How Big is the Problem?
Information on radioactivity is hard to come by, often conflicting, and usually specific to one aspect of the industry or another. But our exposure to radiation is cumulative, and we need to develop an understanding of the industry as a whole.
For example, an older person living in the Four Corners area of the United States has been exposed to radiation from atmospheric bomb testing, uranium mining, medical procedures, and coal-powered electrical plants which can routinely emit more air-born radiation than nuclear reactors.
"This is truly the ultimate “right to life issue”- a right to be born without genetic malformations, a right to eat and drink non-radioactive food, a right to live a normal life-span without the threat of early cancer and the right to live without the ever present threat of nuclear war. Above all, we are the curators of life on Earth, we hold it in the palm of our hand, a sacred trust with God."
Dr. Helen Caldicott
According to the estimates of Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a radiation expert of world renown, by the year 2000,1.2 billion people on our planet had already been killed, maimed or sickened by nuclear weapons testing and nuclear reactors world-wide. She based her calculations on readily available UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) reports, and she calls them conservative.
- Atmospheric testing: 1,138 million victims
- Weapons production: 3.2 million victims
- Military nuclear accidents: 16 million victims
- Nuclear reactors: 21 million victims
- Nuclear reactor accidents: 15 million victims
- Medical radiation use: 4 million victims
- Total: 1.2 billion victims of the Nuclear Age.
These figures differ radically from the calculations of government agencies- who Dr. Bertell refers to as the "radiation protection industry". Their definitions exclude non-fatal cancers, non-cancer illness, auto-immune diseases, some doses to specific organs, stillbirths and miscarriages.
Other experts add at least 500 million stillbirths or miscarriages to Ms. Bertell's figures, bringing the total of to 1.7 billion, close to one third of the world's existing population at that time.
Says Bertell, "Another century of nuclear power, and this carnage would continue with more than 10 million victims a year. An industry which has the potential to kill, injure and maim that number of innocent people—and all in the name of ‘benefiting’ society—is surely wholly unacceptable."*
How Are We Exposed?
Nuclear fission, whether in a reactor, a bomb, or a laboratory, creates about 80 different radioactive byproducts. In addition, about 300 different existing chemicals take on radioactive forms that before 1943 were found only rarely and in trace amounts.
Escaping nuclear particles, carried by wind and water, end up in our lungs and bodies, and in our food chain. Grass dusted with particles is eaten by cows, which contaminates the milk drunk by our children. And the cycle goes on...
Particles that remain in our bodies can continue to emit radiation, damaging our organs and functions from within. A simple and inexpensive blood test has been patented, so that now each of us can know for sure what our level of contamination is.
*Bertell R., "Victims of the Nuclear Age", The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 408-411, Nov. 1999
**Downey M., "Strontium-90 Levels Reaching Levels of Atmospheric Testing Nuclear Years", The Globe and Mail, 12/2/99
**Gould, Jay M., et al, Strontium-90 In Baby Teeth As A Factor In Early Childhood Cancer, International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 30, No. 3, Pages 515-539, 2000