Sunday, December 16, 2012

Health: radiation exposure leads to an increase in risk for cancer

The photo shows the Green River along San Rafael Swell, Utah, a former hub of uranium mining. In the 1950s, uranium mining created boomtowns. These days, the landscape is pock-marked with hundreds abandoned mines and mill tailings, with high concentrations of radioactive gas, a known carcinogen. The legacy of uranium mining all over the West tells the same story of environmental degradation and health hazards. Photo: James Gordon
Studies have found that any increase in radiation exposure leads to an increase in risk for cancer. At various points in the nuclear fuel life cycle, nuclear power poses serious risks to public health.
Uranium Mining
  • Uranium mining has been shown to create devastating health effects on miners and communities. Miners and their families exposed to radon gas, a highly carcinogenic substance that emanates from uranium mining, have been diagnosed with small cell carcinoma and other forms of cancer.
  • Uranium mining tends to be concentrated on indigenous lands, where impoverished communities, eager to find work, are uninformed of the environmental and health impacts of the mining. The effects have been so devastating in the United States that the Navajo Nation, upon whose lands sit one of the largest uranium reserves in the world, has outright banned the practice, even as they struggle with crushing poverty.
  • Elsewhere in the world, serious human rights violations are being perpetuated against other indigenous communities in the name of fuel for nuclear reactors.
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Routine Releases from Operating Reactors
  • Radionuclides routinely released in nuclear reactor operations have been linked to developmental problems, birth defects, reproductive problems, cardiovascular disease, leukemia and other cancers.
  • Pollutants from nuclear power such as tritium, which acts like water in the body, can enter fetuses through the placenta. Tritium leaks into groundwater have been reported all over the United States, from Arizona to New York.
  • Epidemiological studies of children living near nuclear reactors show a positive association between leukemia and proximity to nuclear reactors
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