Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Radiation Propaganda and the Politics of Exposure

The effects of radiation exposure are contingent on the form and type of exposure, as well as upon the contingencies of the exposed.

That said, there is plenty of research showing that very low levels of "excess" exposure cause adverse biological effects.

Scientific studies on specific human populations, such as those derived from the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission and the Japanese Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) have revealed adverse long-term effects.

In 2012, the REFR reported finding no threshold below which radiation doses are harmless and linked exposure with circulatory, respiratory, and digestive disease, in addition to cancer and leukemia, with effects documented at exposure levels of 20 millisieverts, noting an upward curvature of effects for low doses. Studies on exposed animal populations, such as those found in Chernobyl, have documented reduced fertility and smaller heads and brains in offspring.

Moreover, the risks from radiation exposure are not born equally across the population as the youngest among us have the greatest biological vulnerability. The 2006 US National Academies’ panel on the risks of low-level radiation, the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VII report, found that overall fatal cancer risk for females was 37.5 percent greater than for males exposed to the same radiation dose, and children are even more vulnerable.

Moreover, radiation exposure presents special hazards of risk transferability as genetic and epigenetic damage resulting from exposure can be transmitted and amplified across generations, a process documented as early as the 1930s by geneticists studying X-rays and radium exposure effects on animal populations, but also documented in highly-exposed Chernobyl clean-up liquidators.

Despite these findings, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recommends a gestalt shift from evacuations to adaptation, a practice that is being encouraged by the Japanese government as it lifts mandatory evacuation orders and encourages residents to return to areas with still-elevated external radiation levels.

Although Japan has now consented to follow UN recommendations, plenty of pro-nuclear advocates are lining up to trivialize radiation effects.  For example, an essay by Robin Harding titled “Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Did the Evacuation Raise the Death Toll” (2018, March 11) argues that the evacuation caused more harm than the radiation exposure.

Compare Harding's argument that evacuation is worse than exposure to research findings cited above.

Yesterday, while reading research on neurological effects from low levels of exposure, I discovered a study by Ukrainian researchers reporting adverse effects on hippocampal neurogenesis from exposures as low as 0.05 Gy:
Konstantin Loganovsky, Tatiana Loganovskaja, Tatiana Loganovskaja, Konstantin Kuts, Konstantin Kuts (March 2018). Psychophysiology Research In the Detection of Ionizing Radiation Effects https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323640791_Psychophysiology_Research_In_the_Detection_of_Ionizing_Radiation_Effects
Psychophysiological assessment of the brain is very sensitive to detection of ionizing radiation effects. There are new evidences of the brain radiosensitivity even to low doses, mainly, due to radiovulnerability of hippocampal neurogenesis. According to our recent data, the changes of cognitive functioning are registered by Event Related Potentials (ERP) even at such very low radiation doses as 0.05 Gy (5 rad).

You can read more about hippocampal neurogensis here, which is seen as vital for healthy cognition as we age:
Sahay, A. et al. (2011). Increasing adult hippocampal neurogenesis is sufficient to improve pattern separation. Nature, Nature volume 472, pages 466–470 (28 April 2011) https://www.nature.com/articles/nature09817
Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is a unique form of neural circuit plasticity that results in the generation of new neurons in the dentate gyrus throughout life. Neurons that arise in adults (adult-born neurons) show heightened synaptic plasticity during their maturation and can account for up to ten per cent of the entire granule cell population. Moreover, levels of adult hippocampal neurogenesis are increased by interventions that are associated with beneficial effects on cognition and mood, such as learning, environmental enrichment, exercise and chronic treatment with antidepressants

This vital function of hippocampal neurogenesis is compromised by exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation according to Loganovsky et al.

I will address the dose at which these researchers claim hippocampal neurogenesis is adversely affected. That level is 0.05 Gy or 5 rad.

How does 5 rads translate into millisieverts?

An article published at MIT's website offers conversions:
David L. Chandler (2011, March 28). Explained: rad, rem, sieverts, becquerels. MIT News,http://news.mit.edu/2011/explained-radioactivity-0328

For x-rays and gamma rays, 1 rad = 1 rem = 10 mSv
For neutrons, 1 rad = 5 to 20 rem (depending on energy level) = 50-200 mSv
For alpha radiation (helium-4 nuclei), 1 rad = 20 rem = 200 mSv
So, for x-rays and gamma rays 5 rad = 50mSv
For neutrons, 5 rad = up to 1000mSv
For alpha radiation, 5 rad = up to 1000mSv

The exposure for plant workers in Japan is 250 mSv. According to the research findings by Loganovsky, these workers are at risk of brain damage.

What about residents of Fukushima? What was their exposure level and can they expect reduced hippocampal neurogenesis?

Although exposure levels have been trivialized in representations of the collective population dose, there is little doubt that residents were exposure internally, as well as externally, with internal and external doses varying significantly across the population as some people literally evacuated into the plume because of poor crisis communications.

I have documented evidence of exposure in my published books and will not rehearse now (see here and here).

However, you can view Japan's Institute for Information Design's radiation maps here:
Collecting measurements from over 20 official sources, we compile an hourly updated consistent JAPAN RADIATION MAP - featuring more than 4,500 locations, to provide a visual comprehensive overview as well as detailed meshes on close-up, both in Japanese and English.

The area around Fukushima Daiichi remains highly contaminated and is biologically unsuited for human habitation as are more and more radioactive risk landscapes across the planet.