Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973
What Effects From The Bomb?
What Effects From The Bomb?
Still counting their dead from last year's pitched battle, Wellington police turned out in full force to defend the Bastille Day celebrations at the French Ambassador's residence at Easdale Street. Complete with bus, barricades and an ambulance to tend the wounded, the constabulary were prepared for any situation except for the rain which kept most would-be demonstrators at home. Anxious not to waste such a show of strength they passed their time helping elderly guests across the street, sleeping in their bus, parading and occasionally restraining the demonstration of some sixty people.
In 1969 Ernest Sternglass, Professor of Physics at the University of Pittsburg opened a wide-scale controversy that has not yet ended. With detailed statistics in support of his thesis, he maintained that the low doses of radiation, resulting from experimental nuclear tests were causing the death of countless children. These deaths would be recorded under various headlines, for they are due, said he, to a general alteration of the 'genetic quality" of the foetuses and their powers of resistance.
And the increase (which no one could deny) is in proportion to the amount of strontiuin—90, a radio-active isotope which has a half-life of 28 years and is slowly broadcast according to the atmospheric conditions following the nuclear tests.
In New Mexico, said Sternglass, infant mortality increased by between 20—30% after the first nuclear test at Almogardo on July 16, 1945, which reminded Robert Offenheimer of the famous Indian poem, "Brighter than a Thousand Suns". This excessively high rate of mortality, "the result of an increase in premature births and a lower resistance to infection" was caused by what today is regarded as "a small technical nuclear device"
Although this theory (put forward, no doubt, too hastily) was hotly contested, especially by American Military experts, it is an undeniable fact that nuclear tests cause fallout of strontium—90. Scientists have discovered it in the organism of children in various countries of the world, following the American and Soviet tests. At the same time, curious thyroidal anomalies (whose precise effects on growth are still unknown) have been discovered, always on children and notably, on Rongelap Island near the Bikini atoll. They are attributable to another isotope, iodine 131, whose half-life of eight days is clearly shorter than that of strontium but has a selective affinity for the thyroid.
Those who maintain the harmlessness of the pathological effects, discovered in one place and another, say there is a shortage of figures and statistics in proof of the theory. But they must know that these facts will not be available for another quarter of a century at least.
This is the time it takes for the appearance of most of the cancers which have a radioactive cause. Such is also the "genetic" delay which effects a new generation according to its strength or weaknesses.
The report published by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission which has been operating in Japan since 1948 in order to study the long-term effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs shows that among the descendants of Japanese victims there has been a definite although moderate retardation of growth, an increase in foetal and infant mortality, a growth in the incidence of mental retardation and a significant and indisputable increase in the incidence of leukemias and cancers.
Some say that the effect of high doses of radiation (as in the case of Japan) with the effects of low doses (as in the nuclear tests) cannot be compared. But, in fact, it is fully justifiable to do so, for although we do not yet know if there is a "threshold" of irradiation in the development of cancers, we do know that even a very low dose of radiation is injurious to the cells. We do know that this injury is cumulative and irreversible, that it shows itself only after a long period of latency and that the effects on the organism thus engendered, are sometimes irreversible and hereditary in their, nature.
June 23, 1972