The implications of 27,000 becquerels per square meter?

For the last six months, residents of Northern Japan have had to contend with a confusing list of ways to measure radiation in air water, soil and food. Now that the major releases to the air are over, one of the most important measurements is the data on soil contamination because this determines what will enter the food chain. So what does it mean for people in the Tokyo area to be told that the soil has 27,000 becquerels per square meter, some places more, some places less? A good point of comparison is a map of fallout on Western Europe after Chernobyl. As the scale in the photo goes from yellow, to pale orange, to orange, the numbers go from 1,000 to 40,000 becquerels per square meter. For the most part, "lightly" contaminated areas south of Fukushima are at the same level that large parts of France, Germany, Poland and other parts of Europe have had for 25 years. No one panicked and evacuated from these regions, and no one noticed large, obvious health effects that could be definitely traced to radiation exposure. But it is a matter of speculation as to whether this level of contamination contributed to cancer rates and so called "epidemics" of morbidity, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, that have been noted during these recent decades.


22 Reactors in the US are of the same design as the failed reactors in Fukushima

22 aging nuclear reactors in the US that are of the same age and flawed design as the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi (some locations have more than one reactor)

Arnie Gundersen, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, now does consulting work for citizens groups advocating on nuclear issues. Since the Fukushima accident, he has become a leading figure in helping the public understand the issues at stake. Followers in Japan like him so much that they have voluntarily begun translating everything published on his website over the last six months.
In his recent post, Arnie spoke on an issue that should be of high concern for everyone in Canada and the US. The reactors that exploded in Fukushima are exactly the same as 22 Boiling Water Mark 1 General Electric Reactors still in operation in the US. They are getting old, and their failings have been known for a long time, as this NRC memo shows:

NRC Memo dated September 25, 1972
Note to John F. O'Leary
... the acceptance of pressure suppression containment concepts by all elements of the nuclear field, including Regulatory and ACRS, is firmly embedded in the conventional wisdom. Reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power. It would throw into question the continued operation of licensed plants, and would make unlicensable the GE and Westinghouse condensor plants now in review, and would generally create more turmoil that I can stand thinking about.
      - Joseph M. Hendrie

In other words, they knew the design was flawed, but it's too late to go back and change everything now. It's too personally bothersome for the author of the memo, so forget about it. Fortunately, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant was not a Mark 1 reactor. Its superior, larger containment structure is what prevented that accident from being much worse. 
After Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry reluctantly recognized that something had to be done, so they installed a venting system which would release hydrogen gas in the event of a loss of station power and a meltdown of fuel. This system was in place in Fukushima, but for reasons not yet fully explained to the public, it didn't work. It could be because opening the valve required a worker to go into a highly radioactive environment, in full protective gear, and turn a valve 200 times. In the midst of the crisis, no one wanted to send a worker in on a suicide mission. The reactor design failed on all three reactors that were in operation at Fukushima Daiichi.
Even someone as pro-nuclear as the former director of the IAEA, Mohamed AlBaradei, has come out in favor of shutting down these aging, flawed reactors, saying "We must not hesitate to close old reactors the safety of which cannot be guaranteed. I suggest starting with the review of the RBMK type (as in Chernobyl), [Still in operation!] which don't have containment structures, and those of the Fukushima design."
This post is a shout-out to friends and relatives in Canada who live across the lake from Oswego, New York, where there are two Mark 1 reactors still in operation. Some Canadians worry about the reactors closer to home, but these heavy water reactors in Canada have a superior design and excellent safety record. (A recent article in the Literary Review of Canada covers the unfortunate decision of the Japanese to pass over CANDU reactors in favor of American technology.) The first priority for nuclear safety in North America should be the decommissioning of the aging General Electric Mark 1 reactors.

Further reading: Marks to Market: America's Nuclear Time Bombs


An ounce of prevention for Fukushima?

Update: Shortly after I put up this post, The Japan Times ran an article on this topic on September 20, 2011. The focus was mostly on food preparation, with no mention of the benefits of taking mineral supplements. On September 22, 2011, Christopher Busby, a leading expert on the biological effects of radiation, announced the launch of an organization that will distribute mineral supplements to children in Japan.

Since the nuclear core meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant there has been much debate about what the health effects on the population will be. On one side, the Pollyanas claim the effects will be barely noticeable. On the other side, the Cassandras claim there will be enoromous effects on the population and the environment. While both sides admit that the internal absorption of radionuclides is harmful, it is stragne that neither side has had much to say about preventive measures that can be taken to remove radionuclides from the body.

The Japanese government has talked much about soil decontamination, but it dreads to face the safer but more expensive option of moving people away from contaminated land permanently. The government has also been unrealistic in its discussion of what radionuclide decontamination means. It is not similar to chemical spills that are smaller and can be cleaned up and neutralized. The high level contamination extends over 2,000 square kilometers, and there is a much wider area of low level contamination. The scale of the task renders decontamination impossible, especially when one considers that decontamination workers would be be exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation.

One decontamination plan is to remove the first few centimeters of topsoil, but then one must put the topsoil somewhere. In addition, topsoil is a precious resource that cannot be easily replaced. Another plan is to treat the topsoil in a way that filters out the radionuclides, but this leaves one with the problem of how to dispose of what is filtered out.

So it's clear that decontamination is really the wrong word to use. The contaminants are just being moved around rather than neutralized or destroyed. This effort to decontaminate really means separating radionuclides from contact with humans, other organisms and the environment. 

This "decontamination" could be done best by moving people away from contaminated areas, halting production of food in contaminated areas, and preventing any further spread of the contaminants - for example, by stopping the burning of organic waste. Unfortunately, we have to consider the second best option because Japanese society seems determined to neglect these best options. After six months of waiting for the government to provide adequate help to victims, it is clear now that they are going to be left to live on contaminated lands. They need to be trained and assisted in protecting their bodies from accumulating radionuclides. And this is not only for the people of Fukushima Prefecture, but for who anyone consumes tainted food that will find its way to markets in Japan and elsewhere.

In Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment Yablokov et. al. state, "Daily exposure to small amounts of radionuclides (mostly cesium 137) is virtually unavoidable as they get into the body with food (up to 94%), with drinking water (up to 5%), and through the air (about 1%)... The incorporation of radionuclides is now the primary cause of the deterioration of public health in contaminated territories." 

Citing the work of Banderzhevskaya et. al., they write, "There is evidence that incorporation of 50 Bq/kg of cesium 137 into a child's body can produce pathological changes in vital organ systems (cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, and immune) as well as in the kidneys, liver, eyes and other organs (Bandazhevskaya et al., 2004). Such levels are not unusual in the Chernobyl-contaminated areas of Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia nowadays... It is necessary to use all possible measures to decrease the level of radionuclide incorporation in people living in those territories."

In many areas near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, levels of radionuclide deposition are at the same dangerous levels that are still found in parts of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, so the issue of cesium 137 absorption is just as critical for people in Japan. It's in the soil, the food supply, and in the sewage which the Japanese might be foolish enough to put into fertilizer that goes back in the soil. Or they might burn contaminated organic waste, putting the cesium back into the atmosphere to rain down on Japan, the ocean or neighboring countries. Whatever happens, the cesium is here to stay, so the advice of Yablokov et. al. "to use all possible measures" applies to Japan. It may be worthwhile to fight for the ideal situation in which victims receive compensation with which to restart their lives in a safe location, but the reality is that this help is not likely to come. 

Researchers who have studied ways to disincorporate radionuclides from the body come to these conclusions:

In the way that a thyroid gland well stocked with stable iodine will not absorb the radioactive isotope of iodine 131, other minerals can reduce the absorption of other radionuclides. Potassium resembles cesium and rubidium, and muscle cells that need potassium will absorb rubidium (harmless) or radioactive cesium (harmful) if they are present. Similarly, bones will absorb radioactive strontium when they are in search of calcium. Iron can block the uptake of plutonium. So the suggestion of these researchers is to supplement the diet of people in contaminated areas with stable elements of potassium, rubidium, calcium and iron so that cells full of these elements will not absorb radionuclides. Iodine is not mentioned because radioactive iodine 131 has a short half-life of eight days and is not a concern after the initial emergency has passed. 

Furthermore, they suggest "... increasing consumption of fluids and fibre. ... Soaking in water, scalding, salting, and pickling foods such as mushrooms and vegetables and processing the fats in milk and cheeses can reduce the amount of radionuclides in some foods severalfold... Antioxidant vitamins A and C and the microelements iron, copper, zinc, selenium and cobalt, ... interfere with free-radical formation."

They also note that pectin has been very effective in eliminating cesium from the body. The Belrad Institute in Minsk has developed a product called Vitapect that they promote to alleviate the public health disaster. (If you have a problem with this organization making money off this, consider the good work this organization does and hope that they prosper.)

The interesting question to ask is why these preventive measures have not been given more publicity. There has been very little about it in the Japanese or foreign media, mainstream or otherwise. It is perhaps understandable that the government and the nuclear industry would not advertise these methods. It would be an admission that there is indeed a reason to worry about the effects of this accident. Nonetheless, it might help the government's and TEPCO's image in the future if they can point out that they did everything possible to limit damage. 

It is more difficult to understand why the anti-nuclear side has not promoted preventive measures. Their decision not to publicize the research mentioned above has some unpleasant implications. They may not want to encourage people to falsely believe that they can protect themselves from the grave harm of radiation. They may hesitate to give the medical advice to take mineral supplements because for some people with medical conditions it might not be advisable, but this concern can be covered by adding standard advice to consult with a physician. 

The most disturbing question the anti-nuclear advocates need to answer is whether they could be content years from now to find out things were not as bad as they feared because preventive help was given. Having staked out the position that Fukushima will be a public health disaster, and that a wider evacuation is necessary, can they offer advice now to individuals who want to protect themselves in the non-ideal situations that they find themselves in? Unfortunately, preventive measures will just add confounding variables to the natural experiment. It presents a moral dilemma to the antinuclear movement, but after a few seconds of hesitation, the right thing to do should be obvious. 

A mass distribution of mineral supplements is, compared to all other measures under consideration, inexpensive, practical and supported by research. This absence from the news coverage and blogosphere discussion of Fukushima is inexplicable.


1. Belrad Institute http://www.belrad-institute.org/UK/doku.php
2. Alexey V. Yablokov, Vassily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, vol. 1181:303-304. (New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2009). http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1
3. G.S. Bandazhevskaya, Nesterenko, V.B., Babenko, V. I., Yerkovich, T.V., & Bandazhevsky, Yu. I. "Relationship between Caesium (137Cs) load, cardiovascular symptoms, and source of food in ‘Chernobyl’ children – preliminary observations after intake of oral apple pectin," Swiss Medical Weekly. 134 (2004): 725-729. http://www.smw.ch/docs/pdf200x/2004/49/smw-10219.pdf


Countdown to Zero

2010 Documentary on Nuclear Weapons: Countdown to Zero

"Watching this film, I had a terrible image of Walker as a modern-day Cassandra warning the Trojans; humanity is not well equipped to deal with background-hum threats — just note the current head-in-the-sand response to the spread of Cesium-137 throughout Japan, or the inability to find consensus on actions to halt global warming. Just like the all-too-apparent threat of reactors built on fault lines, her clear warning will most likely be ignored until it is too late."

-Giovanni Fazio, The Japan Times 2011/09/09


Wish list for foreign media coverage six months after 2011/03/11

  • Children in Fukushima City are still being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. It's an outrage that the WHO and Japan's allies haven't publicly denounced the Japanese government for this reckless gamble.
  • Fukushima was not as bad as Chernobyl in some respects, but it still has the potential to be much worse. Chernobyl released more radionuclides, but Fukushima still has multiple reactor cores and tons of spent fuel exposed to the air. It's cooled with water, but the water goes away as steam into the air or water into the ground and sea. Chernobyl was a single reactor core that was sealed off and done with after a month. 
  • In Fukushima, the stability of the reactor 4 building has been questioned and could collapse in an aftershock. If that happens, spent fuel will be out of containment and melting in the open air, and we'll have to catch the first flight out and never come back. It will be a global catastrophe.
  • Workers on the site are being badly abused. In Chernobyl, they used 600,000 soldiers who were not treated well, either, but they all got medals and health benefits for life. In Fukushima, they are rounding up day laborers and the unemployed. There is so far no talk about giving them special recognition or special health benefits. A lot of the money is being skimmed off because it's gone out through layers of sub-contractors. 
  • A very curious thing is that on site the workers say they can't communicate with the site bosses because they all speak French or English. Why is it a big secret that the cleanup has been taken over by Americans and French?

The Rice Harvest

Freshly harvested rice is in the stores now in Japan. Prices increase the farther away the source of the rice is from the ruins of Fukushima Daiichi. According to the government, all these are safe to consume, but the government has let the market speak.

From Ito Yokado grocery chain in Narita:
10 kg of rice from Mie (near Nagoya): 4490 yen
10 kg of rice from Chiba (near Tokyo): 3490 yen
10 kg of rice from Ibaraki (directly south of Fukushima Prefecture): 2490 yen
10 kg of rice from Fukushima: not available

And yet no one has much confidence that the labeling is honest. Assuming it is honest most of the time, it's obvious that low income people will be left to eat the most contaminated food.


A few reasons why the Japanese government does not (but should) order the evacuation of Fukushima City (pop. 260,000)

It's beyond comprehension why the Japanese government has not ordered the evacuation of Fukushima City. Below I list some possible reasons that explain, but by no means excuse, this failure. These are sentimental and financial considerations that are getting in the way of rational thinking about the necessary measures that need to be taken.
  1. Other cities in Japan have not been exactly keen to welcome evacuees from Fukushima. Despite Japan's reputation for being a unified, group-oriented culture, most people maintain fairly small horizons and their loyalties are to smaller communities. Many farming communities and small towns all over Japan have had a declining population, so one could easily imagine a resettlement program to put people from Fukushima in these areas, but the evacuees are not emotionally ready to resettle, and few towns are ready to welcome them. The government implicitly knows that evacuees would face discrimination (i.e. in finding a spouse) and serious problems of adjustment to a new location.
  2. Many areas of Fukushima outside the limited evacuation zone have levels of contamination comparable to places near Chernobyl that were evacuated quickly by government order. People around the world obviously wonder why a developed, wealthy nation cannot do the same for its own people. But the wealth and high standard of living is precisely the problem. It has allowed people to deceive themselves that the tragedy of relocation under government order could be something that only happens to the miserable and downtrodden in other places.
  3. The evacuation of Chernobyl was also easier to implement because the population had already been dispossessed sixty years earlier by the communist revolution. Many of the residents of the area had come from other parts of the Soviet Union in recent times. In contrast, most people in Fukushima have ties to the land going back centuries. They have emotional bonds to rituals such as visiting ancestors graves, not to mention all the deep bonds to their communities.
  4. The biggest difference is that, in the case of Fukushima, we are talking about a capitalist, democratic society. In order for the government to order an evacuation, it would also have to order the nation's banks to write off every outstanding loan of the businesses and individuals who would leave. Such an evacuation is unprecedented in a capitalist democracy. The Soviet Union was a top-down dictatorship that could simply order people to abandon land that they didn't own anyway. In Japan, no single element of the corporate world or government has the power to order the evacuation of a city the size of Fukushima and adequately support the evacuees.
  5. Anyone with an above-average social status or income would be opposed to seeing the city evacuated. Even people employed at low incomes would still prefer to be gainfully employed. Even if they could claim benefits as an evacuee, they would face an undesirable loss of status and satisfaction in their employment. The wealthier individuals could afford to send their own children to safer locations, without government support.
  6. Some might say we should just evacuate the children and mothers for a while, but this would equal the eventual decline of the city. Everyone would know they wouldn't be coming back soon, and everyone would know: no children, no city. Fukushima City would just begin a rapid economic decline shortly after the children left.
  7. Japan used to be called "the country that can't say no" but a recent book by an American diplomat calls it "the country that can't decide." In Japanese culture, hard decisions are avoided, and unpleasant truths are never stated explicitly. When people were evacuated from the villages within 20 kilometers of the nuclear plant, they were told it would be temporary, but the implicit message was known by anyone who had learned even a little of how the area compared with the Chernobyl exclusion zone. It was six months later when a government official was finally able to state, as frankly as is possible in Japanese culture, that no one would be able to come back "for a long time." If Fukushima City needs to be abandoned, it appears that it will take "a long time" for Japanese society to face up to the fact.
Although there are some unique features about the situation in Japan, a nuclear disaster might play out the same way in other countries. It is likely that economic considerations would win out over a cautious approach to children's health. The financial system would not agree to write off all the mortgages it held in the evacuation zone just for the uncertain gamble that the evacuation is necessary to avoid a possible health catastrophe in a few years time. This is why nuclear power is too dangerous to allow to continue. No other industry has the potential for such widespread, lasting destruction. 


Having trouble losing weight?

No Immediate Danger, Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth, by Dr Rosalie Bertell 
Canadian Scholars Press; 1st edition (January 1986 - 3 months before the Chernobyl accident!)

"A small amount of radioactive iodine would probably kill only a few cells and have little or no noticeable effect on health. However, if many cells are destroyed or altered, the hormone level would noticeably drop or the hormone itself would be slightly changed. The individual would become lethargic and gain weight. If properly diagnosed and severe enough to require medical intervention, this hypoactive thyroid condition can be controlled with artificially ingested thyroid hormone. A mild exposure experienced by a large population could cause a decrease in average thyroid hormone levels and an increase in average body weight, such as is occurring now in the North American population. The USA has been polluted with nuclear industries since 1943 and with radioactive iodine from weapon testing since 1951. Radioactive iodine is routinely released in small quantities by nuclear power plants and in large quantities by nuclear reprocessing plants. It is not part of the natural human environment. The connection between this pollution and the overweight problem has, unfortunately, never been seriously researched. There is no evidence to confirm or deny the hypothesis, but weight increase is a well-known biological response to radioactive iodine. The hypothesis is certainly plausible under the circumstances...
An atomic veteran who participated in the nuclear tests which were conducted by the USA in the Bikini atoll in the late 1940s reported that he gained 75 lbs in the four years following his participation. The doctor diagnosed his problem as hypothyroidism. He also suffered from high blood pressure, chronic asthma and frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. He has had six tumours diagnosed since 1949, when he returned home from military service."


Cleanup project in Narita, Japan

This photos shows a slice of life 190 kms. south of Fukushima in Narita, Chiba Prefecture. 

In this area, there was an elevation in radiation levels after the Fukushima Disaster, but these were not high enough to be of great concern (an increase from 0.05 to 0.18 microsieverts per hour). However, it is now possible to find small patches of more heavily contaminated ground. In places where rainwater collected on large, non-porous surfaces and drained onto smaller patches of soil, it is common to find readings from 0.5 to 2.0 microsieverts per hour. It was perhaps risky to disturb this dirt and pack it into bags, but this was my volunteer contribution to the neighborhood. I took all the precautions I could (mask, sunglasses, skin fully covered, washed all clothes and showered immediately afterward). It seemed far riskier to leave it there to blow in the wind and be taken to homes on people's shoes, or to be picked up by children or sniffed by pets. The external gamma radiation is less of a threat than the particles that could blow in the wind and be absorbed internally by people and animals. 
We called city hall the next day to ask park workers to come and remove the bags. The staff was annoyed with our initiative, but then workers quickly came and removed the bags. The police even called us to ask what we were doing, but no officials bothered us after this. I think they feared any actions against us would just stir up unwanted attention from city residents. 
Apparently, they have a plan to store such waste away from the population, but a thorough cleanup will take some time. It can be sealed off from contact with the environment, but these bags will still be too radioactive for decades.
Another blogger cleaned up a similar spot in Hachioji, on the west side of Tokyo.


It's not only about cancer

If you get your information from the IAEA, WHO or magazines like The New Scientist, you might get the impression that nuclear accidents have little effect on health and add only a small percentage to the total of all cancer cases. The focus on cancer is entirely misleading, and probably deliberately deceptive on the part of those who downplay the risks of nuclear energy. Below is a summary of the health effects that have been documented in heavily contaminated regions near Chernobyl (this is a summary of a previous post citing Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment). This issue is also covered well in the interview with Dr. Janette Sherman who edited the English version of this study.
These ailments also overlap with signs and symptoms reported by Iraqi citizens and US military personnel who were exposed to depleted uranium. We can also note that everywhere for the last quarter century there has been a widely acknowledged medical mystery: there have been increasing rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, immune deficiency, chronic fatigue and formerly rare allergies to common foods. It is suspected that chemicals are the main cause of this problem, but rising levels of radiation poisoning - from mining, burning of coal, industrial uses of radioactive materials, weapons testing, and nuclear accidents - have not received much attention (go here for more on this hypothesis). People in Europe and North America quickly forgot about Chernobyl and were never informed about the implications of the significant amount of Chernobyl fallout that landed on their territories.

Radiation and Health 
Every increase in nuclear radiation has an effect on both somatic and reproductive cells of all living things.

Radiation has negative effects on:
  • Circulatory system (owing primarily to radioactive destruction of the endothelium, the internal lining of the blood vessels).
  • Endocrine system (especially nonmalignant thyroid pathology - for every case of thyroid cancer there are hundreds of cases of reduced thyroid function).
  • Immune system (“Chernobyl AIDS,” increased incidence and seriousness of all illnesses).
  • Respiratory system.
  • Urogenital tract and reproductive disorders.
  • Musculoskeletal system (including pathologic changes in the structure and composition of bones: osteopenia and osteoporosis).
  • Central nervous system (changes in frontal, temporal, and occipitoparietal lobes of the brain, leading to diminished intelligence and behaviorial and mental disorders).
  • Eyes (cataracts, vitreous destruction, refraction anomalies, and conjunctive disorders).
  • Digestive tract.
  • Congenital malformations and anomalies (including previously rare multiple defects of limbs and head).
  • Thyroid cancer. After surgery the person becomes dependent on replacement hormone medication for life.
Radiation causes:
  • Leukemia (blood cancers) not only in children and liquidators, but in the general adult population of contaminated territories.
  • Other malignant neoplasms. 
  • Changes in the body's biological balance, leading to increased numbers of serious illnesses owing to intestinal toxicoses, bacterial infections, and sepsis.
  • Intensified infectious and parasitic diseases (e.g., viral hepatitis and respiratory viruses).
  • Increased incidence of health disorders in children born to radiated parents (both to liquidators and to individuals who left the contaminated territories), especially those radiated in utero. These disorders, involving practically all the body's organs and systems, also include genetic changes.
  • Premature aging in both adults and children.
  • Increased incidence of multiple somatic and genetic mutations.
Chernobyl has “enriched” world medicine with such terms, as “cancer rejuvenescence,” as well as three new syndromes:
  • “Vegetovascular dystonia”—dysfunctional regulation of the nervous system involving cardiovascular and other organs (also called autonomic nervous system dysfunction), with clinical signs that present against a background of stress.
  • “Incorporated long-life radionuclides”—functional and structural disorders of the cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, reproductive, and other systems owing to absorbed radionuclides.
  • “Acute inhalation lesions of the upper respiratory tract”—a combination of a rhinitis, throat tickling, dry cough, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath owing to the effect of inhaled radionuclides, including “hot particles.”
Several new syndromes, reflecting increased incidence of some illnesses, appeared after Chernobyl. Among them:
  • “Chronic fatigue syndrome”—excessive and unrelieved fatigue, fatigue without obvious cause, periodic depression, memory loss, diffuse muscular and joint pains, chills and fever, frequent mood changes, cervical lymph node sensitivity, weight loss; it is also often associated with immune system dysfunction and CNS disorders.
  • “Lingering radiating illness syndrome”—a combination of excessive fatigue, dizziness, trembling, and back pain.
  • “Early aging syndrome”—a divergence between physical and chronological age with illnesses characteristic of the elderly occurring at an early age. 
  • Specific Chernobyl syndromes such as “radiation in utero,” “Chernobyl AIDS,” “Chernobyl heart,” “Chernobyl limbs,” and others await more detailed definitive medical descriptions. 
The optimists like to say that no causal relations can be proven because these effects are all influenced by socioeconomic factors, lifestyle, and anxiety about radiation, and other causes of poor health. But this doesn't explain why the same effects are found in all plants and animals in zones contaminated by nuclear fallout.