Why women should oppose nuclear power

Pregnant women don’t get x-rays. There’s a reason

It may come as no surprise to learn that it was women who first raised the alarm about just how dangerous radiation exposure might be to humans, but especially to women and their children. As the late Walter Wolfgang, a co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), recalls in Carol Turner’s book, Corbyn and Trident:

”Around the time of Britain’s first atomic tests many women in particular became concerned about the health dangers of radiation, its effect on unborn children and so on. This was much discussed in scientific journals at the time, and found a reflection in political magazines such as Tribune and New Statesman. Through opposition to testing, people became aware of the problem with nuclear weapons. Then politicos such as myself got involved, concerned about Britain’s foreign policies and international relationships. There was a coalescence between the two that led to the foundation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”


Dr Alice Stewart (third from left) with Edinburgh doctors and nurses. (Photo: Wellcome Trust/WikiCommons)

What is surprising is that, decades later, we still find ourselves trying to impress these truths upon the public, and even on reluctant women politicians. After all, it was back in the 1950s that these dangers first became apparent, through the pioneering work of a woman, Dr. Alice Stewart, who died 17 years ago, on June 23, 2002 at 95.

Stewart, a British doctor, medical researcher and epidemiologist, was the first person in the world to link x-rays given to pregnant women and the damage done to their children. She showed a cause between the mother’s x-rays and subsequent cancer in their children. Needless to say, as both a woman, and a physician, who demonstrated how even exposure to low levels of radiation causes negative health effects, Stewart faced hostility and discrimination. Her obituary in The Guardian recalled these struggles:

“Resisted briefly by the medical profession, this finding later led to dramatic changes of practice. But it was aggressively opposed by many physicists and radiobiologists, by the committees of the international commission for radiation protection (ICRP), and by the powerful nuclear lobbies, within and outside government, that ICRP appeared to serve. The Oxford findings implied that low-level radiation — being imposed on nuclear workers and the public by fallout and nuclear-waste disposal — could be far more serious in its effects than had been officially admitted.”

Today, pregnant women don’t get x-rays. So why do they live near nuclear power plants? Stewart’s research showed an unnaturally high rate of leukemia among children born to women who had had x-rays while pregnant. Decades later, more than 60 studies worldwide now show an increased rate of leukemia among children under five years old living close to nuclear power plants. The closer the children lived to the reactor, the higher the leukemia rates. MORE


No Nukes News, July 9, 2019

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