A 35 percent Spike in Infant Mortality
in Northwest Cities Since Meltdown
Is the dramatic increase in baby deaths in the U.S. a result of Fukushima fallout?
U.S. babies are dying at an increased rate. While the United States spends billions on medical care, as of 2006, the U.S. ranked 28th in the world in infant mortality, more than twice that of the lowest ranked countries. (DHHS, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States 2010, Table 20, p. 131, February 2011.)
The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:
4 weeks ending March 19, 2011—37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011—125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)
This amounts to an increase of 35 percent (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3 percent), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.
Spewing from the Fukushima reactor are radioactive isotopes including those of iodine (I-131), strontium (Sr-90) and cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137) all of which are taken up in food and water. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, Sr-90 in bones and teeth and Cs-134 and Cs-137 in soft tissues, including the heart. The unborn and babies are more vulnerable because the cells are rapidly dividing and the delivered dose is proportionally larger than that delivered to an adult.
Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown. These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.
(Chernobyl—Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, Alexeiy V. Yablokov, Vasily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko. Consulting Editor: Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger. New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.)
Levels of radioisotopes were measured in children who had died in the Minsk area that had received Chernobyl fallout. The cardiac findings were the same as those seen in test animals that had been administered Cs-137. (Bandashevsky, Y. I, Pathology of Incorporated Ionizing Radiation, Belarus Technical University, Minsk. 136 pp., 1999. For his pioneering work, Professor Bandashevsky was arrested in 2001 and imprisoned for five years of an eight year sentence.)
The national low-weight (under 2500 grams, or 5.5 lbs) rate has risen 23 percent from 1984 to 2006. Nearly 400,000 infants are born under 2500g each year in the U.S. Most of the increase in infant mortality is due specifically to infants born weighing less than 750 grams (I lb 10 1/2 oz). Multiple births commonly result in underweight babies, but most of the increase in births at less than 750 grams occurred among singletons and among mothers 20-34 years of age. (CDC, National Vital Statistics Report, 52 (12): 1-24, 2005.)
From an obstetrical point of view, women in the age bracket 20 to 34 are those most physically able to deliver a healthy child. So what has gone wrong? Clues to causation are often revealed when there is a change in incidence, a suspicious geographical distribution, and/or an increase in hazards known to adversely affect health and development.
The risk of having a baby with birth defects is estimated at three to four of every 100 babies born. As of 2005, the Institute of Medicine estimated the cost of pre-term births in the U.S. at more than $2.6 billion, or $51,600 for each infant.
Low birth weight babies, born too soon and too small, face a lifetime of health problems, including cerebral palsy, and behavioral and learning problems placing an enormous physical, emotional and economic burdens on society as a whole and on those caring for them. Death of a young child is devastating to a family.
As of June 5, 2011, The Japan Times reported that radiation in the No. 1 plant was measured at 4,000 milliseverts per-hour. To put that in perspective, a worker would receive a maximal “permissible” dose in four minutes. In addition there are over 40,000 tons of radioactive water under that reactor with more radioactivity escaping into the air and sea. Fuel rods are believed to have melted and sunk to the bottom of reactors 1, 2, and 3.
Tepco, the corporate owner, took more than two months to confirm the meltdowns and admitted lying about the levels of destruction and subsequent contamination, resulting in “Public Distrust.” Over 100,000 tons of radioactive waste are on the site.
Why should we care if there, maybe, is a link between Fukushima and the death of children? Because we need to measure the actual levels of isotopes in the environment and in the bodies of people exposed to determine if the fallout is killing our most vulnerable. The research is not technically difficult—the political and economic barriers may be greater. Bandshevsky and others did it and confirmed the connection. The information is available in the Chernobyl book. (Previously cited.)
The biological findings of Chernobyl cannot be ignored: isotope incorporation will determine the future of all life on earth—animal, fish, bird, plant and human. It is crucial to know this information if we are to avoid further catastrophic damage.
Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.janettesherman.com
Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project research group.
—Counterpunch, June 10—12, 2011