Variations in the concentration of Pu, Sr-90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles

Variations in the concentration of plutonium, strontium-90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles

R.G.O’Donnell P.I.Mitchell N.D.Priest L.Strange A.Fox.L.Henshaw S.C.Long

Science of The Total Environment
Volume 201, Issue 3, 18 August 1997, Pages 235-243

quote “Abstract

Concentrations of plutonium-239, plutonium-240, strontium-90 and total α-emitters have been measured in children’s teeth collected throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The concentrations of plutonium and strontium-90 were measured in batched samples, each containing approximately 50 teeth, using low-background radiochemical methods. The concentrations of total α-emitters were determined in single teeth using α-sensitive plastic track detectors. The results showed that the average concentrations of total α-emitters and strontium-90 were approximately one to three orders of magnitude greater than the equivalent concentrations of plutonium-239, 240. Regression analyses indicated that the concentrations of plutonium, but not strontium-90 or total α-emitters, decreased with increasing distance from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant — suggesting that this plant is a source of plutonium contamination in the wider population of the British Isles. Nevertheless, the measured absolute concentrations of plutonium (mean = 5 ± 4 mBq kg−1 ash wt.) were so low that they are considered to present an insignificant radiological hazard.” end quote. emphasis added.

For the organism, it is the total dose which counts as far as biological effects and induction of diseases are concerned. Total dose is the sum of all dose contributors.

Further, comparison involves a subtraction of one thing from one or more other things in order to highlight proportion.

The bio-medical language in the abstract quoted above is laden with legal defensiveness which is totally inappropriate when considering the fate of an exposed cell, tissue and organism.

Given that the above paper finds that “concentrations of plutonium, but not strontium-90 or total α-emitters, decreased with increasing distance from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant — suggesting that this plant is a source of plutonium contamination in the wider population of the British Isles.”, what evidence, if any, exists which supports the idea that the closer one resides to Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, the greater the risk of radiogenic disease ?

I refer to the film “A Hard Rain”, Frontline Films, by David Bradbury ( Some years ago Mr. Bradbury granted me permission to transcribe portions of the flim dialogue, and to publish these portions of dialogue on one of my blogs. What follows is a portion of an interview between David Bradbury and Prof Eric Wright, a leukemia expert, at the time located at the University of Dundee, Scotland:

“Flim timing mark 46 miutes 38 seconds.

“Professor Eric Wright, University of Dundee:
“A number of groups, including those associated with Chris Busby, have suggested that there may be increased frequencies, or increased incidences, of diseases associated with nuclear power plants or similar sorts of institutions. When they have been rigorously analised by epidemiologists, the people who actually do these sorts of calculations, then to date, Chris Busby’s data has not stood up to critical evaluation. It’s sort of tempting to see a community around a huge nuclear power plant that has an excess of childhood, which indeed it does. I don’t think anyone os going to disagree with the basic observation that there has been quite a long standing increased incidence of childhood leukemia in that particular geographical region. I think it’s quite tempting to say “A Ha, it must be something to do with the nuclear power plant. However, to date, I think, the evidence from risk factors have tended to suggest, well, that probably isn’t the explanation…” (Source: “A Hard Rain”, Frontline Films, David Bradbury, used with permission.) Origianl Link:

Prof Wright states that there is, or was, an excess of childhood leukemia close in to Sellafield. And we have seen that nuclear industry emissions – Plutonium – increase in concentration in human tissue as one moves closer to Sellafield.

There is no doubt that Pu contamination in children close in to Sellafield is higher than Pu contamination in children more distant from Sellafield. (O’Donnell et al) and that the Sellafield leukemia cluster adjacent to Sellafield exists or existed (Wright via Bradbury).

But both Wright and O’Donnell et al maintain that Sellafield emissions are not responsible for human disease.

For a lay person such as myself, the two facts of increased concentrate of tissue resident Pu due to decreasing distance from Sellafield and the acknowledged existence of a long term excess of childhood leukemia adjacent to Sellafield produces a logical expectation that, even given the low additional doses involved, Sellafield emissions of radionuclides could produce the observed increased rate of disease in populations close in to the facility.

The fact that Sellafield is now bankrupt and in clean up mode is a good thing. A shining example of what needs to happen to all such facilities, in my opinion.

Moving forward, O’Donnell et al state that the dose contributions of Sr90 and Pu from nuclear industry found in the tissues of the British population is “an insignificant radiological hazard.” (O’donnell et al, see above).

Natural background exposure to both internal and external radiation is not “insignificant”. This is my view.

Although ARPANSA disagrees, natural background radiation in uncontaminated areas has been linked to increased risk of childhood leukemia: “Our results provide further support to the notion that low doses of ionizing radiation increase the risk for childhood leukemia, particularly at age 2-7 years. Our findings suggest a larger effect of radiation on leukemia with high hyperpdiploidy than other subgroups, but this result requires further confirmation.” (Source: Background radiation and childhood leukemia: A nationwide register-based case-control study.
Article in International Journal of Cancer 139(9) · July 2016, Atte Nikkilä University of Tampere Sini Erme Hannu Arvela Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, STUK, Helsinki, Finland Olli Holmgren.

If natural background radiation alone (in areas not defined as Naturally High Background Radiation Areas (NHBRA)- where the risk of cancer induction of at least 5 times is amplified, not diminished as claimed by some in the nuclear industry) is a cause of childhood leukemia, as reported by researchers such as those cited above, I have a question:

On what basis does the British and World nuclear industry claim that Sellafield’s emissions have not caused and do not cause disease?

That is the claim and I cannot believe that claim. There is no rational path for me to attain such a level of blind faith.