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                     Radioactive Iodine from Fukushima reaches Massachussetts 
(Reuters, 28th. of March, 2011)
Radiation - Poison - Bitter Waters - Chornobyl - Fukujima  

We dedicate April 2011 to overviews (posted at more frequent intervals) to themes related to the Chornobyl and Fukushima catastrophes. April 26th. is the 25th anniversary of Chornobyl.  As usual, stress on the origin and scope of ideas inherent in words will continue but the selection of terms will favor those often found in news reports. As we post companion pages, the roster of "medwords" displayed in the left column will grow. We begin with an introduction-overview - the several forthcomming posting will touch upon ideas inherent in IONizing RADiation and other themes. 

 Note: Chornobyl (in Ukrainian) - Chernobyl (in Russian) illustrates the Russian penchant, as former masters of Ukraine, to impose the trivial but nontheless different spelling for Chornobyl. It is one of the many ways Russian speakers often demean the importance of Ukrainian as the official language of their former colony. 

Part A

Humans and other creatures are exposed to "natural" (earth) and "cosmic" (stars) low doses of ionizing radiation (IR).  Perhaps because Pometheus granted mortals access to the "sacred fire", humans developed an "atomic industry" from which we get exposed to growing sources of IR, mainly from medical reliance of "Roentgen rays" or X-rays. Most recently, atomic bombs and navies plus hundreds of atomic nuclear power plants exposed all living matter to growing levels of IR. There is a growing sense that perhaps humanity has "outlived" its ecology resources. The "accidents" in Chornobyl and Fukushima are "unnatural" and expose societal failures to control greed and incompetence more so than technical and scientific deficiencies.  Why is this of any concern? because IR produces cummulative effects and is a teratogen, mutagen and carcinogen manifested as malformations, genetic disorders, leukemia and every known type of cancer.  

A Poisoned Rose 
A Chornobyl - Fukujima legacy to children and those to follow.
The biologic impact of IR is measured in sieverts (Sv) to be explored later. On the average, IR from natural environmental sources, average 2 millisieverts (mSv) per year in comparison to 0.1 mSv associated with a typical medical chest X-ray. However, US patients, after a typical heart attack, may be exposed to IR equivalent to 850 chest X-rays, often because prescribing X-rays is seen as a trivial matter. In fact, nearly two percent of American people get medical IR exposures between 20 to 50 mSv, levels not far from those suffered by Japanese atomic bomb survivors (in the range of 50-150 mSv) who face elevated cancer risks. In short, the general medical attitude treating medical x-rays as a trivial "prescription" is outdated. 

The Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian) and the Fukushima tragedies illustrate how such failures spread IR and impact vast regions of the globe. Distant from the Chornobyl site in Ukraine, high IR levels persist in higher elevations in Scandinavia, Alpine regions, UK, Baltic Republics and beyond. Now, IR from Fukujima is detected across the US and other nations. 

On the 26th of April, 1986, one of the four nuclear reactors of the atomic power generating station located in Chronobyl, Ukraine, exploded. The explosion was the result of a failed "test-experiment" that illustrates not only techinical but also a governance profound failure flavored with a mix of arrogance with indolence. The tragedy was aggravated by lies and denials commanded by leaders of the Communist Party ruling the USSR. Five days later, as the atomic fire raged in Chornobyl, the "Party" sponsered a May 1st parade in nearby Kyiv that exposed thousands of children. It was then when "party members" were evacuationg their own families to distant locations. Remarkably, USSR nuclear power plants with capacity to detect "leaks" far smaller than those spewing from Chornobyl reported nothing to the public. Authorities did neither until after the public learned from foreign radio broadcasts of the disaster. Distribution of potasium iodine was not implemented, a failure that prevented the prevention of thousands of thyroid concers in children and younger adults - an epidemic that contiues to this day. In short, this story illustrates the complete utter ethical poverty of the leadership of the USSR.  

Another chapter opens as the duo - International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) - enter the picture. Per agreements, the WHO delegates to the IEAE all matters pertaining to health impacts of IR. The IAEA mission is to promote the peaceful development of nuclear power. At face value, neither WHO nor IAEA appear as independent nor unbiased. In 2005, the IAEA-WHO asserted that the most important current consequence from Chornobyl is "radiophobia" - a demeaning idea proposing that those who attribute ailments to Chornobyl IR are neurotic". It further asserted that because of the relatively low exposures to IR, there is no evidence or likelihood of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to Chornobyl-related IR. Such declarations have a chilling effect on sources of funding for investigations to test if such assertions  - past experience shows that past assertions by "nuclear experts" often were wrong and current studies of malformations in Chornobyl impacted areas suggest likewise.

                  Anomalies more common in Chornobyl Impacted Regions of Ukraine
                                             (W. Wertelecki, Pediatrics 125; 836, 2010)

Conjoined Twins

In the context of the ongoing tragedy in Fukushima, Japan, it is critical for the public to remain allert and engaged. Not enough lessons were learned from Chornobyl and new lessons are being learned from Fukushima. Declarations that nuclear power plant are "safe" need a reasessment. The question is who guards the guardians of atomic "power".

Note the companion gallery of illustrations by the then Ukrainian children impacted by Chronobyl. Soon, other shorter-theme oriented overviews will follow.

1986 Disruptive Scenes 
As Chornobyl was burning ... 
a gallery of drawings by Ukrainian school children.