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Radiation & Health

Exposure to radiation, even in low doses, can have long-term health implications. Radioactive materials damage or injure cells, which correctly repair themselves, die, or incorrectly repair themselves, resulting in biophysical change. Cancers that are associated with radiation exposure are leukemia, breast cancer, bladder, colon, liver, lung, esophagus, ovarian, multiple myeloma, pancreatic, prostate, and stomach cancer.
Exposure to high levels of radiation causes Acute Radiation Sickness, in which immediate damage to tissues and organs causes systems failure. In the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster, 134 plant workers and fire fighters were subjected to high doses of radiation, leading to the immediate deaths of 2, and the deaths of 28 more within three months of the accident.
The effects of low dose exposure occur at the cellular level and may not be observed for many years.
Three Mile Island Health Impacts

Following the Three Mile Island Accident, official reports stated that less than 15 million curies of radioactive material had been released, an amount that is too small to cause any damage to human health. However, in contrast with official reports, David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists amongst others have calculated that the accident most likely released between 40-100 million curies of radioactive materials and multiple independent studies have found significant changes in health near the accident.

  • The Pennsylvania State Health Department noted a sharp increase in the number of infants born with hypothyroidism downfield of the reactor. (Boston Globe, February 23, 1980)
  • The mortality rate of infants within a 10-mile radius of TMI more than doubled in the quarter following the accident. (American Journal of Public Health, March 1982)
  • A Columbia University Health Study found that certain observed cancer, including lymphoma, leukaemia, and ovarian cancer, more than doubled in areas near the accident. Instances of leukemia and lung cancer in a six to twelve km radius increased almost four-fold. (Columbia University Health Study, Susser-Hatch Reviewed, 1991).
  • A Voluntary Community Health Study was undertaken in 1984, and found a 600% cancer death rate increase in three locations directly in the pathway of the plumes from the accident. (Data verified independently by experts from TMI Public Health Fund)
  • When compared with similar groups elsewhere, individuals living near Three Mile Island reported more physical complaints, as well as anxiety and depression. The scientists from Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda “uncovered long-term changes in levels of hormones”. (Dr. Andrew Baum, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, April 1988)



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In the Spotlight

  • October 27, 2016
    Speaking Tour: Heat Advisory
    PSR's Dr. Alan Lockwood visits Chicago on Oct. 27 to highlight the health effects of climate change and speak about his new book, Heat Advisory.