Friday, June 5, 2009

More data needed on uranium's effects, speaker says


June 04, 2009

There are too many unknowns when it comes to uranium and its effects on people, says Dr. Linda Harvey, the guest speaker at the Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee (PHCHCC) annual general meeting on Wednesday.

"No proof of harm is not the same as proof of no harm," the retired family physician from the Kingston area said.

She told the membership that trials have been undertaken on animals, but very few on people.

"Studies have been based on guess work," she said. "There's a huge gap in knowledge."

Information is not readily available on the effects of uranium on people who are ill, seniors or children, she says.

"There is also very little known on genetic effects," said Harvey, who said she believes deterioration caused by contamination is reversible, at least at first.

"If it happens over years, we don't know," she said.

Neonatal effects in animals have been studied, but that's an area that needs more research in humans, she says.

"These are things that are completely under the radar," she said. "We just don't know."

When it comes to the genetic effects, she says we are creating a situation that may not be good for our descendants.

"Genetics - this is the part that really scares the hell out of me," she said.

Damaging genes at a point in time when we're facing climate change and pandemics scares her.

"We may need our fertility and we would not have it," said Harvey. "And we're doing it to other organisms."

The most recent Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) document has her worried as well.

"There are two flaws that spring out at me," she said.

First she was concerned that the CNSC document stated no further health studies were required in Port Hope.

"They can't say that about any community," Harvey said.

She added that studies in Port Hope, or even across Canada, are too small to achieve statistical significance.

"They toss out everything that doesn't achieve that, so perhaps they are missing something," she said. "We may need to use European data."

She spoke of a German study on leukemia in children near nuclear sites.

"This is good quality data and we should take note of what it's telling us," Harvey said.

Her second major concern with the CNSC document is the portion where it speaks of "most" of the soil levels under regulatory levels.

"That's true, but not all are," she said.

Although Harvey has only been involved in the uranium issue for three years and had no concrete advice to offer members of the PHCHCC, she said the most reasonable solution is to keep speaking up about what people know to be true.

"The pesticide legislation was hard-fought, but it finally came through," she said.

Harvey has co-written a document on her work that can be found on the Physicians for Global Survival web-site at pgs.caunder: social justice, entitled Human Health Implications of Uranium Mining and Nuclear Power Generation, she says.

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