Does anybody out there feel like getting information about radiation is liking trying to get the actual price of a car from a used car salesman? Well, you’re not alone. There’s a big reason for that.
Information and research about radiation, especially in the United States, has a very long history of being suppressed. So to give a clearer understanding of radiation and how the information has mutated over the years, bad pun I know, I’m going to break it up into 4 separate time periods. But first, here is a quick technical factoid to learn before the history relevance details.
The types of radiation are Alpha, Beta, and Gamma rays of which I include X-Rays. Neutron radiation will not be discussed in this post for the simple reason that it would be a rare circumstance that you’re going to encounter it… well unless you work making plutonium pits for nuclear bombs. And in that case, learning stuff from this post probably should be low in your life’s priority list.
These three types of radiation are all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, just like visible light, but occur in the higher frequency of the spectrum.
See the portion of the spectrum where it’s printed visible, at the half way point? The color bar below shows the visible colors in that tiny narrow band that consists of all we can see. Gamma rays are way up there in frequency at the end of the band on the right side of the picture.
The different types also have different abilities to penetrate materials. Alpha radiation is pretty weak, being stopped by a piece of paper, but gamma particles can go right through just about anything.
1917 – 1941
From 1917 to 1926, U.S. Radium Corporation hired women to paint radium on the dials of commercial and military equipment so the dials could be seen easily at night because of the glowing numbers. In order to have a fine point on the paintbrush, the women would wet the brush with their mouth. After some time, all the women developed anemia and necrosis of the jaw bone. The company would send the girls to a network of doctors and dentists that had secret agreements with US Radium and the military not to release their examination data. If any of the afflicted girls threatened to go public, the hired medical professionals would claim the women suffered from syphilis to smear their reputations and discredit them.
The unit Roentgen is defined as the amount of radiation required to liberate positive and negative charges of one electrostatic unit of charge in a cubic centimeter of dry air at standard temperature and pressure. The unit Rad is loosely defined as the amount to cause destruction of cells. A vague definition at best.
In 1950, Truman approved the testing of atomic bombs in Nevada with the first exploded in 1951. Several of the tests involved soldiers training in trenches and maneuvers into the blast area right afterward. Although top secret reports indicated the hazardous conditions for the troops, the tests continued for a decade. Later these soldiers would be known as “The Atomic Veterans.”
During the Cold War, scientific findings on health effects of nuclear fallout that contradicted the official narrative were typically censored. Scientists were not only punished for their work, they were also blacklisted. One example of this was American anthropologist Earle Reynolds whose work for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission was censored in 1953 by the US government. His research showed that Japanese children who were exposed to fallout were not only smaller than their counterparts, but had less resistance to disease in general and were more susceptible to cancer, especially leukemia.
1955 – 1962
As testing in the Pacific Proving Grounds and Nevada continued, the bomb yields grew higher and higher. In Nevada, tests were timed to coincide with weather patterns to keep the fallout going over Utah with small towns such as St. George and Cedar City, Utah. People in those smaller, less populated towns were viewed as more expendable than residents of the larger metropolises of California and Las Vegas.
Radiation from the fallout, publicly denied or effects minimized, was becoming harder and harder to keep quiet. One particular incident, a bomb test codenamed “Castle Bravo”, runs away in expected yield and irradiates a Japanese fishing vessel, Fukuryu Maru, that was 40 miles away. In order to minimize the damage, the AEC claims that it was a “Red Spy Outfit” commanded by a Soviet agent intentionally exposing both the ship’s crew and their tuna fish catch in order to embarrass the USA and gain intelligence on the test. All of the ship’s crew got sick and were sequestered to prevent information becoming public. The ship’s radio operator died after 5 months, and the US compensated the widow and her children 2500 dollars. The others received nothing.
Meanwhile, in order to collect more data for the Atomic Energy Commission, top secret involuntary human radiation experiments were approved in several locations. At the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Eugene Saenger is awarded contracts for involuntary human studies of Total Body Irradiation (TBI) starting in 1960. With a total of 90 patients, mostly black and poor, TBI treatments, some with more than 200 RADS, were given- totally in secret. Dr. Saenger was later to be known as “The American Mengele.”
Across the country other Universities and medical centers were also involved in collecting data from secret TBI treatments.
A center in Houston, Tx with 263 patients, with experiments sponsored by the Air Force from 1951 to 1956
Baylor University College of Medicine study from 1952 to 1964 involving 112 patients.
The Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer research study from 1954 to 1964 involving 34 patients.
Vanderbilt University study involving 830 women to find out if radiation crossed the placental barrier, were giving radioactive iron in “cocktails” to drink while undergoing medical care.
The unit Rad is redefined as amount of energy to be absorbed in 1 gram of matter. Also the unit REM or Roentgen Equivalent Man is defined to indicate more accurately the dosage to biological tissue. Unfortunately, even today the biological model for the Equivalent Man does not consider pregnant women, children and the elderly.
1962 – 1979
As information about the dispersion of Strontium-90 became available, a concentrated effort was started to collect data from around the world obtained from the bones of infants and children. The AEC initiated program, “Operation Sunshine”, would basically grave-rob recently deceased from around the world. The collection of bodies were secretly collected from nations all over the world. Greenland… Australia… China…. and Strontium-90 was found in all of them. The world had become one giant “downwinder” by the early 1960’s.
The Europeans came up with another different system developed by the organization System International in 1975. Their unit that is similar to the RAD is the unit Gray, which is a unit for radiation that is absorbed into ANY material. The unit sievert specifically measures absorbed radiation which is absorbed by a person. Sievert is the unit that you will hear used for the Japan nuclear accident. Radiation dosage will also be mentioned as millisievert, 1/1000th of a sievert or microsievert, 1/1,000,000th of a sievert.
1979 – present
The consequences of this censored history was examined in 1994 by the US Advisory Commission on Human Radiation Experimentation, which concluded that the radiation health literature of the Cold War years was a heavily sanitized and scripted version meant to reassure and pacify public protests while achieving military and economic agendas.
In 1994, Secretary of Energy, Hazeal O’Leary announces the information about the Human Radiation experiments right before a Albuquerque investigative reporter publishes a story detailing the circumstances and identities of patients in the program. Later a book is written by Eileen Welsome, The Plutonium Files, that details the whole program.
I have often seen “facts” published about items such as… “you will get the same amount of radiation flying cross country in a plane” or something similar. That’s where the information given is disingenuous. Technically, it’s true but the information conveyed is false.
To understand why just think of something simple, like a flashlight. You have the light that the flashlight produces (we will call that the radiation) and then you have the flashlight itself (the emitter). Now think of the difference of that stronger flashlight shining on you as you pass by as opposed to INGESTING the flashlight, which continues to shine for years afterword. Can you understand why the weaker flashlight would be magnitudes more deadly? Especially if the flashlight is just fractions of an inch away from cells that it will affect?
That ingestion of radioactive particles are what’s particularly damaging to the human body because the body USES the particle as a nutrient. The body thinks that Iodine-131 is normal Iodine and stores it away in the Thyroid gland. You may have heard of pills given out to people to prevent the radiation exposure. This is a trick to load up the thyroid with normal iodine and preventing any need for the body to store anymore for awhile. So it doesn’t store the radioactive Iodine-131 material. Another particle, Cesium-137, fools the body into thinking that it’s potassium. Unfortunately the same trick of fooling the body cannot be done because the amount of potassium needed would stop the heart. Strontium-90 fools the body into thinking that it’s calcium, so it goes into bone marrow. This is particularly bad with growing children.
With the current crisis in Japan, there are accusations of US civilians “over-reacting” to the radiation leak by nuclear industry officials. The alarmed civilians are just not trusting what the government has to say about the dangers and how safe the situation is claimed to be.
In my opinion, looking over the history of the Government and Radiation information, the population has EARNED a right to be distrustful.
How does that saying go… “Fool me once, shame on you. But fool me twice…”