DÄ internationalArchive23/2009Childhood Leukemia in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany: Ignorance Is a Curse

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Childhood Leukemia in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany: Ignorance Is a Curse

Dtsch Arztebl Int 2009; 106(23): 392. DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2009.0392b

Splieth, B

LNSLNS The authors noted an increase in the number of cases of leukemia in children younger than 5 years within a 5 km radius of nuclear power stations. Notably, they think that a causal association between raised leukemia incidence and additional radiation exposure through nuclear power stations is implausible. If this conclusion has been clear from the beginning, I don't understand why the study was conducted in the first place.

After the leukemia increase that was found, the usual dose estimate in children now needs to be questioned. And this is where ignorance is a curse. This is part of the highly complex area of biodosimetry and dosage equivalents, a highly technical terrain that neither a psychologist and occupational scientist (Professor Jungermann) nor an epidemiologist and informatics specialist (Dr Kaatsch) is qualified to comment on. The normal, extremely arbitrary dose estimates would need to be subjected to highly complicated tests. Finally, research would need to be conducted into what radiation load exactly an individual resident in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant receives, not only via environmental radiation but also via environmental air and the food chain; how the biological distribution in the body tissues works over time; and which bone seeking radionuclides administer which dosage to a child's bone marrow. These questions would be worth studying and the computation models prestented by the German Commission on Radiological Protection would be worth verifying, and any insider knows exactly how very arbitrary the presented dose estimates are. What we do not need is a philosophical discourse about risk perception, nor repetitive emphasis on implausible causal associations compared with environmental radiation. What is required is careful checking of the dose estimates presented (allegedly only 1/1000 of environmental radiation). The studies required for this would have to conduct laborious nuclide measurements in the biotope and in the environmental air that the children breathe over the long term.

The bone marrow of children who died due to leukemia in the vicinity of nuclear power plants would need to be compared in terms of its radionuclide uptake with that of children elsewhere. For knowledge to be interpreted and integrated, this knowledge has to be gained first of all! DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2009.0392b


Dr. med. Benno Splieth
Streuweg 100, 63755 Alzenau, Germany
eva.kopel@vital-klinik.de
1.
Kaatsch P, Spix C, Jung I, Blettner M: Childhood leukemia in the vicinity of nuclear power plants in Germany. [Leukämien bei unter 5-jährigen Kindern in der Umgebung deutscher Kernkraftwerke.] Dtsch Arztebl Int 2008; 105: 725–32.
1. Kaatsch P, Spix C, Jung I, Blettner M: Childhood leukemia in the vicinity of nuclear power plants in Germany. [Leukämien bei unter 5-jährigen Kindern in der Umgebung deutscher Kernkraftwerke.] Dtsch Arztebl Int 2008; 105: 725–32.