Semey Revisited: The legacy of nuclear testing in Kazakhstan

Nearly 30 years after the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in the steppes of eastern Kazakhstan, local people are still suffering the consequences of four decades of exposure to radiation. FRANCE 24’s reporters Sophie Guignon and Miyuki Droz Aramaki went to meet them (October 2018).

Environmental Radiation Exposure and Essential Hypertension in Semey, Kazakhstan

The Semipalatinsk Test Site (marked in red) was the main site for the nuclear testing of the former Soviet Union. It is situated in northeast Kazakhstan, approx. 150 kilometers west of the city Semey (until 2007 named Semipalatinsk)

In November 2018, a study in collaboration with CONEM Kazakhstan Environmental Health and Safety Research Group was published in the journal Environmental Research (1). The study examined the association between environmental radiation exposure and essential hypertension in a series of investigated geographical districts adjacent to the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. The sample consisted of 2000 volunteers who participated in screening examinations in three administrative districts close to the nuclear test site. The research was a part of the government programs in Kazakhstan on environmental health hazard (1).

In April 2019, this study was quoted in a news article by the US science journalist Wudan Yan in the prestigious journal Nature (2): “Lyudmila Pivina at Semey State Medical University and her colleagues found that long-term, low-dose radiation can lead to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. They looked at health outcomes in approximately 1,800 people, including second- and third-generation Polygon survivors. When they focused on individuals whose parents lived in areas that were exposed to radiation from 1949 to 1989, they found that the risks of hypertension went up in correlation with the amount of radiation someone’s parents received — a discovery that they found surprising”.

 

References

1. Markabayeva A, Bauer S, Pivina L, Bjørklund G, Chirumbolo S, Kerimkulova A, Semenova Y, Belikhina T. Increased prevalence of essential hypertension in areas previously exposed to fallout due to nuclear weapons testing at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakhstan. Environ Res 2018;167:129-135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.07.016

2. Yan W. In the shadow of nuclear sins. Nature 2019: 568(4 April):22-24. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01034-8

A Brief History of Fat, and Why We Hate It

Fat is a complex organ, as essential to human life as the heart or liver. Why do we hate it?

There is perhaps no part of the human body more maligned than fat. It’s considered ugly, unnecessary, and unhealthy. But fat is a complex organ, as essential to human life as a heart or liver. This short documentary challenges us to rethink fat by explaining why we have it, how it works, and how it may make us sick. It turns out cutting-edge science is uncovering the wonders of fat, and it’s time the rest of us gave it a second look.

An Introduction to Occupational and Environmental Medicine

This video is written and produced by Dr. Jon O’Neal, MD, MPH, FACOEM, and was released in 2016 at the annual conference of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The video gives a good overview and historical background of the discipline. It also includes a brief history and overview of workers compensation, as well as the occupational physician’s unique triangular relationship with worker and employer. In addition, the video presents information about common work exposures and routes of exposure, and the role of the occupational physician. This includes the prevention component of occupational medicine; treating injured workers; disability management; and various testing and monitoring roles, such as conducting preplacement exams; serving as medical review officers (MRO) in drug screening programs; conducting surveillance exams to measure ongoing effects of work exposures; monitoring fitness for safety-sensitive workers such as pilots.

Zinc Saves Kids

450,000 children are at risk of dying every year due to the impact of zinc deficiency on diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. A few extra milligrams of zinc every day can make a huge difference. Zinc-containing supplements are a quick and easy, effective and inexpensive remedy.

Video from IZA – International Zinc Association (2011). CONEM is an associate member of IZA.

 

Pneumonia Wonder Drug: Zinc Saves Lives

Respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, are the most common cause of death in children under the age of five. In a study looking at children given standard antibiotic therapy, new research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine shows how zinc supplements drastically improved children’s chances of surviving the infection. The increase in survival due to zinc (on top of antibiotics) was even greater for HIV infected children.

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 350 children, aged from six months to five years old, were treated with standard antibiotic therapy at Mulago Hospital. Half the children were given zinc and the other half a placebo.

The researchers from Makerere University found that while there was no difference between zinc and placebo in the time it took to recover from the infection (measured by time it took to return to a normal temperature, reparatory rate, and oxygen saturation) the risk of death between the groups was very different. 4% of the children taking zinc died compared to 12% of the children without zinc. This means that an extra eight out of 100 children could have been saved by taking zinc. Among the HIV infected children, this rose to 26 out of every 100.

Prof James Tumwine explained, “Zinc is known to bolster the immune system and zinc deficiency is rife all over the developed and developing, world. In Uganda, where this study was performed, zinc deficiency in some areas can be as high as 70%. We would only need to give 13 of these children with pneumonia zinc on top of their antibiotics to save one life. This equates to about 4 USD – a small price to pay.”

 

Reference

Srinivasan MG, Ndeezi G, Mboijana CK, Kiguli S, Bimenya GS, Nankabirwa V, Tumwine JK. Zinc adjunct therapy reduces case fatality in severe childhood pneumonia: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled trial. BMC Med 2012; 10: 14.

 

The Heresy Of Linus Pauling: Vitamin C

The heresy of Linus Pauling (1901 — 1994) was that he claimed a range of diseases could be cured by taking large amounts of vitamin C. He was condemned until a few years ago when other scientists began to have second thoughts.

Heretic: Linus Pauling

The last to be made about double Nobel Laureate Dr Linus Pauling, this film was shot about a year before he died in 1994. It chronicles how the world of science, having accoladed him for his breakthrough discoveries about the fundamental chemistry of molecules, later derided him for his experiments on – and championing of – the health benefits of high doses of Vitamin C.

BBC Heretic Series. Ep. 2: Linus Pauling, Vitamin C. 1994.

 

Professional Perspectives on Water Fluoridation

Learn why over 2,000 scientific, medical and environmental professionals are calling for an end to fluoridation worldwide. This video is produced by Fluoride Action Network in 2009

“One of the recommendations I’ve made is, because we now know that fluoride doesn’t need to be swallowed, that the public has to be informed. They should be told that it doesn’t work by swallowing it.”
-Dr. Hardy Limeback- National Research Council Panelist

“As far as I can see, there’s no doubt that the intake of fluoridated water is going to interrupt basic functions of nerve cells in the brain, and this is certainly not going to be to the benefit of anybody.”
-Dr. Robert Isaacson- National Research Council Panelist

“Fluoridation is against all modern principles of pharmacology. It’s obsolete. I don’t think anybody, not a single dentist, would bring up this queston in Sweden anymore.”
-Dr. Arvid Carlsson- Nobel Laurete in Medicine (2000)

Special Features:
Dr. Bill Osmunson on Water Fluoridation (5 min)
Dr. Vyvyan Howard on Fluoride & the brain (4 min)
Fluoride warning for kidney patients (3 min)
An Environmentalist speaks out on Fluoridation (6 min)

In Small Doses: Arsenic

This is a short movie, made by Dartmouth College in 2009, about the risks associated with exposure to potentially harmful amounts of arsenic in private well water, particularly in New Hampshire and New England.

Nutritional Epigenetics

This little video beautifully explains the concept of nutritional epigenetics. Working with international researchers, we published in 2013 a review on this topic:

Jalili M, Pati S, Rath B, Bjørklund G, Singh RB. Effect of Diet and Nutrients on Molecular Mechanism of Gene Expression Mediated by Nuclear Receptor and Epigenetic Modulation. Open Nutra J 2013;6:27-34.

The Interwoven Global Epidemics of Mercury Toxicity and Autism

In October 2017, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an article on the website of the World Mercury Project about one of CONEM’s studies (1). Kennedy is the son of former New York senator and U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. He is an attorney, environmental activist and syndicated talk radio host. 

The Interwoven Global Epidemics of Mercury Toxicity and Autism

Metals wreak havoc on living systems, including humans, animals and plants alike. RFK, Jr. discusses a new review article in Environmental Research and pulls together a wide body of literature with the aim of summing up current research and emerging trends about the global epidemics of toxicity and autism.

Reference

1. Bjørklund G, Dadar M, Mutter J, Aaseth J. The toxicology of mercury: Current research and emerging trends. Environ Res 2017; 159: 545-554.