By Heidi Hutner--writer, professor, environmentalist, mother, cancer survivor.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
ATOMIC RADIATION IS MORE HARMFUL TO WOMEN
are getting sick and dying from radiation exposure already, and it is
happening in disproportionate numbers.
We are asking for your help in
making this known. Please join us!
Disproportionate Harm: Women and Children are more Vulnerable.
This year the Helen Caldicott Foundation in partnership with NIRS, and
all other groups who want to join us (national and international, the
more the better), will embark on the start of a major education to
action campaign on the effects of radiation exposure on the health of
all people. But, its particular focus will be the disproportionate risk
radiation exposure poses to women and children. Buried in the literature
to date is the fact that men are more resistant to radiation. The
safety standards, which time has shown protect no one, were designed at
the time of the Manhattan Project to protect young, healthy, western,
men. Presumably, military men expected to accept a certain degree of
risk in exchange for protecting their country.
Insufficient as it
is, even the National Academy of Sciences BEIR V11 Report, widely
accepted as the industry standard, clearly states:
1. There is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. Any exposure can trigger cancer. 2. Although the reasons are not yet clearly understood, women and children are significantly more vulnerable.
3. Women are 40-60% more likely to get cancer than men, given the same
exposure. They are about 50% (half again) more likely to acquire a fatal
cancer from this exposure. This means that for every two men who die of
radiation related cancer, three women will die given a similar
exposure. 4. Children between the ages of 0-5 are more vulnerable
than all adults, both men and women. But what is almost never discussed,
also from the BEIR V11 Report, is that in this age group little girls
are twice as vulnerable as boys. This means that for every boy, there
will be two girls who will acquire a fatal or non-fatal cancer.
This is truly shocking, and when applied to the situation in Japan leads
to a horrifying vision of the future. But, the fact is, these same
numbers have been found for exposure to tritium and other radioisotopes,
released from every nuclear reactor legally and illegally. Furthermore,
the industry’s denial that clusters of childhood leukemia exist around
nuclear reactors has been refuted by a number of current studies that
have found these clusters DO exist. This includes the recent Geocap
study in France, a country with much invested in NOT finding this to be
With a little thought and some simple choreography this could
lend itself perfectly to the die-in concept. If actuarial figures were
holographs, we would start to see the people of Japan begin to fade
before our eyes, with disproportionate vulnerability. For every two men,
three women disappearing from the future, lost to cancers and
radiation-related disease. For every adult, there will be
disproportionately more children. For every boy, twice as many little
This would be a powerful image if acted out in public.
The other image we need to sear into the public mind is that radiation
exposures are cumulative and contamination of the food chain is NOT just
a tiny bit of radiation. It is many, many, internal exposures to
ionizing radiation, large or small over time; exposures that may have
bio-accumulated several times already, depending on the original source,
as radiation moves up the food chain.
The top of the food chain for
bioaccumulation is not the standard, neutered “reference man” pictured
everywhere. It is the human baby, both the unborn foetus, and the
newborn. This is a very simple image to create for any kind of
demonstration. In this country we talk a lot about the nuclear
family. There is this stereotypical image where the father protects the
mother and the family; the mother protects the children; the mother’s
body protects the baby in the belly. But radiation creeps up behind this
nuclear family. First it takes or harms the foetus; then it takes the
little girls; then the little boys; then the mother, and, finally, the
father. Acting this out, while it verges more on street theatre than a
simple die-in, would not be difficult and I think it would be
compelling. I also think it would make a great supporting animation if
any computer animators are interested, and should be short and to the
point, and done in Japanese and English (and all other languages).
Some supporting material from NIRS: http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/eeri_nirs_paper022212.pdf
1. There is no "safe" dose of radiation -- every exposure has the risk
of adverse health outcomes, including fatal cancer; all life-forms are
impacted, not only our species; 2. The outcome from radiation most studied is cancer -- but it is not the only health impact;
3. Children are most vulnerable to harm from radiation due to smaller
body mass and rapid cell division; and girls are more impacted than
boys; 4. Women are 50 percent more vulnerable to harm from a given
level of exposure compared to men (this may be due to greater mass of
radiosensitive reproductive tissue in females); 5. Some people are born with a gene that makes them more vulnerable to radiation harm;
6. Internal exposure results from breathing contaminated air, drinking
contaminated water or eating contaminated food and this results in
higher levels (and generally longer exposure) to tissue than purely
external doses like X-rays; 7. Current methods of calculating
radiation doses do not account for the difference of internal and
external exposure, or gender; sometimes age and body mass are factored,
but usually not when reporting an ambient radiation level.
The total release of radioactivity from the Fukushima disaster, measured
in Curies or Becquerels has not yet been estimated, in part because it
has not ended. We know the radioactivity from Japan has "gone global"
since the radioactive air masses circled the Northern Hemisphere
repeatedly. We cannot reliably know what the consequences over time will
be; we will hear many estimates in the years to come, and most of these
estimates will not agree with each other. Barring change, most will
under-report the consequences for women and for children since: the
regulation of radiation and nuclear activity (worldwide) ignores the
disproportionately greater harm to both women and children. *7
We have supporting material available from Mary Olsen of NIRS on the
vulnerability of children that is not yet on their website, but we are
happy to share it in draft form with anyone who is interested.