"I would be the first to say that our study doesn't prove by itself that there were high-level radiation exposures, but it is part of a body of evidence that is consistent with high exposures," Wing said. "The cancer findings, along with studies of animals, plants and chromosomal damage in Three Mile Island area residents, all point to much higher radiation levels than were previously reported. If you say that there was no high radiation, then you are left with higher cancer rates downwind of the plume that are otherwise unexplainable."
Co-authors of the report are Dr. Douglas Crawford-Brown, professor of environmental sciences and engineering, and Dr. Donna Armstrong and David Richardson, former and current doctoral students in epidemiology, all at UNC-CH.
The new study involved re-analyzing data from a 1990 report that concluded the nation's worst civilian nuclear accident was not responsible for slightly increased cancer rates near the plant because radiation exposures were too low. Wing and colleagues re-examined data from that report using what they believed were better analytic and statistical techniques.
"Several hundred people at the time of the accident reported nausea, vomiting, hair loss and skin rashes, and a number said their pets died or had symptoms of radiation exposure," he said. "We figured that if that were possible, we ought to look at it again. After adjusting for pre-accident cancer incidence, we found a striking increase in cancers downwind from Three Mile Island."
The scientists do not believe smoking and social and economic factors were responsible for the increased cancers found in the downwind sectors.
Many earlier researchers, as well as government and industry officials, accept as fact that only small amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere, Wing said. But it is known that plant radiation monitors went off scale when the accident started. Plumes containing higher radiation could have passed undetected, he said.
Findings from the re-analysis of cancer incidence around TMI is consistent with the theory that radiation from the accident increased cancer in areas that were in the path of radioactive plumes, the scientist said.
"This cancer increase would not be expected to occur over a short time in the general population unless doses were far higher than estimated by industry and government authorities," Wing said. "Our findings support the allegation that the people who reported rashes, hair loss, vomiting and pet deaths after the accident were exposed to high level radiation and not only suffering from emotional stress."
Monday, March 28, 2011
1997 UNC study: Re-analysis of cancer incidence around Three Mile Island show increased cancer in areas in the path of radioactive plumes
A 1997 study by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) epidemiologist Dr. Steven Wing: "Study suggests Three Mile Island radiation may have injured people living near reactor"