Study Finds that Worldwide Fallout Likely Caused 15,000 Cancer Deaths in U.S. since 1951

Scientists Find Birth Defects in Children Born near Hazardous Waste Dumps

* A government study released last month estimates that 15,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. since 1951 can be attributed to radioactive fallout from worldwide aboveground nuclear testing. The study, along with findings from previous government investigations, also found that as many as 20,000 non-fatal cancers can be attributed to fallout. Approximately 3,000 additional cancers can be attributed to internal radiation exposure, caused by inhalation and eating contaminated food. The study found that when fallout from the U.S., Britain and former Soviet Union nuclear tests are considered, "any person living in the contiguous United States since 1951 has been exposed to radioactive fallout and all organs and tissues of the body have received some radiation exposure."

The study's conclusions were found through a complex computer analyses of weather patterns, population trends, and other data that can help to gauge public exposure to fallout.

The study found that exposure to fallout accounts for approximately as much exposure as one chest x-ray per person per year. Also, the study claims that areas such as California and the northwestern U.S. may have suffered more fallout due to aboveground testing on Pacific Ocean islands and in the former Soviet Union.

The $1.85 million study was prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was released almost one year after it was promised because of a series of internal reviews at the Department of Health and Human Services, and the events of September 11th, according to officials.

Although many are pleased that the study has finally been released, many, including David Rush, professor of community health at Tufts University, believe that a more comprehensive, global study must be prepared. Rush said, "It's important. God didn't make this problem, we did."

* A study released last month reports that women living within two miles of hazardous waste landfill sites have a 40 percent chance of conceiving a child with a chromosomal birth defect, such as Down's Syndrome or malformation of the cardiac septa. The study was conducted by scientists working under the Eurohazcon Project, which has undertaken to complete epidemiological research in the vicinities of 23 hazardous waste landfills in Europe.

Eight of these sites are located in Britain, where the waste industry responded angrily, saying, "[The report is] irrelevant and sensationalist...." The report is a companion to a 1998 study. It showed that 248 cases of malformation of cardiac septa were found in children conceived within two miles of hazardous waste landfills. The cardiac septa is a partition which divides the heart.

After the 1998 study, project leader Helen Dolke said, "Our results show the need for further investigation of the potential environmental and health risks of landfill sites...." Friends of the Earth UK, an activist group in Britain, said the research "adds to our concerns for babies born near toxic landfill sites," and is requesting immediate government action to decrease landfilling of hazardous waste by raising the taxes for hazardous waste landfilling and setting statutory targets. The British health ministry has requested more research.

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