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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)
>David R. Marples and John D. Miller
>[854 words]
>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 
>evacuated residents.
>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
>high risk.
>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.
Larisa Streeter
    Corporate Environmental Scientist
      Western Atlas International, Inc.
        Houston, Texas

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