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Women and Environmental Network - WECF - very concerned about the effects of radiation on the reproductive health of women and girls

Even low dose radiation has a great effect on reproductive health and reproduction

18.03.2011 | WECF Press Release

Utrecht/Munich/Annemasse, 18 March 2011 - While the Japanese atomic agency raised the alarm level for the disaster at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant from 4 to 5, the health risks for the population are only increasing. And not only for the current population, but also for future generations. WECF partner organizations who know personally what a nuclear disaster means for everyday life watch the developments in Japan with great concern.

One of the partners is Natalia Manzurova, former liquidator of the nuclear facility in Chernobyl. She has difficulty watching the images from Japan: it is a terrible déjà vu. “I often considered since Chernobyl that the right decisions were not made; that politicians and the nuclear industry thought too lightly about safety. Everywhere in the world there are unsafe nuclear facilities. This will not only have consequences for Japan, but the whole world.”

One group that WECF and her partners are particularly concerned about are women and children. In 2006 the Ukraine National Research Institute for Gynecology, Obstetrics and Children’s Health, presented a bulky report about the long-term consequences of exposure to (low) radiation. This report shed new light on the health risks of nuclear technology that, to date, have been neglected by the WHO and IAEA.

The report showed that attention must not only be given to immediate victims of the disasters, but also that minimal dose radiation has serious long term effects. Uranium mining, the transport and storage of radioactive materials and waste, small accidents in reactors, and weapons fortified with depleted uranium can all contaminate people with (low) dose radiation.

Marie Kranendonk, founder of WECF, Women in Europe for a Common Future, has worked more than 20 years with partners in areas where nuclear disasters have played a key role; Chernobyl en Mayak. “One of the most relevant aspects the report discusses is the effect of small radiation doses on pregnant women and on the development of the unborn child, particularly evidenced by the frequent occurrence of congenital malformations. Researchers from the aforementioned Institute have shown that even in areas with low doses of ionizing radiation, radioactive elements accumulate in the placenta of pregnant women. Similar research from the Ukraine and Belarus shows that women that live in contaminated villages have significantly more miscarriages, complications during pregnancy, anemia from affected bone marrow (aplastic anemia) and premature births than women that live in relatively uncontaminated areas.”

Ukraine Health Report from 2006 already showed long term effects of exposure to radiation.
Researchers are already aware for decennia about the link between even minimal radiation doses and chromosome damage, and the prevalence of birth defects. Children of clean-up workers in Chernobyl that now live in Israel and the Ukraine have seven times more chromosomal abnormalities than their brothers and sisters that were born before the accident. It is these chromosome abnormalities that can lead to birth defects in their progeny.

It has also been shown that exposure to radiation in early youth years has a very negative effect on the reproductive health of girls in the Ukraine and Belarus. In a 14 year study of obstetrician patients from the previously named Institute, it was observed that the number of normal pregnancies for radiation-exposed mothers was just 25.8%. Almost 75% of the exposed patients had complications during pregnancy. Mothers from non-contaminated villages were 2.5 times more likely to have a problem-free pregnancy.

The mentioned health effects have also been observed by the organization Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) in the South Urals, where already in 1957 a serious explosion of a storage tank of radioactive waste occurred. WECF has worked already for years together with local groups in the Ukraine and the Urals. The federal government ignores the problem because the nuclear complex Mayak, where the disaster took place and has seriously contaminated the region now for 50 years, is still in use. In the past nuclear weapons were made there, now nuclear waste from other countries-including Western nations- is transported there for reprocessing and storage.

Marie Kranendonk: “Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking we can keep it all under control. That is shown in this terrible disaster in Japan. Ionizing radiation has no safe dose. It is irresponsible to see nuclear energy as the solution to the impending energy shortage.”

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