Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fukushima - Local Children Unwitting (and Unwilling) Radioactive Guinea Pigs

Fukushima - Local Children Unwitting (and Unwilling) Radioactive Guinea Pigs


Electric Power Company's six-reactor complex at its Fukushima Daiichi, discussions continue about the possible effects of the radiation "dusting" the prefecture's inhabitants received, and their consequences.

Fukushima - Local Children Unwitting (and Unwilling) Radioactive Guinea Pigs

Far outside most media coverage, 2012 is shaping up to be the media battleground between the massed proponents of the ongoing 'safety' of nuclear power, as opposed to a motley coalition of environmentalists, renegade nuclear scientists and anti-nuclear opponents, largely bereft of media contact.
The 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami double punch that effectively destroyed Tokyo Electric Power Company's power plant complex has effectively become the newest "ground zero" in the debate over nuclear power. Advocates pro and con debate the implications of everything from the amount of damage to the release of radionuclides to the long term health effects on the Japanese population.
The stakes are high - quite aside from Japan's multi-billion dollar investment in civilian nuclear energy, dating back to the 1960s, there remains the issues of Fukushima's radioactive debris polluting neighbours.
All sides in the debate are playing for massive stakes, with the Japanese government and the nuclear industry broadly indicating the issue is under control. Accordingly, every issue from the amount of radiation released to the long term health consequences of the Fukushima disaster are subject to acrimonious debate.
That said, there is an involuntary irradiated "test" Fukushima group monitored since March 2011 displaying disturbing health abnormalities that may ultimately decide the debate, should the global media report it, forcing governments to debate its consequences.

The children of Fukushima.

The issue of nuclear radiation on human health cites besides Fukushima the August 1945 U.S nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the April 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl reactor complex in Ukraine, but in reality, there are no comparisons to evaluate Fukushima.
The 1945 U.S. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were weapon "air bursts," raising no nuclear debris from the ground. Furthermore, the Japanese medical establishment had no experience with the problem and when U.S. military forces arrived over a month later, information about the human cost of the bombings was censored for decades. Showing pictures of destroyed buildings, okay - showing victims with kimono patterns seared into their skin, no.
As for Chernobyl, the 26 April 1986 catastrophe represented a major black eye for Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's "glasnost" policy. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Soviet emergency workers, the Chernobyl smoking nuclear roman candle burned for nine days before being extinguished.
In contrast, Fukushima Daiichi has been like a suppurating wound, leaching radionuclides into the environment since March 2011, and since then furious arguments have swirled about not only how much radiation Fukushima released, but the potential long term health consequences.
But both disputes ultimately devolve into pure speculation.
Only two months ago TEPCO stated that the Fukushima debacle may have released twice as much radioactivity than Japan's government initially estimated.
Accordingly, how can anyone estimate long term health effects when actual exposure rates are unknown?
That said, scientists do have a well defined test group - the population of Fukushima Prefecture surrounding the stricken NPP.
And the sixth report of the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, which was released in April, revealed after the survey examined 38,114 local children that 36 percent of Fukushima children have abnormal thyroid growths.
The Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey revealed that 13,460 children, or 35.3 percent, had thyroid cysts or nodules up to 0.197 inches long growing on their thyroids and 0.5 percent of the children had growths larger than 0.197 inches.
So, why might this be significant? According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), thyroid problems from nuclear events occur when radioactive iodine is leaked into the atmosphere and thyroid cells that absorb too much of this radioactive iodine may become cancerous, with children being particularly susceptible.
Furthermore, the ATA reports noted that thyroid cancer "seems to be the only cancer whose incidence rises after a radioactive iodine release" and that that babies and children are at highest risk. The estimated lifetime radiation doses among the children are still low, but they do exist, the Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences stated at a10 July international symposium in Chiba Prefecture.
Who cares about such an arcane issue? Well, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences conclusions refute the government's assertion that Japanese children in effect received zero thyroid radiation doses from Fukushima.
Re Fukushima children's health, the news just gets better. Two months ago Tokyo Shinbum reportedthat 60 percent of Fukushima children under 12 have tested positive for diabetes, according to Dr. Miura, the director of Iwase's general hospital.
Why, possibly?
Because the Strontium-90 radioactive isotope quickly decays to become Yttrium-90, which can concentrate in the pancreas, causing pancreatic cancer or diabetes. That said, while noting the abnormality, Dr. Miura declined to link it to Fukushima radiation exposure.
So, where does the Japanese government go from here?
It might do worse than to follow the advice of Australian pediatrician Dr. Helen Caldicott, who after observing that "It is extremely rare to find cysts and thyroid nodules in children," added that "you would not expect abnormalities to appear so early - within the first year or so - therefore one can assume that they must have received a high dose of (radiation)" before concluding, "it is impossible to know, from what (Japanese officials) are saying, what these lesions are."
Calidcott also noted that Japanese officials are not sharing the ultrasound results with foremost experts of thyroid nodules in children before noting, "The data should be made available. And they should be consulting with international experts ASAP. And the lesions on the ultrasounds should all be biopsied and they're not being biopsied. And if they're not being biopsied then that's ultimate medical irresponsibility. Because if some of these children have cancer and they're not treated they're going to die."
Nothing to see here, move along - unless your child is part of that 35.3 percentile.
Still, something for Westerners to think about the next time their government promotes building a nuclear power plant nearby - or if you live close to an existing one.
By. John C.K. Daly of

Health Issues of Wireless Technology in Schools

15 JULY 2012

Health Issues of Wireless Technology in Schools

For parents concerned about their children and for teachers being exposed to wireless technology in schools, this information on health issues from Wi-Fi in Schools is excellent.

Health Issues for Schools 

Schools are under pressure

Schools are in a difficult position as they are under pressure to incorporate ICT (information and communication technology) more fully into the curriculum.  They are being encouraged to consider Wi-Fi due to the ease of installation and the money saved as a result.  The idea that children and staff can use computers at any time and anywhere on the school grounds is an attractive one.  But this is only attractive if the technology is safe.  Schools need to weigh up the risks from wireless technologies suggested in the scientific literature, the calls for action made by the European Environment Agency, International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety, the Bio-Initiative report and others and address the concerns of parents and staff.  Are the educational advantages of wireless computers over similar wired-up ones worth the potential effects on health and development?

Schools need to be safe places for children and young people and provide safe working conditions for their staff.

Children are at increased risk
Children absorb more electromagnetic radiation than adults do.  The Stewart Report (2000) states that children absorb more energy per Kg of body weight from an external electromagnetic field than do adults.  A 5 year old will absorb around 60% more than an adult (Stewart Report, 2000).  Head models have predicted that children (under the age of 8) absorb up to twice the microwave radiation of an adult in peripheral brain tissue (Wiart et al., 2008).  Exposures in bone marrow may be up to ten times greater in children than adults (Christ et al., 2010).  Children have thinner skulls and their brains are more conductive.  Children are still developing and they are likely to be exposed to more radiation over their lifetimes than any previous generation.

Immediate health issues for schools
Of the possible health risks mentioned under 'Scientific Research', some may only become apparent after long-term exposure to wireless technologies.  Others may be of more immediate concern for a small number of pupils and staff.    Examples are described below:

Epilepsy, male fertility, pregnancy, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, puberty, electrical activity in the brain, cognitive ability, side effects of medicines.

It may be necessary for children who have epilepsy or have experienced occasional seizures not to be in wireless environments at school.  Animal studies have shown increased incidences of seizures in susceptible individuals when exposed to low-power microwaves (Lopez-Martin et al., 2006).  Mobile phone exposure produces different changes in EEG (electroencephalogram) recordings from humans with epilepsy compared to healthy individuals (Maby et al., 2006).  Research is needed to look into whether radiation from wireless technologies increases the incidence of seizures in children with epileptic disorders, or the number of children experiencing seizures.  More detail in 'Scientific Research'.

Male fertility
Male staff may prefer not to be in a wireless environment, due to potential decreases in male fertility.  Exposure of human sperm to a wireless laptop or mobile phone decreases sperm motility (Avendano et al, 2010; Wdowiak et al., 2007; Erogul et al., 2006; Agarwal et al., 2008; Agarwal et al., 2008b; Fejes et al., 2005).  Mobile phones decrease sperm viability and are associated with an increase in the percentage of sperm cells with abnormal morphology/shape.  In standby mode, mobile phones significantly decrease sperm motility and count (in rabbits; Salama et al., 2008).  Wireless laptops and mobile phone radiation have been shown to damage human sperm DNA (Avendano et al, 2010; De Iuliis et al., 2009) and mouse  sperm DNA (Aitkenet al., 2005 ).  It is likely that men working with wireless technologies will have reduced fertility.  More examples and detail in 'Scientific Research'.

Some pregnant female staff or pupils may feel that the possible risks to the unborn child from exposure to wireless environments are too great.  For example, an increased occurrence of behavioural problems has been reported in children whose mothers used mobile phones during pregnancy (Divan et al., 2008; Divan et al., 2010).  In rats, very low power mobile phone-like radiation alters gene expression during early gestation (Pyrpasopoulou et al., 2004).  It is possible that changes in gene expression, proteins, or at higher exposures damage to DNA, could affect fetal or embryonic development.  Indeed, in rats, exposure for 1 hour/day to a mobile phone throughout pregnancy alters the development (in the offspring) of a region of the brain involved in learning and memory (Odaci et al., 2008).  Exposure of rats to a mobile phone during pregnancy also decreased the number of follicles (which includes the eggs) in the ovaries of the female offspring (Gul et al., 2009).  More examples and detail in 'Scientific Research'.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity
Schools using wireless technologies need to think of how they will accommodate pupils or staff exhibiting electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS, estimates range from 1.5-9% of the population).  EHS is a term used for a variety of symptoms believed to be related to exposure to electromagnetic fields.  In Sweden EHS is recognised as a functional impairment.  The WHO recognise 'EHS is a real and sometimes disabling problem for the affected persons'.  However there is controversy about whether EHS is directly caused by electromagnetic fields (EMFs).  Affected people are convinced that it is, but many short duration provocation studies have failed to demonstrate a causal relationship between EMF exposure and symptom formation (WHO, 2006).  Other studies show physiological changes in sufferers of EHS such as increased numbers of mast cells in the skin (Johansson, 2006) and increased excitability in the cortex in the brain (Landgrebe et al., 2007).  Havas et al. (2010) found that some individuals experience cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart beats) and tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rates) when exposed to a DECT cordless phone or a Wi-Fi router under blind conditions (- the subjects were not aware of when the devices were switched on or off).  If schools are aware of EHS and are monitoring for possible adverse reactions to wireless technologies, they have an opportunity to respond by providing safe environments.  Symptoms include 'headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin symptoms like prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and other health problems' (WHO, 2006).  Some also describe heart palpitations, digestive disturbances, dizziness, eczema or rosacea (WHO, 2006).

Electrical activity in the brain
Electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones, or other microwave-emitting technologies, can alter the electrical activity in the brain. Electrical impulses are the way that information is passed along nerve cells in the brain.  The cells involved, rate and synchronisation of these impulses are central to brain function and development.  Many studies have demonstrated changes in the electrical activity of the brain using EEG recordings when exposed to microwaves (eg. changes in the frequencies of electrical activity (power spectrum) particularly in alpha frequencies, or functional coupling between the two sides of the brain (hemispheres), Lai, 2007; Vecchio et al., 2007 - human; Huber et al., 2003 - human, low power).  Often responses have depended on the complexity of tasks that the subjects were carrying out (Lai, 2007).  These acute changes do not demonstrate disease or necessarily adverse health effects, but do illustrate changes in brain functioning.  In children and teenagers whose brains are still developing, such effects strongly indicate the need for caution, as brain development is modified by the patterns of electrical activity experienced by the brain.  The long-term effects of these changes are not yet known.  It is possible that the many changes in brain function could over time lead to adverse effects in some people or abnormal brain development.

Prolonged mobile phone use (>25 min/day for 2 weeks) has been associated with a reduction in the concentration of the hormone melatonin in adults (Burch et al., 2002, more examples and detail in Scientific Research).  One of melatonin's many roles in vertebrates is regulation of the timing of the onset of puberty.  In humans, melatonin concentrations are related to sexual maturation, with significant decreases in concentrations occurring at the onset of puberty (Murcia et al., 2002).  However, there is still uncertainty as to whether melatonin is part of the trigger in humans or whether the changes are part of the body's development through puberty (Macchi and Bruce, 2004).  In precocious puberty (puberty occurring under the age of 8 in girls, 9 in boys) melatonin concentrations are low (much lower than others in their age group and similar to older children going through puberty; Waldhauser et al., 1981).  In delayed puberty, melatonin concentrations remain high but decrease following successful treatment (Arendt et al., 1989). 

Studies have not yet investigated a possible link between prolonged exposure to wireless technologies and the timing of the onset of puberty in children.  But this is mentioned here because the presence of wireless technologies throughout all primary and junior schools is of concern if it could affect melatonin hormone concentrations and thereby alter the timing of puberty in some children.  Studies should really be done to check that children's development and maturation are not affected by excessive exposure to Wi-Fi and similar technologies.  More detail in 'Scientific Research'.

Cognitive ability
Some studies have shown a decrease in cognitive ability (functions such as memory, attention, and decision-making) with exposure to mobile phone electromagnetic fields (especially chronic exposure; eg. Maieret al., 2004 - human; Nittby et al., 2008 - young rats, very low powers, exposure 2h/week for 55 weeks).  Other studies have shown no effect; some acute studies have found improvements in cognition (Lai, 2007).  The question of whether it is desirable for a technology which should be assisting with education to be having a detrimental effect on cognitive ability in some circumstances needs to be asked.  More examples and detail in 'Scientific Research'.

Side effects of medicines
Some pupils or staff on medication could potentially experience central nervous system side effects (effects of their medicine(s) on the brain or spinal cord) due to increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.  For those medicines which do not normally pass through the blood-brain barrier, increased permeability may lead to unwanted effects.  More detail in'Scientific Research'.

Schools using wireless technologies need to have policies in place for dealing with potential health issues.  Where there are such (potential) immediate health concerns, or for parents not wanting their children to use wireless technologies, schools should be able to provide safe (Wi-Fi-free), wired environments where pupils can participate fully in the educational curriculum.  Since there are some reasons for concern, it is not unreasonable for pupils or staff to request wired facilities.

Long-term health issues for schools
Over the long-term it is harder to relate health problems to one particular cause.  More long-term studies are needed to investigate the possible link between the use of wireless technologies and disease.  However, the possibility of long-term damage is real and applying the precautionary principle seems sensible until more information is available.  Scientific research suggests that long-term effects may include cell death in the brain possibly leading to cognitive impairment or dementia, immune dysfunction, damage to DNA, cancers, alteration of normal brain development/activity, behavioural problems, cardiovascular changes and altered hormone concentrations (Bio-initiative Report, 2007; see also Scientific Research).

Since DECT cordless phone use has been associated with an increased risk of malignant brain tumours following 10 years of use (see Scientific Research, Cancer section), school secretaries or those using phones on school business should be informed of the risks and given the option of using a corded phone.  Similarly, children should not have to use or be exposed to cordless or mobile phones in school, in keeping with advice from the UK Department of Health (2006) and foreign Governments (see International Concerns).  Brain tumours are now the leading cancer killer amongst those under the age of 40 (  Kevin O'Neill, a consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College London has said 'Brain tumours are on the increase, reportedly in the region of 2% per year.  But in my unit we have seen the number of cases nearly double in the last year' (2009).

Monday, July 23, 2012

LEARN ENGLISH ON YOUR SMARTPHONE: You have got to be kidding!


You have got to be kidding!

When I received the following, I thought it must have been a joke. But these people are serious! Anything to speed up the cell phone zombification of our students!


I wanted to take this opportunity to make you aware of what I believe is the most exciting new development in English Language training in a long time.  In order to better serve those in our community who are adept at new technologies such as smartphones, etc. and would like an alternative to traditional classroom instruction in English, we’re piloting a new course designed specifically to be taught via smartphone (it could also be accessed via tablets, computers, etc.).  The first we’ve developed is for our intermediate level Basic English as a Second Language course focusing on reading/writing. It is our intention to continue developing additional non-credit smartphone courses as the market dictates.  If you or someone you know could benefit from ESL taught in an entirely asynchronous manner, please take a look at the enclosed file and give us a call at Community Education at 617-228-2462.

Reading and Writing Smartphones for BSL Level II  (BSL-006A)  begins October 17 with an orientation at our Charlestown facility, then moves entirely on-line.  A special introductory price of $99 is being offered for this pilot class.  A free assessment is required for proper placement (as always) and course registrations are being taken now.



Les Warren
Executive Director, Workforce Development
Bunker Hill Community College
250 New Rutherford Ave.
Charlestown, MA 02129