferring to the Department of Energy’s 2013 and 2015 claims that the transport of this dangerous waste in liquid form poses no more dangers than hauling it in solid form. So now, these unprecedented highly radioactive liquid waste shipments have been judged to have no legal obstacles, even without an EIS. Consequences of a spill and discussion of alternatives will not be available for scrutiny by the public or other agencies as a result of the ruling.

The suit was brought by seven US organizations: Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Savannah River Site Watch, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Lone Tree Council, Sierra Club and Environmentalists, Inc. Dozens of other organizations on both sides of the border support the plaintiffs in their opposition. All these groups will continue to challenge the plan to transport such dangerous liquid over public roads and bridges – a feat never before attempted, and one they consider to be entirely unnecessary as there are safer alternatives.

Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch in South Carolina, said “Citizens here don’t want to be a dumping ground for Canada’s nuclear waste. Last year, Indonesia demonstrated a method called ‘down-blending’, carried out with DOE approval, that eradicates any need for shipping highly radioactive liquid. The same technique can be utilized at Chalk River. Down-blending and solidifying the waste in Canada would be cheaper, faster and safer than moving this dangerous liquid cargo through dozens of communities, then processing and dumping it into aging waste tanks at SRS.”

Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., a mathematician with the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., a physicist with the US-based Nuclear Waste Management Associates, both filed technical declarations in support of the lawsuit.

radioactive liquid

Dr. Edwards’ declaration based on published data from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency, showed that the toxicity of a few ounces of the Chalk River liquid would ruin an entire city’s water supply. “This liquid is among the most radiotoxic materials on earth,” said Dr. Edwards.

Dr. Resnikoff’s statement pointed out that a severe sideways impact of the transport cask, or a prolonged diesel fire causing boiling of the liquid and over-pressure rupture of the containers, could spill the liquid contents into the environment. “The consequences of such realistic accident scenarios have not been adequately assessed,” said Dr. Resnikoff, adding that the containers have never been tested physically under such realistic conditions. The Judge disallowed the two expert declarations.

Mary Olson, one of the plaintiffs in the law suit, said “Even without any leakage of the contents, people will be exposed to penetrating gamma radiation and damaging neutron radiation just by sitting in traffic beside one of these transport trucks. And because the liquid contains weapons-grade uranium there is an ever-present possibility of a spontaneous chain reaction giving off a powerful blast of life-threatening neutrons in all directions – a so-called “criticality” accident.”

http://ccnr.org/GE_Media_Release_2017.pdf

Natalie-Marie Hart Interviews Charlotte Iserbyt

Biography:

Charlotte Iserbyt is the consummate whistleblower! Iserbyt served as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, during the first Reagan Administration, where she first blew the whistle on a major technology initiative which would control curriculum in America‘s classrooms. Iserbyt is a former school board director in Camden, Maine and was co-founder and research analyst of Guardians of Education for Maine (GEM) from 1978 to 2000. She has also served in the American Red Cross on Guam and Japan during the Korean War, and in the United States Foreign Service in Belgium and in the Republic of South Africa. Iserbyt is a speaker and writer, best known for her 1985 booklet Back to Basics Reform or OBE: Skinnerian International Curriculum and her 1989 pamphlet Soviets in the Classroom: America’s Latest Education Fad which covered the details of the U.S.-Soviet and Carnegie-Soviet Education Agreements which remain in effect to this day. She is a freelance writer and has had articles published in Human Events, The Washington Times, The Bangor Daily News, and included in the record of Congressional hearings.

Website:

http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/

Known Facts and Hidden Dangers

By Dr. Gordon Edwards

Uranium

What do we know about uranium? Well, uranium is the heaviest naturally occurring element on earth. It is a metal, like all other metals, except that it had no commercial value before the mid-twentieth century. Until the last fifty years it was produced only as a byproduct. Thus the entire history of the mining of uranium has taken place during my lifetime. Moreover, a great deal of it has occurred in my homeland, Canada, which was the first country to produce and process uranium as such.

The first uranium processed by Canada was used to produce nuclear explosives for the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Indeed, the beginning of the nuclear weapons program marked the beginning of the uranium industry. By 1956, uranium had become the fourth most important export from Canada, after pulp, lumber and wheat; and every ounce of it was used to produce A-bombs and H-bombs for the American — and, to a lesser extent, the British — nuclear weapons programs. It was the only use uranium had at that time.

Today, Canada remains the world’s largest producer and exporter of uranium, ostensibly for peaceful purposes; that is, as fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. Canada is also one of the very few countries in the world in which uranium mining is currently expanding. In the province of Saskatchewan, there are environmental assessment hearings going on now, this year, having to do with the potential opening of five new uranium mines. This, despite the fact that the price of uranium is lower today than it has ever been. The price has been falling steadily for more than fifteen years, and is now at an all-time low.

I hope that those attending this conference will write to the Prime Minister of Canada (c/o House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0A6) and to the Premier of Saskatchewan (c/o Saskatchewan Legislature, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) asking them not to continue the expansion of this industry. Why? Because uranium is the deadliest metal on earth. As you will see, the scientific evidence fully bears out this conclusion. I would now like to explain why.

Both the commercial value and the dangers of uranium are based on two extra-ordinary characteristics which it possesses. First of all, uranium is radioactive. Secondly, uranium is fissionable. These are two quite different properties, however, and they should not be confused.

Radioactivity

The phenomenon of radioactivity was accidentally discovered in 1896 when Henri Becquerel put a rock in a drawer. The rock contained uranium, and the drawer contained a photographic plate, which was well-wrapped and shielded from the light. Some weeks later, when Becquerel unwrapped and developed the plate, he found rays of light on the photograph emanating exactly from the point of contact where the rock had been resting on it. Being a scientist, he was astounded. He could think of no possible way in which an inert rock could spontaneously be releasing energy — especially such a penetrating form of energy. Moreover, the energy release had taken place in total darkness, in the absence of any external stimulation — there was no chemical reaction, no exposure to sunlight, nor anything else. Becquerel had discovered radioactivity.

Marie Curie decided to pursue the mystery further. She got some uranium ore from the Erz mountains, not very far from here. She chemically separated the uranium from the rest of the crushed rock (she had to crush the rock and dissolve it in acid to get the uranium out, which is what we still do today in mining uranium) and she found that even after the uranium had been removed, the crushed rock remained very radioactive — much more so than the uranium itself. Here was a mystery indeed. Why is it that eighty-five percent of the radioactivity stays behind in the crushed rock?

Starting with many tons of rock, Madame Curie proceeded to separate out all the chemical elements she knew. It was painstaking work. Finally she was left with a small beaker of concentrated, highly radioactive liquid. By evaporating the water, she felt sure she would discover whatever was causing this intense radioactivity. But when the liquid was evaporated, the beaker was, apparently, completely empty. She was deeply disappointed. She couldn’t fathom what had gone wrong. But when she returned to the laboratory late at night, she found the beaker glowing brightly in the dark, and she realized that it wasn’t empty after all. In this way, Marie Curie discovered two new elements: radium and polonium. We now know these are inevitable byproducts of uranium.

By 1906, all the basic facts of radioactivity were known, except for the central mystery as to “why”; this we do not understand. Indeed, science doesn’t really understand why anything is the way it is. All science can do is describe how things behave. Science tells us, for example, that all material things are made up of tiny atoms. The atoms found in most substances are remarkably stable, but in the case of radioactive materials, the atoms are unstable.

Consider the water in this glass. It is made up of stable atoms. Pure water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and these atoms are, as far as science can determine, eternal and unchangeable. The very same atoms of hydrogen and oxygen that are in this glass of water were around, in some other combinations, in the days of the dinosaurs.

But radioactive substances have unstable atoms which can and will explode microscopically, and when they do, they give off a burst of energy. This process is called “radioactive disintegration” or “radioactive decay”. When radioactive atoms explode, they give off highly energetic charged particles of two types: alpha and beta. These are particles, they’re not invisible rays. They are like pieces of shrapnel from an explosion. And this microscopic shrapnel does great damage because of the high energy of the particles which are given off.

Decay Products

When a radioactive atom explodes, that atom is changed permanently into a new substance. And radium turns out to be one of the results of exploding uranium atoms. So wherever you find uranium on the earth, you will always find radium with it because it is one of about a dozen so-called “decay products” of uranium.

To be more precise, when uranium disintegrates it turns into a substance called protactinium, which is also radioactive. And when that disintegrates it turns into a substance named thorium, which is likewise radioactive. When thorium disintegrates it turns into radium; when radium disintegrates it turns into radon gas. And when radon gas atoms disintegrate, they turn into what are called the “radon daughters”, or “radon progeny”, of which there are about half a dozen radioactive materials, including polonium.

Finally, in this progression, you end up with a stable substance, which in itself is highly toxic: lead. But because the radioactivity of the other materials is so much more dangerous than this toxic heavy metal, people don’t even talk about the lead at the end of the chain. They think that once all the radioactivity is gone, what’s left is perfectly safe. It isn’t — but the lead that remains is just a whole lot less dangerous than the radioactive materials that produced it.

So all the radioactive decay products of uranium remain in the crushed rock when uranium is separated from the ore. That’s why Marie Curie found most of the radioactivity left behind in the residues, including all the radium and all the polonium.

Radium

Well, how did the story of uranium progress? Because uranium was less radioactive than its daughter products, it was not valued commercially. But radium was. And radium began to be used principally for two purposes. One was to burn cancerous growths. I should tell you that both Henri Becquerel and Marie Curie suffered grievous burns which were very difficult to heal and which left permanent scars just as a result of handling radium. Other scientists got the idea that if they embedded a needle containing radium inside a cancerous tumor, it would burn the cancer — and indeed it did. That was the beginning of cancer therapy using radiation, wherein the harmful effects of atomic radiation are directed against cancerous cells instead of healthy cells. Of course, atomic radiation does similar damage to healthy cells.

Now, the other main use for radium was as a luminous paint, because of the glow-in-the-dark phenomenon that Marie Curie had observed. Believe it or not, the price of uranium in the 1920s was $100,000 a gram — and this is using dollars of the twenties! It was a very expensive commodity, but only very little was needed for any given purpose. Some of it was used to make luminous paint, with which they would paint dials so they could be read even in the dark.

Now the young women who painted these things began to get sick. This was first reported by an American dentist called Blum, who said that he had some very young women — 19 years old, 18 years old, 20 years old — coming into his dentistry office. Their teeth were falling out, their gums were badly infected and bleeding profusely, they were anemic, their bones were soft, and in some cases their jawbones had spontaneously fractured. Some of them died of severe anemia.

The only thing these women had in common was that they worked in a radium dial painting factory in New Jersey. Blum called this phenomenon “radium jaw”. A few years later, the women who had recovered from these symptoms started developing problems in the rest of their skeleton. They suffered weakening of the bone, spontaneous fractures of the hip and of other bones, and growths — tumors, some of which were cancerous — in the bones themselves. Now, bone cancer is such an exceedingly rare disease, that there was little doubt that this cancer was caused by exposure to radium.

It was discovered that simply by wetting the tip of the brush in order to get a nice clean figure on the dials, these women were ingesting minute quantities of radium. And that was sufficient to cause all these symptoms. When autopsies were performed on the corpses of these women, doctors discovered that in their entire skeleton there were only a few micrograms of radium. This quantity was so small, that no conventional chemical analysis could detect it. Nevertheless, this tiny amount of radium had distributed itself so thoroughly through their skeleton, that you could take a picture of any one of their bones just by laying it on a photographic plate in a dark room, It is called an auto-radiograph — that is, an x-ray picture with no x-ray machine.

So this was our first introduction to the harmful effects of even minute quantities of such substances. By the way, many of the women who survived this phase of the assault later on developed cancers of the head — cancer of the sinuses, cancer of the soft palate, and other types of head cancers. We now know how these were caused. Remember, radium is radioactive — even inside the body. As I told you earlier, when radium atoms disintegrate, they turn into radon gas. So radon gas was being produced inside the bodies of these women. In fact, one test for radium contamination is to check a person’s exhaled breath and see if it has radon gas in it; if it does, that person must have radium in his or her body. In the case of the radium dial painters, the radon gas was being produced in the bones, dissolved in the blood, and pumped by the heart up to the head where it collected in the sinus and other cavities. And there it was irradiating the delicate living tissues and causing head cancers.

Radon

Now, it so happens that for hundreds of years, going back to the 15th century, there had been reports that miners working in the Erz mountains had been dying at a tremendous rate from some unknown lung diseases. We’re talking here about 75 percent mortality in some cases. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the principal disease was diagnosed and found to be lung cancer. At that time, lung cancer was virtually unknown among the surrounding population; yet these miners were experiencing in some cases up to 50 percent lung cancer mortality. The other lung ailments were not lung cancer, but other types of debilitating lung damage.

By the 1930s it had been established that this epidemic of lung cancer and other lung diseases was caused by breathing radioactive materials in the atmosphere of the mine. In animal experiments, radon gas was identified as the main killer.

Uranium finally acquired commercial value in 1942, when we discovered that we could make atomic bombs with it. Only then did we start mining uranium for itself and not as a byproduct of something else. A few years earlier, in 1938, it was discovered that uranium is not only radioactive, it is also fissionable, which makes it unique among all naturally occurring radioactive materials. When uranium atoms undergo the fission process, large amounts of energy are released. Unlike the process of radioactive decay, which cannot be turned on and off, nuclear fission can be controlled. The energy release caused by fission can be speeded up, slowed down, started or stopped. It can be used to destroy cities in the form of nuclear weapons, or to boil water inside a nuclear reactor.

Suddenly, uranium was in demand. We sent miners into the mines in North America at a permissible level of radiation exposure which was comparable to the levels that those miners in the Erz mountains had been getting back in the 19th century. And of course, the results were entirely predictable: an epidemic of lung cancer and other lung diseases. One has to ask therefore: Why were these consequences not predicted and prevented?

Radon Daughters

The answer is, in part, that the scientists refused to believe that such a small amount of radon gas could cause such a huge increase in cancer. As it turns out, the scientists were wrong. One of the basic things they overlooked, is that if you take a sample of radon gas — right now, if I filled a tube with radon gas in front of your eyes, and measured the radiation in that tube — within three hours, the level of radioactivity would increase by a factor of about five. Why?

As the radon atoms disintegrate, they produce other radioactive substances. And so, in fact, you have a multiplication of new radioactive materials which weren’t there to begin with. This is one of the things the scientists overlooked. So that when the miners go into a mine where the radon has been collecting for several hours, it’s five times as radioactive as radon in the laboratory. And those other substances — the radon daughters — are extremely dangerous. The worst of the radon daughters, by the way, is a substance called polonium — the same polonium that Marie Curie discovered so many years ago. Recent scientific evidence shows that polonium is, in many circumstances, at least as toxic as plutonium, and in some cases more toxic.

Nuclear Fission

Now, what is that property that made uranium commercially valuable? It’s called fissionability. More precisely, uranium is called a “fissile” material. Let me explain what that means.

Yes, uranium atoms are radioactive, and so they will disintegrate if you just leave them alone; but what happens if you poke them? What happens if you bombard uranium atoms with tiny particles called neutrons? It turns out that in that case, you can force a much more violent disintegration of the atom, which is called fission. When fission occurs, the uranium atom doesn’t just disintegrate, it actually breaks apart into two or three large chunks. In the process it gives off some extra neutrons, and it also gives off about 400 times as much energy as is produced by a radioactive disintegration event.

Now, the fact that fission is triggered by a neutron makes it quite different from normal radioactivity. Radioactivity is not triggered, and therefore science does not know how to control it. We have no mechanism for speeding up, slowing down, starting or stopping radioactivity. That’s why radioactive wastes are such a problem. But with fission, we can start it, stop it, and control it, just by maintaining control over the extra neutrons that are produced at each stage. Starting with just one neutron, we can split one uranium atom, and the extra neutrons can go on to split two more uranium atoms, giving even more neutrons which can then split four atoms, which can then split eight atoms, and so on. In this way, forty quintillion uranium atoms can be split with only sixty generations of splittings, all triggered by a single neutron. [A quintillion is a billion billion, or a million million million.] This whole “chain reaction”, as it is called, takes place in less than a thousandth of a second. That is really what constitutes the atomic bomb.

Fission Products

You may now realize that all of the radioactive materials which escape from an atomic bomb when it explodes, are basically the broken bits of uranium atoms. These are new radioactive materials, called “fission products”, which are created by the splitting of uranium atoms. There are hundreds of them. They all have different names, and different chemical and biologically properties. Most of them did not exist in nature before the advent of nuclear technology.

You see, uranium travels in many disguises. In every sample of uranium ore, one finds radium — but radium is, in a certain sense, just a transformation of uranium. Speaking loosely, one could say that it is a disguised form of uranium. It is just one of the many elements in the chain of decay. Similarly with polonium. Similarly with radon gas. These are all just different manifestations of uranium, so to speak, resulting from radioactive decay.

And similarly with the fallout from atomic bombs; all those radioactive materials which are released by nuclear explosions — such as iodine-131, strontium-90, cesium-137, krypton-85, and all the rest — they are all broken bits of uranium atoms. They are additional disguises for uranium, resulting from nuclear fission.

The radioactive poisons that were released from the Chernobyl reactor are also broken bits of uranium atoms. Incidentally, 80 percent of the total radiation dose delivered by the Chernobyl accident worldwide was caused by the escape of just a couple of kilograms of radioactive materials from the damaged nuclear plant. It doesn’t take much…. To this day, the sheep in Wales are unsuitable for human consumption because of contamination by one particular by-product of the Chernobyl accident called cesium-137. But every atom of cesium-137 from Chernobyl started out as an atom of uranium.

These radioactive materials, which are called fission products — the ones in the bomb fallout and which in nuclear reactors — should not be confused with the other radioactive materials I told you about earlier, which are the decay products of uranium. The decay products of uranium are due to radioactive disintegration. They are about two dozen in number, and they occur in nature because uranium does. When you talk about fission products, however, you are dealing with completely different substances. They are created only inside nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors. They are the leftover pieces of uranium atoms which have been violently broken apart by the fission process. There are over 300 of them altogether, when you consider that — being radioactive — each of the fission products also has its own decay products!

Health Effects of Radioactive Materials

And so this one material, uranium, is responsible for introducing into the human environment a tremendously large range of radioactive materials which are all very inimical to biological organisms. These are not invisible rays, they are materials. They get into our water, our food, and the air we breathe. They’re exactly like other materials except for the fact that they’re radioactive.

Take, for instance, radioactive iodine. It behaves just like ordinary iodine, which is not radioactive. Why is there iodine in our table salt? Well, it’s one of the few examples of preventative medicine we have. The iodine, when it’s eaten in the table salt, goes to the thyroid gland, and there it helps to prevent a disease of the thyroid gland called “goiter”. Radioactive iodine does exactly the same thing. If a child or an adult gets radioactive iodine in the diet, the radioactive iodine goes to the thyroid too, and it also helps to prevent goiter. But while it’s there, the atoms explode, and the shrapnel rips through the cells of the body, and in the process breaks thousands of chemical bonds randomly.

It’s like throwing a grenade into a computer. The probability of getting an improvement in a computer by throwing a grenade into it is very small, and similarly with radiation events and human cells. Now, the cells that die are really no problem, as long as not too many of them die. They can be replaced. The ones that are particularly dangerous are the ones that survive. Those damaged cells can develop into cancers. You can also have damage to germ cells — eggs and sperm — leading to genetically damaged children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.

As Alice Stewart mentioned in her talk, there are two categories of human illness that everyone agrees can be caused by exposure to atomic radiation even at very low levels. They are (1) cancers of all kinds, and also (2) genetic mutations — which can be caused right down to the lowest levels of radiation exposure. Most scientists believe that these harmful effects are linearly related to the dose, so that if the dose is doubled, the number of cancers and genetic defects will also be doubled, and if the dose is cut in half, only half as many cancers and genetic defects will be seen. It is important to realize that if a damaging dose is spread out among a very large population, so that each individual receives only a very small portion of the total dose, the number of cancers and genetic defects is in no way diminished. Thus, in the case of radioactive pollution, dilution is no solution at all.

However, there is one other effect of radiation at low levels which wasn’t mentioned in the previous talk, and I would like to just mention it here. It has now been confirmed by the scientific community — only in recent years, by the way — that mental retardation is caused by radiation exposure in the womb. This type of biological damage also seems to be linear, that is, proportional to dose, right down to the lowest levels of exposure. There doesn’t seem to be any cut-off point. And so we have now discovered yet a third category of documented and scientifically accepted harmful effects of radiation and that is mental retardation in children who were irradiated while still in the womb.

Uranium Tailings

Now, if I could just wrap up, I have to tell you something extremely important. The title of my talk was “Known facts and hidden dangers”. I’ve told you a bit about the known facts. Now for at least one of the hidden dangers.

When we extract uranium from the ground, we dig up the rock, we crush it and we leave behind this finely pulverized material — it’s like flour. In Canada we have 200 million tons of this radioactive waste, called uranium tailings. As Marie Curie observed, 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. How long will it be there? Well, it turns out that the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years. That means in 80,000 years there will be half as much radioactivity in these tailings as there is today.

You know, that dwarfs the entire prehistory of the Salzburg region which goes way back to ancient, ancient times. Even archaeological remains date back no further than 80,000 years. We don’t have any records of human existence going back that far. That’s the half-life of this material.

And as these tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread. Once the mining companies close down, who is going to look after this material forever? How does anyone, in fact, guard 200 million tons of radioactive sand safely forever, and keep it out of the environment?

In addition, as the tailings are sitting there on the surface, they are continually generating radon gas. Radon is about eight times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. It’ll travel 1,000 miles in just a few days in a light breeze. And as it drifts along, it deposits on the vegetation below the radon daughters, which are the radioactive byproducts that I told you about, including polonium. So that you actually get radon daughters in animals, fish and plants thousands of miles away from where the uranium mining is done. It’s a mechanism for pumping radioactivity into the environment for millennia to come, and this is one of the hidden dangers.

Conclusion

All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. That’s the destiny of all the uranium that’s mined. And in the process of mining the uranium we liberate these naturally occurring radioactive substances, which are among the most harmful materials known to science. Couple this with the thought that nuclear technology never was a solution to any human problem. Nuclear weapons do not bring about a sane world, and nuclear power is not a viable answer to our energy problems. We don’t even need it for electricity. All you need for conventional electricity generation is to spin a wheel, and there’s many ways of doing it: water power, wind power, geothermal power, etc. In addition, there are other methods for producing electricity directly: solar photovoltaics, fuel cells, and so on. What we have here, in the case of nuclear power, from the very beginning, is a technology in search of an application.

So, I think that we as a human community have to come to grips with this problem and say to ourselves and to others that enough is enough. We do not want to permanently increase our radiation levels on this planet. We have enough problems already.

Thank you.

Credit: http://www.ccnr.org/salzburg.html

‘Steer Clear of Creating GMO Babies,’ Scientists and Ethicists Say

‘Proceed with caution, but steer clear of creating GMO babies’ was the general message sent Thursday by the dozen scientists and ethicists who organized the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington, D.C.

The experts said at the end of 3 days of deliberation and presentations that not all gene therapy should move forward, and the world is not ready for “germline” editing that permanently changes an embryo so that the edit could be passed along to future children.

 The meeting, sponsored by the national science academies of the U.S., Britain and China, is merely intended for idea swapping and passing along general guidance on gene editing. None of the scientists or ethicists has the authority to make anyone do anything.

“Intensive basic and preclinical research is clearly needed and should proceed, subject to appropriate legal and ethical rules and oversight, on technologies for editing genetic sequences in human cells; the potential benefits and risks of proposed clinical uses, and understanding the biology of human embryos and germline cells,” the final statement reads.

“If, in the process of research, early human embryos or germline cells undergo gene editing, the modified cells should not be used to establish a pregnancy.”

Proponents of gene editing technologies say germline editing could be used to end genetic diseases “and, ultimately, to alter the course of evolution,” says Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an editorial in the journal Nature. The geneticist proposed the summit and served on its 12-person committee.

But opponents fear the technology, known as CRISPR, could stack the deck against those who may not have access to the treatments. It could allow scientists to create “designer” children for parents, including kids with a specific eye or hair color, intelligence level or artistic ability. In a bizarre and frightening world, parents could even theoretically make glow-in-the-dark babies or little ones who only need a few hours of sleep per night to function.

It’s not hard to imagine how governments – or even terrorist organization, with the right funding and support – could misuse such powerful technology.

CRISPR is cheap, easy and powerful, which is either wonderful or terrible, depending what side you’re on. It’s also incredibly powerful and not fully understood. A mistake could introduce a devastating mutation into the human race that is permanent, especially since non-experts could easily get their hands on the technology.

The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) and the activist group Friends of the Earth had called for a global ban on editing human embryos, but the committee said a complete ban would be impractical, and urged the international community instead to set global norms including shared regulations and an ongoing forum “to discourage unacceptable activities while advancing human health and welfare.”

The 10 scientists and 2 ethicists agreed that there is no reason to stop the use of gene editing to try and correct immune deficiencies and other diseases. Such gene therapy is already being tested on some patients.

 

The creation of genetically modified embryos is what makes the committee cringe.

Until researchers have a firmer grasp on CRISPR technology, and until these universal regulations can be set, the committee warned that the scientific community should keep its hands off germline editing for now.

“It would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use of germline editing unless and until (i) the relevant safety and efficacy issues have been resolved, based on appropriate understanding and balancing of risks, potential benefits, and alternatives, and (ii) there is broad societal consensus about the appropriateness of the proposed application.”

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said it won’t finance germline editing in human embryos due to safety and ethical issues. For now, any researchers who wish to work with embryos will have to find their own funding, even if the embryos are not intended for implantation.

The White House has also said that “altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.”

Sources:

[1] Los Angeles Times

[2] Scientific American

[3] NBC News

[4] Slate

About Julie Fidler:
Author Image
 

Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.

 

Natalie-Marie Hart Interviews Mariah Blake regarding the dangers of plastics

Biography:

Mariah Blake, staff reporter with Mother Jones magazine. Her new investigation is “The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics: And the Big Tobacco-Style Campaign to Bury It.”

Here is Mariah Blake’s article:

  • The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics : a familiar ritual played out in Michael Green’s home: He’d slide a stainless steel sippy cup across the table to his two-year-old daughter, Juliette, and she’d howl for the pink plastic one. Often, Green gave in. But he had a nagging feeling. As an environmental-health advocate, he had fought to rid sippy cups and baby bottles of the common plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to a long list of serious health problems. Juliette’s sippy cup was made from a new generation of BPA-free plastics, but Green, who runs the Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health, had come across research suggesting some of these contained synthetic estrogens, too.

Websites:

Here is our interview:

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All About Garlic: Simple Gardening

This tutorial explains how to grow and pick garlic. Anybody can do it!

Garlic is easy to grow and can be grown year-round in mild climates. While sexual propagation of garlic is possible, nearly all of the garlic in cultivation is propagated asexually, by planting individual cloves in the ground. In colder climates, cloves are planted in the autumn, about six weeks before the soil freezes, and harvested in late spring or early summer. The cloves must be planted deep enough to prevent freeze/thaw, which causes mold or white rot. Garlic plants are usually very hardy, and are not attacked by many pests or diseases. Garlic plants are said to repel rabbits and moles. However, two of the major pathogens that attack garlic are nematodes and white rot disease, which remain in the soil indefinitely after the ground has become infected. Garlic can also suffer from pink root, a typically nonfatal disease that stunts the roots and turns them pink or red.

Credits

 

Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.

 

The Happiest people in Countries Report

1. Switzerland

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Switzerland, this year’s happiest country, ranks above average in subjective well-being, jobs and earnings, income and wealth, health status, social connections, environmental quality, education and skills, and personal security. There’s also a strong sense of community in Switzerland, where 96 percent of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need. The latter is the highest figure in the OECD, tied with #2 Iceland. Capital: Bern

2. Iceland

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According to the Better Life Index, Iceland ranks at the top in jobs and earnings, and above average in social connections, subjective well-being, health status, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and education and skills. Icelanders also measure among the highest in general satisfaction with life, rating an average of 7.5 on a 10 points scale, which is one of the highest scores in the OECD where the average is 6.6 Capital: Reykjavik

3. Denmark

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Denmark takes the third spot this year. The top country in work-life balance, with only two percent of employees reporting working very long hours, Denmark also ranks above average in environmental quality, civic engagement, education and skills, jobs and earnings, income and wealth, and personal security. Queen: Margrethe II of Denmark Capital: Copenhagen

4. Norway

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Norway is a well-rounded country, rating well in almost all the dimensions measured, with strong civic engagement, good social connections, environmental quality, housing, work-life balance, and more. A higher than average 82 percent of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education.

5. Canada

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Canadians are healthy and happy. With 89 percent of people reporting being in good health—much higher than the OECD average of 69 percent—Canada is among the five happiest countries in the world.
Capital: Ottawa
Prime minister: Justin Trudeau
Governor-general: David Johnston

6. Finland

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Finland rates well in subjective well-being, civic engagement, environmental quality, housing, work-life balance, and social connections. The country also places a strong emphasis on education. The average student scored 529 in reading literacy, math and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is significantly higher than the OECD average of 497.

7. Netherlands

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The Netherlands ranks above the average in work-life balance, jobs and earnings, housing, income and wealth, education, subjective well-being, health, and social connections. The country also has a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation. Capital: Amsterdam

 

 
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The top ranking country in environmental quality, Sweden also ranks above average in education, work-life balance health status, jobs, and housing. People in Sweden are living increasingly longer. The average life span is now 83.7 years for women and 80.1 years for men. This can be attributed in part to falling mortality rates from heart attacks and strokes. Capital: Stockholm King Carl XVI Gustaf

9. New Zealand

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New Zealand scored the highest in health with considerably lower than average tiny air pollutant particles (10.8 micrograms per cubic meter vs. the OECD average of 20.1), and 89 percent of whose citizens report being satisfied with the quality of their water. Capital: Wellington

 

10. Australia

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Australia ranked at the top in civic engagement and above average in environmental quality. 92 percent of people believe they know someone they could rely on in time of need. Capital: Canberra Prime minister: Malcolm Turnbull Governor-general: Peter Cosgrove

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