Epidemiology Map

Valerie Brown, of Alternet, takes apart the official reassurances that ‘no immediate risk’ of harm from radioactive exposure is the whole story.

On a spring day in 1975, the first words I heard as I rose through the fog of anesthetic were “it was malignant.” I was twenty-four years old. A couple of months earlier during a routine physical my doctor had found a mass on my thyroid gland. X-rays and ultrasound had failed to clarify whether the mass was a fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumor. The only choice was surgery. The tissue analysis during the operation confirmed a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. The surgeon removed one lobe and the isthmus of the barbell-shaped gland at the base of my neck. I was informed that I’d take thyroid hormone for the rest of my life because if my own remnant gland were to start functioning again, it might grow itself another cancer. And so I have taken the little pill every morning for thirty-six years. It took a long time for the screaming red scar around my neck – the kind that was later dubbed the “Chernobyl necklace” – to fade.


The rest of her post is worth reading
, especially as this subject is not easily reduced to sound bites and slogans.

The phrase, ‘Chernobyl necklace’ is a reference to the approximately 4,000 children and adolescents diagnosed with thyroid cancer who lived in the path of nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The International Atomic Energy Agency has a somewhat more upbeat take on this consequence than Ms. Brown.

This is not an attempt to speculate about numbers and relative risk. That requires epidemiological research. It’s just to say that today’s news photo of a Japanese woman wearing a mask as she feeds her infant from a bottle is an illustration of one of the deepest and most real concerns about this present crisis and nuclear power in general.

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7 responses

  1. “This is not an attempt to speculate about numbers and relative risk. That requires epidemiological research. It’s just to say that today’s news photo of a Japanese woman wearing a mask as she feeds her infant from a bottle is an illustration of one of the deepest and most real concerns about this present crisis and nuclear power in general.”

    Wearing a mask is totally and utterly pointless. Any aerosolized iodine particles are going to go right through. The picture isn’t touching at all to me, because it’s a clear overreaction. Also, the baby isn’t an infant. As far as I can tell, drinking the ‘radioactive water’ is equivalent to eating a few healthy bananas. ‘safe levels’ are defined so low to provide a huge safety margin.

    1. you think the Japanese have nothing to worry about?

      1. So far, no. From what I’ve read, the exposure levels outside the plant (except for a few spikes after short releases) are the equivalent of smoking a few cigarettes, or spending a few months in Denver, CO.

  2. The world is full of contradictions-I had 4800 rads of cobalt treatments to cure cancer 30 years ago.It was itself carcinogenic,but less damaging in the long term than MOPP chemo that was being used then.
    I have had some nasty effects,mainly scar tissue/adhesions requiring major surgery and am in the target zone for a type of lymphoma and a type of leukemia associated with that type of radiation therapy.
    However,all things considered,I’d take the 30 years I got if I received a bad diagnosis tomorrow and wouldn’t feel the least bit cheated.There’s none of us getting out of here alive,LOL.

    1. cancer treatment is at a stage where what we have are desperate remedies. If your only choice is to get radiation, with all its bad effects, or to die of cancer then radiation is a good and rational choice.
      that doesn’t apply to accidents where healthy people are exposed to radiation that will increase their chance of getting cancer.

      1. I know that.No one should take any medication or treatment that’s uneccesary nor be exposed to dangerous stuff because of careless behavior,although in Japan,it’s really because of an enormous disaster.
        I was just making a point of how weird things can turn out.

  3. Thanks for your attention to this issue, Ninjanurse, and for calling attention to Ms. Brown’s experience. Humanity needs to realize that here in a closed, circulating system on Planet Earth, we’re all Downwinders sooner or later.

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