Building at Chernobyl, Ukraine, 15th November 2012. Photo: Stijn D'haese via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
Figure 1. This graph shows 1st day neonatal mortality rate per 1,000 births in the USA from 1936 to 1987, the black diamonds. The line shows the expected background fall in mortality rate based on the period either side of the atmospheric nuclear test fallout. The red line shows the build-up of Strontium-90 in milk in the UK and the blue line the build-up of Strontium-90 in bones of children in the UK age 0-1. Mortality data from Robin Whyte’s paper in the British Medical Journal, 1992. Note: different scales for milk and bone; Strontium-90 in milk (red: Bq/gCa++ x 10) and bone (blue: pCi/gm Ca++, “sunshine units”) from UK Atomic Energy Authority. 1pCi = 0.037Bq.
It's not just cancer! Radiation, genomic instability and heritable genetic damage
17th March 2016
Cancer is just one of of the outcomes of the genetic damage inflicted by nuclear radiation, writes Chris Busby, and perhaps one of the least important. Of far greater long term significance is the broad-scale mutation of the human genome, and those of other species, and the resulting genomic instability that causes cascades of heritable mutations through the generations.
Radiation scientists and cancer researchers could not square the background mutation rate with the increased risks of cancer with age: the numbers didn't fit. The discovery of the genomic instability process was the answer to the puzzle.
Those who fear the effects of radiation always focus on cancer. But the most frightening and serious consequences of radiation are genetic.
Cancer is just one small bleak reflection, a flash of cold light from a facet of the iceberg of genetic damage to life on Earth constructed from human folly, power-lust and stupidity.
Cancer is a genetic disease expressed at the cellular level. But genetic effects are transmitted across the generations.
It was Herman Joseph Muller, an American scientist, who discovered the most serious effects of ionizing radiation - hereditary defects in the descendants of exposed parents - in the 1920s. He exposed fruit flies - drosophila - to X-rays and found malformations and other disorders in the following generations.
He concluded from his investigations that low dose exposure, and therefore even natural background radiation, is mutagenic and there is no harmless dose range for heritable effects or for cancer induction. His work was honoured by the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1946.
In the 1950s Muller warned about the effects on the human genetic pool caused by the production low level radioactive contamination from atmospheric tests. I have his original 1950 report, which is a rare item now.
Muller, as a famous expert in radiation, was designated as a speaker at the Conference, 'Atoms for Peace' in Geneva in 1955 where the large scale use of nuclear energy (too cheap to meter) was announced by President Eisenhower. But when the organisers became aware that Muller had warned about the deterioration of the human gene pool by the contamination of the planet from the weapon test fallout, his invitation was cancelled.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The protective legislation of western governments does, of course, concede that radiation has such genetic effects. The laws regulating exposure are based on the risk model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the ICRP.
The rules say that no one is allowed to receive more than 1mSv of dose in a year from man-made activities. The ICRP's scientific model for heritable effects is based on mice; this is because ICRP states that there is no evidence that radiation causes any heritable effects in humans.
The dose required to double the risk of heritable damage according to the ICRP is more than 1000mSv. This reliance on mice has followed from the studies of the offspring of those who were present in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Japanese/ US Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC).
These studies were begun in 1952 and assembled groups of people in the bombed cities to compare cancer rates and also birth outcomes in those exposed at different levels according to their distance from the position of the bomb detonation, the hypocentre. The entire citadel of radiation risk is built upon this ABCC rock.
But the rock was constructed with smoke and mirrors and everything about the epidemiology is false. There have been a number of criticisms of the A-Bomb Lifespan Studies of cancer: it was a survivor population, doses were external, residual contamination was ignored, it began seven years after the event, the original zero dose control group was abandoned as being "too healthy", and many others.
But we are concerned here with the heritable effects, the birth defects, the congenital malformations, the miscarriages and stillbirths. The problem here is that for heritable damage effects to show up, there have to be births. As you increase the exposures to radiation, you quickly obtain sterility and there are no pregnancies. We found this in the nuclear test veterans.
Then at lower doses, damaged sperm results in damaged foetuses and miscarriages. When both mother and father are exposed, there are miscarriages and stillbirths before you see any birth defects. So the dose response relation is not linear. At the higher doses there are no effects. The effects all appear at the lowest doses.
Bad epidemiology is easily manipulated
As far as the ABCC studies are concerned, there is another serious (and I would say dishonest) error in the epidemiology. Those people discarded their control population in favour of using the low dose group as a control.
This is such bad epidemiology that it should leave any honest reviewer breathless. But there were no reviewers. Or at least no-one seemed to care. Perhaps they didn't dig deeply enough. In passing, the same method is now being used to assess risk in the huge INWORKS nuclear worker studies and no-one has raised this point there either.
Anyway, the ABCC scientists in charge of the genetic studies found the same levels of adverse birth outcomes in their exposed and their control groups, and concluded that there was no effect from the radiation.
Based on this nonsense, ICRP writes in their latest 2007 risk model, ICRP103, Appendix B.2.01, that "Radiation induced heritable disease has not been demonstrated in human populations."
But it has. If we move away from this USA controlled, nuclear military complex controlled A-Bomb study and look in the real world we find that Muller was right to be worried. The radioactive contamination of the planet has killed tens of millions of babies, caused a huge increase in infertility, and increased the genetic burden of the human race and life on earth.
And now the truth is out!
In January of this year Prof. Inge Schmitz-Feuerhake, of the University of Bremen, Dr Sebastian Pflugbeil of the German Society for Radioprotection and I published a Special Topic paper in the prestigious peer-review journal Environmental Health and Toxicology. The title is: 'Genetic Radiation Risks - a neglected topic in the Low Dose debate'.
In this paper we collected together all the evidence which has been published outside the single Japanese ABCC study in order to calculate the true genetic effects of radiation exposure. The outcome was sobering, but not unexpected.
Using evidence ranging from Chernobyl to the nuclear Test Veterans to the offspring of radiographers we showed clearly that a dose of 1mSv from internal contamination was able to cause a 50% increase in congenital malformations. This identifies an error in the ICRP model and in the current legislation of a factor of 1,000. And we write this down. The conclusion of the paper states:
"Genetically induced malformations, cancers, and numerous other health effects in the children of populations who were exposed to low doses of ionizing radiation have been unequivocally demonstrated in scientific investigations.
"Using data from Chernobyl effects we find a new Excess Relative Risk (ERR) for Congenital malformations of 0.5 per mSv at 1mSv falling to 0.1 per mSv at 10mSv exposure and thereafter remaining roughly constant. This is for mixed fission products as defined though external exposure to Cs-137.
"Results show that current radiation risk models fail to predict or explain the many observations and should be abandoned. Further research and analysis of previous data is suggested, but prior assumptions of linear dose response, assumptions that internal exposures can be modelled using external risk factors, that chronic and acute exposures give comparable risks and finally dependence on interpretations of the high dose ABCC studies are all seen to be unsafe procedures."
Radiation causes genomic instability
Our paper is available on the web as a free download, so you can see what we wrote and follow up the 80 or so references we used to construct the case.
Most of the evidence is from effects reported in countries contaminated by the Chernobyl accident, not only in Belarus and Ukraine but in wider Europe where doses were less than 1mSv. Other evidence we referred to was from the offspring of the nuclear test veterans.
In a study I published in 2014 of the offspring of members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) we saw a 9-fold excess of congenital disease in the children but also, and unexpectedly, an eight-fold excess in the grandchildren. This raises a new and frightening spectre not anticipated by Herman Muller.
In the last 15 years it has become clear that radiation causes genomic instability: experiments in the laboratory and animal studies show that radiation exposure throws some kind of genetic switch which causes a non-specific increase in general mutation rates.
Up until these genomic instability discoveries it was thought that genetic processes followed the laws of Gregor Mendel: there were specific dominant and recessive gene mutations that were passed down the generation and became diluted through a binomial process as offspring married away.
But radiation scientists and cancer researchers could not square the background mutation rate with the increased risks of cancer with age: the numbers didn't fit. The discovery of the genomic instability process was the answer to the puzzle: it introduces enough random mutations to explain the observations.
It is this that supplies the horrifying explanation for the continuing high risk of birth defects in Fallujah and other areas where the exposures occurred ten to twenty years ago. Similar several generation effects have been seen in animals from Chernobyl.
Neonatal mortality in the nuclear bomb era
So where does that leave us? What can we do with this? What can we conclude? How can this change anything? Let's start by looking at the effects of the biggest single injection of these radioactive contaminants, the atmospheric weapons tests of the period 1952 to 1963.
If these caused increases in birth defects and genetic damage we should see something in the data. We do. The results are chilling. If babies are damaged they die at or shortly before birth. This will show up in the vital statistics data of any country which collects and publishes it.
In Fig 1 (above right) I show a graph of the first day (neonatal) mortality rates in the USA from 1936 to 1985. You can see that as social conditions improved there was a fall in the rates between the beginning and end of the period, and we can obtain this by calculating what the background should have been using a statistical process called regression.
The expected backgound is shown as a thin blue line. Also superimposed is the concentration of Strontium-90 in milk (in red) and its concentration in the bones of dead infants (in blue). The graph shows first day neonatal mortality in the USA; it is taken from a paper by Canadian paediatrician Robin Whyte (woman) in the British Medical Journal in 1992. This paper shows the same effect in neonatal (1 month) mortality and stillbirths in the USA and also the United Kingdom. The doses from the Strontium-90 were less than 0.5mSv.
This is in line with what we found in our paper from Chernobyl and the other examples of human exposures. The issue was first raised by the late Prof Ernest Sternglass, one of the first of the radiation warrior-scientists and a friend of mine. The cover-ups and denials of these effects are part of the biggest public health scandal in human history.
It continues and has come to a venue near you: our study of Hinkley Point showed significant increased infant mortality downwind of the plant at Burnham on Sea as I wrote in The Ecologist.
It's official - genetic damage in children is an indicator of harmful exposures to the father
As to what we can do with this new peer-reviewed evidence we can (and we shall) put it before the Nuclear Test Veterans case in the Pensions Appeals hearings in the Royal Courts of Justice which is tabled for three weeks from June 14th 2016 before a tribunal headed by high court judge Sir Nicholas Blake.
I represent two of the appellants in this hearing and will bring in the genetic damage in the children and grandchildren as evidence of genetic damage in the father.
We are calling Inge Schmitz-Feuerhake, the author of the genetic paper, as one expert witness; the judge has conceded that genetic damage in the children is an indicator of harmful exposures to the father. He has made a disclosure order to the University of Dundee to release the veteran questionnaires. They have.
Finally, I must share with you a window into the mind-set of the false scientists who work for the military and nuclear operation. As the fallout Strontium-90 built up in milk and in childrens' bones and was being measured, they renamed the units of contamination, (picoCuries Sr-90 per gram of Calcium) 'Sunshine Units'.
Can you imagine? I would ship them all to Nuremberg for that alone.
The paper: 'Genetic Radiation Risks - a neglected topic in the Low Dose debate' is published in Environmental Health and Toxicology.
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