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Marples-Miller OpEd Piece, Final Form (fwd)
>Subject: Marples-Miller OpEd Piece, Final Form (fwd)
>Date: Tue, 23 Apr 1996 22:47:07 -0500 (CDT)
>THE TRUTH ABOUT CHERNOBYL
>David R. Marples and John D. Miller
>Several prestigious publications have recently made an absurd claim:
>Radiation from the Chernobyl accident 10 years ago did little harm to
>human health. Instead, victims' irrational fears of radiation have
>caused almost all resulting illness. The London Sunday Times, the New York
>Times, and The Economist have all endorsed this view as fact.
>But it is not fact. The unseen hand behind all three articles is the
>international radiation health establishment, an anachronistic vestige of
>the Cold War. As people who aided bombmakers, nuclear power plant owners
>and medical radiologists, its practitioners have always been strongly
>motivated to underestimate the health consequences of radiation. The
>truth might have put them out of business.
>Because of their inside access to radiation-producing governments, the
>International Commission on Radiation Protection and its national
>affiliates have dominated worldwide regulation of radiation. As a
>result, the United States' Department of Energy and its predecessor, the Atomic
>Energy Commission, have never funded open scientific debate about
>radiation health effects. They have forced out employees who dared disagree.
>These agencies' "experts" told us in 1952 that a yearly dose equal to
>300 current chest x-rays was safe, but now they restrict us to one
>fifteenth that amount each year. The United Nations and British
>committees agree with critics there is no safe dose, no matter how low,
>but the Americans refuse to believe it.
>The 1991 "expert" study of Chernobyl's consequences was sponsored by the
>International Atomic Energy Agency, whose U.N. charter orders it "to
>accelerate and enlarge the contributions of nuclear power" worldwide.
>Ten to fifteen percent of downwind residents still needed medical
>treatment, 200 international experts concluded, but only because of
>groundless radiation fears. Radiation harmed no one.
>But the "experts" were wrong. They missed the beginnings of a thyroid
>cancer epidemic which has since swelled to 1000 cases.
>They also intentionally left out the people most contaminated by
>Chernobyl radiation: the 660,000 decontamination workers and 130,000
>According to Professor John W. Gofman of UC Berkeley, a fatal flaw
>guaranteed their study would find no link between radiation and
>illness. Since no one had measured radiation levels everywhere, the
>experts tried to reconstruct the four-year accumulated dose of a few thousand
>residents. But daily changes in the wind and the mix of elements the
>reactor spewed out in the first two weeks made that impossible.
>Unknowable large, early doses dwarfed long-term doses. The "experts"
>found no link only because their "reconstructed" doses were meaningless
>The Chernobyl disaster contaminated an area larger than New Zealand,
>over 100,000 square kilometers. Over 300,000 people have been evacuated
>from their homes, many forced to live in badly constructed buildings
>without heat, water or adequate sewage facilities.
>Most victims of Chernobyl no longer receive compensation. Governments
>in the most-affected territories--Belarus and Ukraine--are in no position
>to continue financing Chernobyl-related problems. One official noted
>that meeting Chernobyl victims' 1996 needs would cost 20 percent
>of Ukraine's annual budget. Last year's expenditure was 3.4 percent.
>The initial fallout of radioactive iodine has caused a leap in thyroid
>diseases in these two countries. The soil is iodine-deficient, hence
>children's thyroid glands were especially susceptible to airborne
>radioiodine. Prior to Chernobyl three or four children a year got
>thyroid cancer. Today the annual two-country rate is over 150, and the
>disease has not peaked. The noted Cambridge University specialist, Sir
>Dillwyn Williams, warns that all children in contaminated regions are at
>Cleanup workers suffer from various health problems. Most have skin,
>respiratory and digestive diseases. Their leukemia rate is double that of
>the whole population and rising. Six thousand Ukrainian workers alone
>have died, many from heart attacks brought on by stress.
>Chernobyl's effects have been exacerbated a general crisis in health
>care. Since 1986 these two countries have been experienced an alarming
>increase in infectious diseases. They now suffer double the rate of
>infant mortality of the United States, and male lifespan has dropped to
>less than 60. Their populations are shrinking.
>"Experts" maintain these developments are unrelated to Chernobyl. This
>is a myth. Chernobyl has affected popular lifestyle in virtually every
>aspect. In contaminated zones visited last year, local farmers
>acknowledged they have been "lived off the land" since Chernobyl. Most
>cannot afford to do otherwise. In other cases mothers have been opted
>for abortions rather than families, aware of widespread congenital defects.
>According to one survey, over 52 percent of people living in
>contaminated regions suffer from "psychic disorders," "psychological
>fears and tension." Soviet authorities dismissed such fears as
>"radiophobia." The reality is that the population has no faith in its
>future. Regional officials cannot resolve its problems, and
>international experts maintain there are no problems to resolve.
>Yuri Shcherbak, Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, told an
>international conference last week that to deny Chernobyl has caused a
>health crisis in Ukraine is akin to denying the existence of gas chambers
>in Nazi death camps.
>If 10 years later there is no consensus about the impact of Chernobyl,
>one must conclude that some people do not wish to know the truth. The
>lessons of Chernobyl are being ignored.
>David R. Marples is a professor and director of the Program on
>Contemporary Ukraine at the Canadian Institute ofUkrainian Studies,
>University of Alberta. He has authored three books on Chernobyl. John
>Dudley Miller is a nuclear engineer, a social psychologist, and a science
>reporter and producer in Cleveland, Ohio.
Corporate Environmental Scientist
Western Atlas International, Inc.
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