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Japan Nuclear Reactor Radiation: Experts Warn of Dangers To Pregnant Women.

By Rebecca Odes |

In the past few days, Japan has been rocked by a massive earthquake, pummeled by a tsunami, and now, facing a possible radiation leak, or worse, from compromised nuclear power plant(s).

Japanese officials insist that the radiation levels are not low enough to do harm. But some experts who have studied the effects of past nuclear disasters fear that the Japanese may not be doing enough to protect its citizens, particularly the pregnant ones.

Sunday’s NYTimes quoted the Columbia professor Douglas Almond, an economist who studied the effects of the Chernobyl disaster in Sweden. His research is truly chilling—especially the part about the radiation levels that were ‘believed safe at the time” and turned out to be far from it…

The fetus may be particularly sensitive to low doses of ionizing radiation, a susceptibility that current public health responses in Japan seem to have overlooked. Evidence comes from a recent study of Chernobyl fallout in Sweden, which experienced comparatively low radiation doses from the accident; indeed radiation levels in Sweden were believed safe at the time.

While this has been largely confirmed in subsequent studies, there is one important exception: children in utero at the time of the accident. Swedish students who were in utero during the accident experienced significantly lower cognitive function, as reflected in performance on standardized tests in middle school, especially those tests that correspond best to IQ.

The damage was greatest for cohorts in utero in regions of Sweden that received more fallout by virtue of rainfall during the time the radioactive plume was over Sweden, and were of gestational age 8-25 weeks at the time of the accident. This last finding mirrors earlier epidemiological analysis of the survivors of Atomic bombings in Japan, which found reduced IQ and head circumference among the cohort exposed to radiation at those gestation ages.

Almond, along with other experts in the field, is urging Japan to issue stronger radiation warnings to its pregnant population, who can, according to this research, be affected by radioactivity at significant distance from the site of the leak. It also seems possible, considering Japan’s size and location, that radioactivity could travel via rain to other nations nearby.

The part of this story that’s scariest to me is the idea that these children were deeply damaged by something their mothers were told was safe. I’m not saying the government necessarily knew otherwise (though things like this do get my conspiracy theory impulses up in a bunch). It just reminds us of the limitations of trust. At times like these, that whole pregnancy-in-a-bubble concept doesn’t sound half bad.

Read the whole story here.

photo: Sakucae/flickr

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About Rebecca Odes


Rebecca Odes

Rebecca Odes is a writer, artist and mother. She was inspired to write her blog, From The Hips, during her first pregnancy when she discovered every pregnancy book she came across made her feel anxious or irritated. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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2 thoughts on “Japan Nuclear Reactor Radiation: Experts Warn of Dangers To Pregnant Women.

  1. Neil Craig says:

    This is nonsence. The maximum radiation exposure will be the same as flying ionce in an aircraft or eating a banana.

    We see the “environmentalists” are eager to talk about the Japanese catastrophe. Not the earthquake and Tsunami which has killed more than 2,000 people, probably far more, but the consequent failure of 2 reactors which have caused neither death not injury to anybody. This disproportionate coverage of anything with the magic word “nuclear” is normal across our media.

    Fir example compare the coverage of Chernobyl, where a total of 56 people died with that of the Ufa train disaster also in the dying days of the USSR, where over 500 people died. Both were equally the result of incompetent management, but the latter, though 10 times worse, was never “newsworthy” because no nuclear “black magic” was involved.

    The fact is that nuclear power is orders of magnitude safer than any other comparable industrial process. For example in the last 20 years 2 people have died in one nuclear accident, a fighure not today altered, in an industry that produces 20% of the world’s electricity, whereas over 50 have died falling from wind turbines, in a subsidy driven “industry” that produces under 0.1%. I don’t know if the earthquake has caused any Japanese windmills to fail – because I do know that if it has happened it would not be “newsworthy.”

    Perhaps some will say that the radiation hazard justifies coverage unrelated to real casualties. A|fter all did they not predict half a million deaths from Chernobyl, based on the No Lower Threshold (LNT) theory of radiation damage? Indeed they did. However statistical examination since then has shown not one of those 500,000 deaths they predicted happened. The LNT hypothesis has never been anything but an evidence free scare story. Despite it’s”official” acceptance by government apparatchiks in both the Soviet and “democratic” worlds it has never had any scientific evidence whatsoever behind it. Ask any government authority what evidence they have that low level radiation is harmful and they will say “trust us” and change the subject. In fact there is massive evidence, from many unrelated sources, that low level radiation is not only not harmful but beneficial, as anybody who has taken spa waters, or indeed the current inhabitants of the Chernobly region testify.

    What the anti-technology crowd won’t say is that, when disasters strike, far and away the most important factor in saving lives is having an advanced technology. Compare the 2,000 dead in Japan with the Chinese earthquake of 1976. It was a magnitude 7.8, less that 1/10 the 8.9 of this one (the Richter scale goes up 10 fold for each level). The difference is that then China was dirt poor whereas modern Japan isn’t. If the “greens” really cared about human wellbeing they would enthusiastically support every instance of human progress, including more (CO2 free) nuclear power.

  2. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi says:

    The elevated spent fuel pools have also been compromised by the explosions.
    Israeli dependents and non-essential embassy staff removed several days ago.

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