Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

17 May 2012

Scientific and Citizen Forum on Radioprotection, Geneva, Switzerland, 12 May 2012: Personal Reflections

The Scientific and Citizen Forum on Radioprotection held in Geneva, Switzerland, 12 May 2012, and attended by over 200 persons, invites reflection.  The forum was organized by IndependentWHO, a group of individuals and associations supported by a broad coalition of NGOs whose major concern is that the World Health Organization (WHO), through its alliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is unable to fulfill its constitutional mandate “to act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work” and “to assist in developing an informed public opinion among all peoples on matters of health”, including in the area of radiation.  WHO has chosen to ignore the large body of research documenting the suffering of radiation victims from the fallout from nuclear weapons testing, the explosion of the reactors at Chernobyl and Fukushima and other accidents resulting from the use of depleted uranium weapons or “normal” emissions in water or air produced by the nuclear industry. (Résumés of the presentations and program are available here.)

The forum gathered together doctors, independent scientists, two members of the European Parliament (Paul Lannoye, member of the Commission on Health, Environment and Consumer Protection, and Michèle Rivasi, founder of the independent Committee for Research and Independent Information on Radioactivity, CRIIRAD, which is aiding the people of Fukushima), members of associations, and citizens, giving all an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience concerning the Chernobyl and Fukushima catastrophes.  The reasons for such a forum should never have existed.  There never should have been a Fukushima, Chernobyl, Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Child at special school for abandoned
children in Belarus
It is children who suffer the most from nuclear disasters or living close to nuclear plants.  The discussion focused on the health problems assaulting children and what doctors, independent experts and citizens are trying to do to alleviate their suffering.  The authorities – WHO, IAEA, individual governments, the nuclear industry – deny the seriousness of this issue, so it is up to courageous citizens and experts to take the lead helping people, ensuring that the truth about the health consequences of radioactive contamination is recognized, and advocating for a ban on nuclear reactors.  It is a technology that is anti-health and anti-life.

The effects of nuclear catastrophes on the health of children are increasing.  One is struck by the similarities of the effects of ionizing radiation to those of non-ionizing radiation emitted by wireless technology.  Increasingly, cataracts are appearing in children living in areas contaminated by Chernobyl.  A Swiss study reveals that calves born near mobile phone antennas have developed cataracts.  Children and animals do not lie about their health.  There have been incidences of young people living in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl catastrophe, dropping dead of heart attacks.  Due to the prevalence of cardio-vascular effects, including heart defects at birth (comprising 30% of all birth defects) and disorders of heart rhythm, many young children in Belarus are now wearing heart monitors.  Similar scenarios are taking place in other countries:  children’s hearts are being monitored in schools where there is Wi-Fi, wireless Internet access for computers.  Young professional athletes are dropping dead of heart attacks on playing fields.  “Safe” levels of radiation have been calculated by the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) based on a 20-year-old, white, healthy male, just as levels for wireless emissions have been set up by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection  (ICNIRP), based on a 6-foot 2-inch tall, 220-pound man. The greater fragility of fetuses and children's smaller bodies are not taken into account.

Dr. Galina Bandazhevskaya, a pediatrician and cardiologist from Belarus, talked about the health effects among the 250,000 children living today in contaminated areas of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.  Internal radiation is extremely dangerous; 70% of the radiation dose to the population was and is caused by internal radiation through the consumption of contaminated food.  Over all the 26 years since the Chernobyl catastrophe, the health of people living in these areas has remained a largely unresolved and unknown problem. Since 2000, the number of children under 18 in Belarus as a whole has decreased 35.8% (from 2,705,860 in 2000 to 1,737,400 in 2011).  Birth defects and illnesses in children have been increasing since 1986:  primary diseases of the endocrine system, diseases of the blood circulatory system and tumors. There has been a significant increase in cardio-vascular disease among children – more than double between 2004 and 2011.  In 1993, thyroid cancer was the only disease officially recognized by WHO as a consequence of radiation.   Thyroid-related diseases and cancers continue to increase, even as far away as Corsica (2,000 km. from Chernobyl), as was explained by a doctor from that area.

Minsk, Belarus:  Twin brothers Michael and Vladimir Iariga, 16 years old.  Michael,
with hydrocephalus, is 5 minutes older than Vladimir, who is deaf.
(photo by Robert Knoth)
Probably the only person from WHO (a former consultant) present was Dr. Michel Fernex, Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine, Basel, who talked about genetic damage to the population affected by Chernobyl.  “Perigenetic damage, responsible for genomic instability, in descendants is much more severe than damage to parents, and may get worse from generation to generation.”  Dr. Fernex cited cases of animals who after 22 generations continue to exhibit signs of serious genetic damage.  He explained ways to reduce internal radiation from radionuclides by providing uncontaminated food and chelators, such as pectin from algae, fruits and vegetables, and sending children away for periods of time to healthier environments. 

Just as authorities in countries affected by Chernobyl continue to downplay health effects, the Government and TEPCO, the owner of the reactors at Fukushima, downplay the dangers in Japan.  People were told by the authorities that they were over-reacting.  Mothers have complained about not being able to consult with local doctors.   People in the Fukushima area are told to eat and produce locally.  In one area, children were encouraged to play outdoors, and then the village was evacuated.  Mothers had to insist on screening their children (360,000 living in the Fukushima region) for thyroid cancer.  Citizens have had to set up stations for measuring radioactivity levels in people and in foods, inform other people about the dangers of radioactive contamination, including how to grow less contaminated food, and research health issues themselves with the help of independent experts.  The question is do people continue to live in contaminated areas or move? 

Dr. Christopher Busby, scientist, chemist and physicist specializing in the adverse health effects of very low doses of ionizing radiation, suggested a way to put an end to the scandalous denial of the nuclear industry, by appealing to courts of justice.  Please read his proposal and take action if you are the head of a non-governmental organization (NGO) or citizen of the European Union.  He also says there must be funding for independent research.  The future life of the planet depends on the persons who undertake this research.  Another presenter, Dr. Youri Bandazhevsky, President of the Center for Analysis and Coordination “Ecology and Health” says we must make serious demands to governments, putting forth the right arguments to Parliaments.  It seems that citizens, independent scientists, and doctors must organize action themselves to help limit contamination and protect populations. 

What is particularly disturbing is that countries like the United States and France are continuing to build nuclear reactors and promote nuclear energy.  The Japanese authorities are considering re-starting their reactors.  In Europe where there are 186 reactors, governments deny the increasing cancer rates of children living near nuclear reactors (cancer registries in these countries will not note such cases).  Nuclear energy and wireless technologies are being forced on people all over the world.  Most of these people are ignorant about the health effects.  The radiation emitted by these technologies is invisible,  there are no warnings about dangers, no information destined for the public.  Independent scientific and health studies are being discredited or suppressed.  

We are only now beginning to understand the synergy created by exposure to all different kinds of toxic substances, in part, causing even more health problems and DNA damage in succeeding generations.  In a recent article, I mentioned how people with diabetes at younger ages will require dialysis and transplants.  These people will not live as long as their parents.  The decreasing birth rates and increasing mortality rates in countries like Belarus which were and continue to be contaminated by the radioactivity from Chernobyl are a very frightening reality.  Will this be the fate of the people living near Fukushima in 15-20 years?  Will more and more people die of brain cancer at younger ages in 15-30 years’ time due to excess use of cell phones?

Most of our rulers are irresponsible and our industrialists are greedy for ever more profits.  In effect, these people are killing off their own populations.  We too, are irresponsible, when we remain passive and uninformed.  In some respects we too are also greedy, wasting electricity and craving the latest wireless gadgets.

On 13 May, members of the forum met to discuss what they can do together to ensure that the truth about the health consequences of radioactive contamination, caused by the nuclear industry, civil and military, is established and recognized, and to determine concrete actions.  Christian van Singer, Deputy in the National Council (Conseil National), Swiss Parliament (Green Party), joined the discussions on Sunday.  He advocated for Switzerland's decision to abandon nuclear energy and in 2010, introduced an initiative into the Parliament to fight against electrosmog (defeated 117 to 61).  The next post is the official Independent WHO press release of the Forum.   Résumés of the presentations made during the 12 May forum are available on the IndependentWHO site.

The crime of non-recognition and continuation of the dangers of radioactive contamination from industry must be recognized and stopped!

by Meris Michaels

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