The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting an alarming 35 percent spike in newborn deaths in the northwest portion of the United States – the geographic area most likely to be affected by fallout from Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.
A recently released CDC “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” highlights infant mortality data from eight cities on the West Coast – Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; as well as the California cities of San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Sacramento and Berkeley. The CDC report provides the following statistics on the death rate among infants younger than one year old:
4 weeks ending March 19, 2011: 37 deaths (average 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011: 125 deaths (average 12.50 per week)
Although firm dates are hazy, as far as we can tell from official reports and media coverage, reactor meltdowns at Fukushima began sometime in mid-March – a period that directly coincides with the increase in deaths.
According to two radiation experts, internist and toxicologist Janette Sherman and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, writing for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper:
Spewing from the Fukushima reactor are radioactive isotopes including those of iodine (I-131), strontium (Sr-90) and cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137), all of which are taken up in food and water. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, Sr-90 in bones and teeth, and Cs-134 and Cs-137 in soft tissues, including the heart. The unborn and babies are more vulnerable because the cells are rapidly dividing and the delivered dose is proportionally larger than that delivered to an adult.
Sherman and Mangano confirm that the circumstances were suited for fallout to have potential health impacts in the eight West Coast cities listed in the CDC report:
We know that huge amounts of radioactivity continue to pour into the Pacific Ocean, that winds and ocean currents flow from west to east, and that multiple news sources report radioactive cesium and iodine in milk, fruit and vegetables in the U.S. Adding to the problem of knowing the level of radioactive releases is that often amounts have been calculated, rather than actually measured.
Our two radiation experts rely on data from the 1986 Chernobyl accident to support their suspicions about the Fukushima fallout – and there are indeed compelling similarities:
Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown. These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.
I should note that Sherman and Mangano make it clear that a direct connection between increased infant mortality and Fukushima fallout has not been definitively established. They point out that to make that scientific connection, and I wholeheartedly support their push, research must begin now. And they understand there will be challenges to overcome. From the Bay View article:
How do we find out if there is a link between Fukushima and the death of children? By measuring the actual levels of isotopes in the environment and in the bodies of people exposed and to do this now in Japan and in the U.S. The research is not technically difficult. The political and economic barriers may be greater.
One thing is certain: The government-industry partnership will be slow to dig into the potential health effects of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the United States, Europe and beyond. Clearly, governments have a vested interest in protecting the nuclear industry so we cannot rely on them to conduct vigorous research in a timely manner. Industrial disasters like this cry out for independent research. If we don’t have unfettered study taking place now, it is highly unlikely we will ever know the true impacts of Japan’s nuclear crisis. It’s really a case of “now or never.”
Read the full report from Sherman and Mangano here: http://sfbayview.com/2011/is-the-increase-in-baby-deaths-in-the-northwest-u-s-due-to-fukushima-fallout-how-can-we-find-out/
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