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Mon Jul 16, 2012, 04:13 PM

Geneticist charts effects of nuclear disasters

Source: Press-Register Community News , Mobile AL

Geneticist charts effects of nuclear disasters

Published: Monday, July 16, 2012, 7:15 AM

By Sally Pearsall Ericson


MOBILE, Alabama Dr. Wladimir Wertelecki, a physician, geneticist and professor, could rest on the laurels of a prestigious career with international accomplishments.

But he is more interested in contributing to a clearer scientific and public understanding of the global impacts of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. His ongoing research into the effects of disaster-related radiation and other environmental pollutants on long-term child development has taken him around the world.

Formerly chairman of the Medical Genetics Department at the University of South Alabama from 1974 until 2010, Wertelecki now continues his work along with child development research teams from California, SUNY, Indiana and Emory Universities.

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At a recent scientific colloquium at the University of South Alabama, Wertelecki pointed out two main lessons learned from the Chernobyl and the Fukushima-Daiichi disasters:
"It is not the scale of a nuclear accident itself that makes a human disaster it is the response by officials afterward and the public panic produced. The public should not be treated as idiots and told only the 'good half' of the story, as is often done by official agencies. People have the right to know, the need to believe those who are in charge."

Wertelecki's investigations in Ukraine show elevated population rates of certain types of birth defects, mostly of the brain and spinal cord, according to his 2010 article in "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics ( http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/4/e836.full ). However, the geneticist noted, statistics illuminate realities but cannot prove causes.

Wertelecki believes that the often-made comparisons of Chernobyl or Fukushima-Daiichi outcomes with those that followed the atomic bomb explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are wrong.

The impact of the bombs was external radiation, which was intense but short-lived, said the physician. The impact of Chernobyl and Fukushima-Daiichi is ongoing and radiation still in the environment is inhaled or swallowed, leading to accumulation in the body. One mushroom eaten in affected areas may deliver as much radiation as hundreds of chest x-rays, he concluded.

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Read more: http://blog.al.com/pr-community-news/2012/07/geneticist_charts_effects_of_n.html

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