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.