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Ionising Radiation — The Genetic Killer

Published on June 9, 2016

Christopher Busby exposes the fallacy behind the current accepted model of exposure hazard adopted by governments and the nuclear industry since the ‘50s and which he will be challenging in a major legal case in London in June on behalf of nuclear test veterans. This is one of the rare times that I publish someone else’s work to the IMVA.

March saw the publication, in the influential scientific journal Environmental Health and Toxicology, of a landmark analysis of the effects of internal radioactive contamination on the genetic integrity of life.

My German colleagues and I used published data from Chernobyl effects in Europe to dismiss the radiation risk model that is currently employed by governments to limit discharges and exposures.1 This is the model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), which bases its analysis on a different scenario to the fallout from Chernobyl: the survivors of the Hiroshima bomb.

It is claimed that there were no cases of congenital malformation found in those who were there. So the ICRP uses data from mice to give a risk of a doubling of heritable effects after an exposure dose of 1,000 milliSieverts (mSv). To put this in perspective, natural background radiation’s annual dose is about 2mSv so ICRP says you need to have 500 times this dose to risk having a child with a birth defect.

However, our paper shows this is wildly incorrect: that the tiniest doses from ingested or inhaled radioactive materials released by accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, produced by the 1960s atmospheric bomb tests, and emitted routinely under licence from nuclear sites like Sellafield and Hinkley Point, kill and deform babies at doses of less than 1mSv.

The Government and the nuclear industry defend the ICRP position by referring to natural background radiation. But, though it is true that life has been exposed to natural background radiation, including radon, throughout evolution, there has never been on Earth, prior to 1945, the new Uranium fission and activation products like Strontium-90, Caesium-137, Tritium, Carbon-14, Plutonium-239 and their nasty ‘daughters’ and relations. These substances and the entirely new, airborne, radioactive, pure particles of uranium and radium only appeared about 70 years ago. Already we can see the terrible damage they have caused to the human genome.

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The fallout generation

The first evidence of harm was identified by the late Prof Ernest Sternglass.2 He pointed out that the period of the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons had caused increases in infant mortality in the USA and the UK. Fig 1 shows a graph of this effect re-plotted by me from a later paper in by a Canadian paediatrician, Robin Whyte.3 The figure also displays the increases in Strontium-90 in milk and in the bones of children aged 0-1 over the fallout period, as measured in autopsies by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency.

The sensitivity of the unborn child to radiation had been demonstrated by Alice Stewart at Birmingham University in 1958, but the authorities could not believe that the 10mSv X-ray doses to mothers could cause the 40% increases in childhood cancer that Stewart demonstrated.4 Nuclear weapons development was in full swing, fallout in the rain everywhere was causing increased measured levels of Strontium-90 in milk and children’s bones and teeth (see Fig 1).

The Cold War needed thermonuclear bombs: so research into the health effects of radiation was rapidly taken from the doctors and given to the nuclear physicists. The Japanese Hiroshima genetic data was manipulated.5 In 1959 an agreement was signed between the medics at the World Health Organisation and the physicists at the International Atomic Energy Agency, leaving all studies of radiation and health to the IAEA; thus the cover-up was sealed. This is why there has been no proper study of the health outcome of Chernobyl.

Fig 1. This graph shows first-day neonatal mortality rate per 1,000 births in the USA from 1936 to 1987. The black diamonds line shows the expected background fall in mortality rate based on the period either side of the atmospheric nuclear tests’ fallout. The red line shows the build-up of Strontium-90 in milk in the UK and the blue line, the build-up of Strontium-90 in bones of children in the UK aged 0-1. Mortality data from Robin Whyte’s paper.3 Note: different scales for milk and bone; Strontium-90 in milk (red: Bq/gCa++ x 10) and bone (blue: pCi/gm Ca++, sunshine units) from UK Atomic Energy Authority. 1pCi = 0.037Bq.

Radiation has its effects by causing mutations in the DNA, the material in the cell that carries all the information. If this is germ cell DNA (sperms and eggs), depending on the amount of damage, you get sterility, miscarriage, stillbirth or congenital effects, which can show as malformations at birth, or more silent malformations (eg. heart defects) or cancer later on.

If it is chromosomal DNA in a cell in the body then it can lead to cancer. The lag time between initial DNA damage and cancer is about 20 years. In my 1995 book, Wings of Death, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, I discussed all this and compared cancer rate trends in Wales with those in England.6 Because of the high rainfall, the cancer rates in Wales, which had been slightly higher than England, suddenly and alarmingly increased about 20 years after the fallout. The correlation was persuasive. Even the effect of the 1959 partial test ban was reflected in the cancer rate trend. The effect was particularly obvious for breast cancer, one of the sites most sensitive to radiation exposures, and I made such a suggestion in a letter published in the BMJ in 1994.7

Of course, the contamination of the planet did not stop with the 1963 Kennedy/Krushchev test ban. Where the testing stopped, the nuclear power contamination began, with releases under licence to the air and the sea. This was followed by the accidents, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, the most infamous of many others. The world has been increasingly bathed with radioactivity since 1945 in a femtosecond of evolutionary time and there seems no sign of governments stopping this unless it can be proved that the radiation risk model is wildly incorrect and is killing people. But we can, as you will see.

The cancer epidemic

Everyone now knows that the age-standardised cancer rates have been increasing alarmingly. Everyone has been touched by this epidemic. What is the cause? In the ‘50s, one in nine people developed cancer. In the 1990s it was one in five. In the last few years it is one in three and according to the WHO (who are not allowed to assess radiation) in 2020 it will be one in two.

None of the big cancer charities nor the Government health departments address the chief cause. Why? Because the main cause is ionising radiation. It is not smoking, nor lifestyle, nor obesity nor even the many chemicals now polluting the environment. The UK’s cancer epidemic began on the west coast in Wales and the west of Scotland with the rain and the fallout, not in the east, where the agrochemicals and insecticides are in greater concentration. This is the first thing I checked. As the late Dr John Gofman, of the US Atomic Energy Commission, wrote: ‘The nuclear industry is waging a war on humanity’.

The highest cancer rates are in those born at the peak of the fallout, from 1959 and 1963, now aged 52-56. The incidence of most cancers increases exponentially with age, but the ages when it is diagnosed are falling fast because everyone born after 1959 has been drinking contaminated milk, water and food as a baby, and building up Strontium-90 in their bones.

Strontium-90 (and uranium) binds chemically to DNA, the target for genetic damage. The effects are most easily seen in breast cancer and the proof that the breast cancer epidemic is caused by radioactive contamination can be seen in the studies of breast cancer near nuclear sites. We have carried out epidemiological studies of three nuclear sites in the UK: Bradwell in Essex, Trawsfynydd in Wales and Hinkley Point in Somerset. All three papers were published in a peer-reviewed journal.8-11 Two used official government mortality data to show there was a 100% excess risk of dying of breast cancer if you lived near the contamination; the other used a questionnaire organised by a TV company making a documentary.

Our new genetic paper, the subject of this article, reviewed all the evidence available from populations exposed to Chernobyl fallout. Increased congenital effects, heart defects, organ defects, limb defects, neurological effects like spina bifida and hydrocephalus, cleft palate, Downs syndrome and those appalling images that have been seen in Iraq after the use of depleted uranium weapons. All were found to increase immediately after the Chernobyl contamination.

Effects were reported from Belarus and Ukraine, but also from Croatia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Greece, Hungary, the UK, places where the doses from the fallout were less than 1mSv. We also reviewed effects found in radiographers, surgeons using radiation, uranium miners, uranium nuclear workers in France and the UK and, finally, the children of the nuclear test veterans. I draw attention to this latter group because of what I am involved with in the High Court in London in June.

The nuclear test veterans’ case

Since 2004 I have been working with the nuclear test veterans as an expert witness in their cases against the UK Ministry of Defence, in the High Court action (which was lost on appeal) but, most successfully, in the Pensions Appeals. This has been in and out of Tribunals all over the country. I was successful in five cases in reversing the decisions by the Secretary of State for Defence not to grant pensions in cases of cancer, lymphoma and leukemia in veterans of the atmospheric weapons tests in Australia and Christmas Island in the 1950s.

Then the veterans’ solicitors, Rosenblatts, suddenly and unexpectedly dropped the case, a new group of solicitors, Hogan Lovells, took over, and threw me out just before the case was heard in February, 2013. The veterans appealed successfully and the case was remitted for a new hearing, which will occur over three weeks in Court 25 of the Royal Courts of Justice starting on June 14th.

Meanwhile, a proportion of the vets have died (of cancer). In the appeal in 2014, the MoD brought a successful motion to have me dismissed as a witness because they argued that, as an activist, I could not be unbiased. At this point the veterans appointed me as their Representative, so I am still there and the position is more effective than being an expert witness because I can cross-examine the MoD’s experts, something I am looking forward to.

I have already argued successfully in two hearings before a new judge, Sir Nicholas Blake, that we want access to secret material held by the MoD that shows the amounts of radioactivity, particularly uranium, in the bomb fallout. Uranium was not measured at the time, or at least the MoD will not give us any data, but we now know, from the effects of depleted uranium in Iraq and the Balkans, and also a huge amount of new research, that uranium is thousands of times more dangerous than is modelled by ICRP.

One of the effects it has (in uranium miners, workers, battlefield victims and populations, and nuclear test veterans) is that it causes huge amounts of genetic damage, shown as chromosome damage and congenital malformations. And, like Strontium-90, uranium binds to DNA.

The new judge has figured out that this is an issue. He ordered the release of some secret data showing the levels of congenital malformations in children and grandchildren of the veterans. Among his reasons for doing this, he wrote:

Dr Busby, who now represents the appellants Battersby and Smith, raises a number of new points not previously determined. . . The international Radiation Protection Authority’s guidance on the safe maxima in insufficient to screen out all risks to human health arising from explosions of the kind undertaken at Maralinga and Christmas Island.

Biggest public health scandal ever

We can use the secret birth defect data together with the new genetic paper to show that the radiation risk model of the ICRP is in error by about 1,000 times or more. This mistake, which was made in 1952 and has been promulgated ever since through the power and influence of the nuclear industry and the military, is, in the main, responsible for the deaths and agonies of all the people that you yourselves know have developed cancer – from the little, bald children, to the beautiful women suffering the cutting, burning and worse that is now orthodox treatment, to your parents, your own children and, indeed, yourselves.

This exposure is at the base of the loss of fertility and the increased real rates of heritable diseases (in advanced countries detected and aborted). Winning this case will put this issue firmly in front of the legislators. Accepting this combined chess move, the peer-reviewed study and the court case, should, in any unbiased court, result in the shutting down of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, including the nuclear submarines that deliver them. It is a Big Deal. But the prize is continued life on Earth.


1. Busby C, Schmitz-Feuerhake I, Pflugbeil S. Genetic radiation risks – a neglected topic in the low dose debate. Envir HealthToxicol. 2016 Jan 20th; doi 10.5620/eht e2016001. See:

2. Sternglass EJ. Environmental Radiation and Human Health, in Proceedings of the Sixth Berkeley Symposium on Mathematical Statistics and Probability, ed. J Neyman, Berkeley, Calif, University Press, 1971.

3. Whyte RK. First Day Neonatal Mortality since 1935: A re-examination of the Cross hypothesis, BMJ, 1992;304:343-6.

4. Stewart AM, Webb J, Hewitt D. A survey of childhood malignancies, BMJ, 1958;1:1495.

5. De Bellefeuille P. Genetic hazards of radiation to man. Part I. Acta Radiologica, 1961;56:65-80.

6. Busby CC. Wings of Death: Nuclear Pollution and Human Health. Green Audit, Aberystwyth, 1995.

7. Busby C. Increase in cancer in Wales unexplained, BMJ, 1994;308:268.

8. Busby C, de Messieres M, Saoirse M. Infant and perinatal mortality and stillbirths near Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, 1993-2005; an epidemiological investigation of causation. JJ Epidemiol Prevent Med. 2015;1(2);10-13.

9. Busby C. Editorial: Epidemiology and the effects of radioactive contamination: time for a new approach. ibid. 2015;1(1):1-2.

10. Busby C. Breast Cancer Mortality in Estuary Wards near Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, Essex, UK 2001-1995. ibid. 2015;1(1):1-6.

11. Busby C, de Messieres M. Cancer near Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Wales, UK: A cross sectional cohort study. ibid. 2015;1(1):1-8.

Professor Christopher Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. He is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. His various honorary university positions include Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health at the University of Ulster. He currently lives in Devon in the UK. See also: ; and .

Reprinted with permission from Caduceus magazine, issue 93, Spring 2016; .

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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