CANNABIS CULTURE – Hemp, cannabis and mushrooms can be used to clean up and protect us from radioactive pollution and nuclear disasters.
Part 4 of this multi-article work looks at other sources that emit radiation damaging to human beings.
Read “Part 1: What Happened?”.
If a celluloid or thin India rubber capsule containing a very active salt of radium is placed on the skin, and left for some time, a redness is produced upon the skin … a local change in the skin appears and acts like a burn. In certain cases a blister is formed. If the exposure was long in duration, an ulceration is produced which is long in healing.
– Marie Curie, “Radioactive Substances”, 1903
It could even be thought that radium could become very dangerous in criminal hands, and here the question can be raised whether mankind benefits from knowing the secrets of Nature, whether to profit from it or whether this knowledge will not be harmful for it. The example of the discoveries of Nobel is characteristic, as powerful explosives have enabled man to do wonderful work. They are also a means of terrible destruction in the hands of great criminals who are leading the people to war.
– Pierre Curie, 1903 (177)
Of course Jurgis had made his home a miniature fertilizer-mill a minute after entering. The stuff was half an inch deep in his skin—his whole system was full of it, and it would have taken a week not merely of scrubbing, but of vigorous exercise, to get it out of him. As it was, he could be compared with nothing known to man, save that newest discovery of the savants, a substance which emits energy for an unlimited time, without being itself in the least diminished in power.
– “The Fertilizer Man”, From The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906
Conspicuous because of its absence is research into the role of the radioactive component of cigarette smoke. The alpha emitters polonium-210 and lead-210 are highly concentrated on tobacco trichomes and insoluble particles in cigarette smoke The major source of the polonium is phosphate fertilizer, which is used in growing tobacco.
– Winters-TH, Franza-JR, Radioactivity in Cigarette Smoke, New England Journal of Medicine, 1982; 306(6): 364-365 (178)
The first test of the first atomic bomb – codenamed Trinity – was set to take place in July 1945 at a remote 90-mile stretch of high desert in New Mexico known as the Jornada del Muerto – The Journey of Death – a name it had been given centuries before by the conquistadores. … When unexplained radioactivity was also discovered in Maryland, the New York Times (23.5.46) reported: ‘The single bomb exploded in New Mexico contaminated the air over an area as large as Australia.’
– The Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age, John May, 1989, pp. 60-62
To grow this quality of tobacco, farmers in “developed” countries such as the United States usually fertilize their tobacco fields with chemically manufactured fertilizer high in phosphate content. Tobacco farmers in poorer countries do not. The phosphate portion of this fertilizer is made from a rock mineral, apatite, that is ground to powder, dissolved in acid and further processed (personal communication, Mobil Mining and Minerals, Houston, Texas, 1995). Apatite rock contains radium and its many descendant radioisotopes, including both radioactive lead and polonium. When this type of fertilizer is spread onto tobacco fields year after year, soil nitrogen is depleted, providing a “more flavorful” smoking tobacco. The higher the phosphate level of the fertilizer used, the higher the concentration of lead-210 and polonium-210 in the tobacco leaves.
– Cancer risk in relation to radioactivity in tobacco. Radiologic Technology – Jan-Feb, 1996 Kilthau, Gustave F.
Then I found out we were pretty damn lucky. If the Challenger had made it home, things might now be much worse, if we were even still here at all. Because NASA’s plan was to send up the next space shuttle after the Challenger up with 46 lbs. of plutonium. And if that one had blown up, there’d be enough radiation in the air to cause cancer in as many as five billion people. What’s the population of the world, boys and girls? And it wouldn’t all land in one place, either. It slowly goes all over the world. Which may explain why the cancer rate declined steadily in the first half of the century, but has held steady if not grown ever since atomic testing began. How reckless can you get? How reckless can you get?
– “Why I’m glad the space shuttle blew up”, Jello Biafra, 1998 (179)
Got to concentrate
Don’t be distractive
Turn me on tonight
Cause I’m radioactive oh yeah
Oh yeah radioactive
Don’t you stand, stand too close
You might catch it”
– “Radioactive”, The Firm, 1985
There is a lot of natural radiation out there in the world. This is known as “background” radiation, and it varies a bit depending on where you’re at and what you’re surrounded by. It’s everywhere and there’s not much that can be done about it. But then there’s radiation that we have control over. Optional radiation. Extra radiation.
Some of this extra radiation has been done away with. There was a time when radioactive material was used for everything from cosmetics to candy to paint to mineral water to illuminating the hands on the dials of people’s watches. (180) People started to get sick and die from these products, and we stopped using radiation for some of those things as a result. But we still have a long way to go.
Aside from disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl, the other main sources of unnecessary, human-made or optional radiation in our environment are, in no particular order, 1) chemical fertilizers, 2) depleted uranium weapons used by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, 3) the over-use of radioactive medical and dental examinations and treatments, 4) air travel, 5) cell phones, 6) smoke detectors, 7) airport security scans, 8) microwave ovens, 9) power lines, 10) nuclear weapons tests, and 11) uranium mining, nuclear power production and waste storage.
The topic of “radioactive chemical fertilizers” is worthy of an article all to itself. What I have been able to ascertain is that all chemical fertilizers are radioactive (that is to say, they test at higher than background levels of radiation), whereas the vast majority of organic fertilizers are not. (181)
Some researchers suggest that the main reason for lung cancer from tobacco smoking is the radioactive chemical fertilizers – not the tobacco itself. (182) I’m inclined to agree, as the spike in lung cancer rates was twenty years after chemical fertilizers overtook organic fertilizers as the main source of soil amendments for farmers – in the early 1900s – not after the introduction of widespread, heavy use of tobacco – in the 1600s. (183)
The Phillip Morris corporation contemplated switching from what they knew to be very radioactive fertilizers back to less radioactive fertilizers, but they called it “a valid but expensive point” and decided to save a buck and keep giving people cancer instead. (184)
As an interesting side note, nobody who smokes cannabis has gone on to get lung cancer from smoking cannabis! (185) And smoking cannabis has shown to have some sort of “slight protection against the harmful effects of smoking tobacco”, according to a study of long-term users in Costa Rica. (186)
According to the Wikipedia entry for “Gulf War syndrome”;
Gulf War syndrome (GWS), also known as Gulf War illness (GWI), is a chronic multisymptom disorder affecting returning military veterans and civilian workers of the Persian Gulf War. A wide range of acute and chronic symptoms have been linked to it, including fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems, rashes and diarrhea. Approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted with enduring chronic multi-symptom illness, a condition with serious consequences. … According to a report by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, it showed that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may also suffer from the syndrome. (187)
The same page then goes on to dismiss the possibility of depleted uranium being the cause of GWS. However, the Wikipedia page for depleted uranium tells an entirely different story. The evidence that depleted uranium accounts for the symptoms of GWS is mounting. The evidence that littering Iraq and Afghanistan with DU weapons has led to an increase in cancer is also mounting. (188)
According to a researcher who managed to pin-point the devil in the DU details,
… a number of prestigious institutions have published disinformation on the hazards to health of depleted uranium weapons. These include WHO, IAEA, the European Commission, the Royal Society in the U.K., the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the U.S., the Rand Corporation, and the Health Physics Society [10,11,12,13,14,15,16]. All concluded that weaponized uranium creates no adverse health effects when internalized by soldiers on the battlefield and downwind populations. Justification for this conclusion came from a survey of the scientific literature regarding uranium contamination among workers in the uranium and nuclear industries and populations exposed to elevated levels of uranium in their drinking water. Historically, the only two types of adverse health effects documented among these populations is altered kidney function due to uranium’s chemical toxicity and cancer due to uranium’s radioactivity. But studies of veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome reveals no evidence of kidney disease. And according to models promulgated by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the radiation dose from battlefield uranium is too low to initiate cancer. The conclusion? Case closed! DU cannot be a factor in the severe suffering of veterans or the increased incidence of cancer and birth defects in Fallujah and other areas of Iraq. As convincing as the logic of these studies attempt to be, they all suffer from fatal flaws. They all fail to acknowledge that combustion-derived micro- and nano-sized particles of uranium have unique biokinetics when internalized that are not comparable to historical types of uranium exposure, and they quite cleverly fail to take into account the most up-to-date research on the toxicology of uranium. New research conducted since the first Gulf War has demonstrated that uranium is genotoxic (capable of damaging DNA), cytotoxic (poisonous to cells), mutagenic (capable of inducing mutations), teratogenic (capable of interfering with normal embryonic development) and neurotoxic (capable of harming nerve tissue). This research has yet to dislodge the stale mantra that uranium is only capable of causing kidney disease and cancer. (189)
It appears as though the same obfuscation engaged by the nuclear power industry regarding the hazards of nuclear power is also utilized by the nuclear weapons industry – the DU weapons industry – regarding the hazards of DU. They even use the same institutions – the WHO and the IAEA – to do the obfuscating for them. At least one researcher has wondered aloud if DU weapons is simply a plan to appear to get rid of radioactive waste, since there is no real way to safely store it (190) – not that littering it all over battlefields across the world really “gets rid” of it.
The Over-use of Radioactive Medical and Dental Examinations and Treatments
There is now concern that radiation in medicine is over-used – specifically in x-rays and CT scans – and there are calls for regulations to be put in place to prevent this from happening. (191) There is also some indication that any amount of radiation treatment, no matter how small, is counter-productive and actually hurts more than it helps. (192)
According to all sources found, air travel involves being bombarded by radiation from “cosmic” sources – from the rest of the universe. This radiation gets filtered out of our atmosphere but at higher altitudes there is less filtration and it becomes a concern. According to Health Canada:
For occasional flyers the exposure to cosmic radiation is very small. For those who fly frequently, such as aircrew and some business travellers, the annual exposure may be comparable with, or even exceed, that of radiation workers in ground-based industries. (193)
“There are no practical ways to shield yourself from cosmic radiation during a flight,” says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and routine monitoring of solar events such as sunspots result in the occasional reductions of altitude during these events to minimize exposure to cosmic radiation. (194)
Because of the dramatic increase in cell phone use over the last twenty years, fear of cancer from cell phones has become a common concern. According to a report from the US National Cancer Institute;
The researchers found that while cell phone use increased substantially over the period 1992 to 2008 (from nearly zero to almost 100 percent of the population), the U.S. trends in glioma (brain cancer) incidence did not mirror that increase. (197)
Apparently, the radiation from cell phones is not (yet) associated with cancer, but is instead associated with birth defects. (198) Those who are concerned can check out the list of highest (199) and lowest (200) radiation levels from different brand-names of cell phones, or limit their exposure to cell phone radiation by “reducing call time, by making calls where reception is good, by using hands-free devices or speaker options, or by texting.” (201)
Ionizing smoke detectors contain small amounts of americium-241. They are cheap to produce and react slightly sooner to fires so end up being used more often than optical smoke detectors. (202) The consensus seems to be that smoke detectors are not dangerous when they’re in use, as radiation likely to be encountered is below background levels. The danger comes from their improper disposal, or in the case of a fire. If burning smoke detectors are then breathed in, tens of thousands of potential lethal doses are released. (203)
Airport Security Scans
These airport security scanning systems are new, untested technologies. (204) Like smoke detectors, there are two versions of the machines – one more radioactive than the other: “millimeter wave scanners” that act like cell phones, and backscatter x-rays that act like dental x-rays. The former are probably not dangerous, but nobody knows for sure. The latter are probably dangerous if you are subjected to them too often. (205)
If you’re particularly attractive, (206) and/or under 18 years old, (207) the “security” agents have been known to send you through the body-part revealing and recording scanners for a second, third or fourth look.
At first Google, microwave ovens did not appear to be a major concern for cancer:
The radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. It therefore does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays and high-energy particles. Long-term rodent studies to assess cancer risk have so far failed to identify any carcinogenicity from 2.45 GHz microwave radiation even with chronic exposure levels, i.e., large fraction of one’s life span, far larger than humans are likely to encounter from any leaking ovens. However, with the oven door open, the radiation may cause damage by heating. Every microwave oven sold has a protective interlock so that it cannot be run when the door is open or improperly latched. There are, however, a few cases where people have been exposed to direct microwave exposure from malfunctioning microwave ovens, or where infants have been placed inside them, resulting in microwave burns. (208)
Like cell phones, power lines emit non-ionizing radiation. And like cell phones, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not they cause cancer. (211)
According to one recent study from the University of Tasmania in Australia and Bristol University in Britain:
People who had lived within 50 metres of a high-voltage powerline at any time were at double the risk of developing cancer than those who had never lived within 300 metres of a powerline. For every year lived within 50 metres of a powerline, the risk of cancer increased by 7 per cent, the study found. There was also evidence the risk of cancer increased with higher voltages. (212)
Nuclear Weapons Tests
Countries possessing nuclear weapons have conducted 2084 tests as of May 2013 – some above-ground, some in the upper atmosphere, some underground and some underwater. (213) The “Limited Test Ban Treaty” of 1963 was created to stop radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing by limiting such testing to underground only, but this treaty was only partially successful in that goal. Out of 380 US underground nuclear tests conducted between 1962 and 1982, 43 vented radioactive material into the atmosphere. (214)
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ National Cancer Institute study claims that nuclear fallout might have led to approximately 11,000 excess deaths, most caused by thyroid cancer. (215) The US has not conducted any nuclear bomb testing since 1992. Most of the rest of the eight countries that admit to possessing nuclear bombs ended their testing by 1998. North Korea, however, has tested three nuclear bombs in the last seven years. (216)
Uranium Mining, Nuclear Power Production and Waste Storage
Aside from the radioactivity put into our atmosphere from nuclear power plant accidents, there is also radioactivity put into our atmosphere from mining uranium, by the day-to-day operation of the reactors themselves, and from the waste created by the power plants. (217) It is well established that uranium miners have experienced an increased risk of cancer – especially up until recently, before safety standards were implemented. (218)
Less understood is the risk to the general public from uranium mining. Apparently, uranium mining affects us all. According to a recent report:
In undisturbed uranium deposits, most of the radon gas is trapped within rock formations until it decays into other radioactive byproducts. However, crushed tailings on or near the earth’s surface allow considerable radon to escape. In a 10 km/hr breeze, it can travel 960 km within 4 days; much further in higher winds. (219)
Materials from these mines have been used in construction. Hundreds of abandoned mines await cleanup – they continue to spew toxic radioactive gasses to this day. (220) Much of the US’s uranium – about 60 to 80% – are on Native people’s reservations. One of these abandoned uranium mines is so polluted it currently emits “four times as much” radiation as Fukushima does. (221)
It seems pretty clear that working inside a nuclear power plant increases the risk of cancer – not only for the workers themselves but for their families too. (222) There is very heated debate over whether or not living near nuclear power plants increases the likelihood of getting cancer. Those in the business community who focus on single studies and discuss average doses claim there is no danger at all. (223)
Environmental scientists conducting meta-analysis of multiple studies come to different conclusions:
Baker and Hoel assessed data from 17 research papers covering 136 nuclear sites in the UK, Canada, France, United States, Germany, Japan and Spain. In children up to 9 years old, leukemia death rates were from 5 to 24% higher, and leukemia incidence rates were 14 to 21% higher … (224)
Given the current pattern of researchers repeatedly discovering statistically significant increases in childhood cancer in kids living around nuclear power plants and then important institutions repeatedly coming up with reasons to dismiss these findings, (225) it appears the debate over the safety of living near nuclear power plants will continue.
And then there is the matter of nuclear waste. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, in the United States today there is
Already more than 80,000 tonnes of highly radioactive waste sits in cooling pools next to the 103 US nuclear power plants, awaiting transportation to a storage facility yet to be found.” (226)
The amount of space contaminated is “equal to the combined area of Rhode Island and Delaware” (227) and some of it “may never be completely remediated”. (228) Many waste sites are vulnerable to wind, rain, floods and other typical fluctuations in the weather, and numerous accidents have occurred. Cases of problems during transport, abandonment and theft have also occurred; the theft being “mostly” in developing nations, where metal is scarce. (229)
As it turns out, of the two most famous places the US plans to store their nuclear waste – the WIPP salt caverns near Carlsbad, New Mexico, and Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, Nevada – both have serious problems. The salt caverns have water leaks and Yucca Mountain is located on an earthquake fault. (230)
High-level meetings around nuclear waste issues are sometimes held with little or no public input – even in developed countries such as Canada, (231) which has 50,000 tonnes of nuclear waste and no idea where to put it. (232) Ontario Power wants to bury some of their “low level” waste less than 1.6 kilometers from Lake Huron. (233) Another nuclear waste site – in a suburb of St. Louis – is located 1200 feet from a smoldering landfill. (234) In France, public protests regarding building sites to store nuclear waste have delayed implementation of such plans. (235)
It is obvious that the nuclear waste we humans have already created will be a huge problem that will take millions of years and trillions of dollars to solve. It is equally as obvious that we should not compound this problem by creating more waste in the future – we should act now to decommission and shut down all nuclear power plants as soon as possible. We should stop mining uranium immediately.
(177) Radioactive, Lauren Redniss, 2011, HarperCollins, p. 69
(179) Transcribed from: Jello Biafra, If Evolution Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve, Virus 201 CD (C) & (P) 1998 Alternative Tentacles Records
(190) Fukushima Daiichi: a Never-Ending Story of Pain or Outrage? Hannah Spector, Doctoral Candidate at the University of British Columbia, Canada
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/tci/article/download/183609/183713 – notation #5
(214) Missile Envy, Helen Caldicott, 1984, Bantam Books, p. 227
(219) Human Health Implications of Uranium Mining and Nuclear Power Generation, Dr. Cathy Vakil M.D., C.C.F.P., F.C.F.P., Dr. Linda Harvey B.Sc., M.Sc., M.D., 2009
(224) Commentary: childhood cancer near nuclear power stations, Ian Fairlie, Environmental Health, 2009, 8:43
(226) “Nuclear Power is the Problem, Not a Solution”, Dr. Helen Caldicott, April 15, 2005 http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0415-23.htm