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

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.

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.

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.

 

Dental Amalgams and Chronic Disease

Working with a team of American researchers, we published in 2014 a review about the association between dental amalgams and chronic disease (1). The following is a summary:

“The purpose of this review is to examine the evidence for a relationship between mercury (Hg) exposure from dental amalgams and certain idiopathic chronic illnesses–chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), depression, anxiety, and suicide. Dental amalgam is a commonly used dental restorative material that contains approximately 50% elemental mercury (Hg0) by weight and releases Hg0 vapor. Studies have shown that chronic Hg exposure from various sources including dental amalgams is associated with numerous health complaints, including fatigue, anxiety, and depression–and these are among the main symptoms that are associated with CFS and FM. In addition, several studies have shown that the removal of amalgams is associated with improvement in these symptoms. Although the issue of amalgam safety is still under debate, the preponderance of evidence suggests that Hg exposure from dental amalgams may cause or contribute to many chronic conditions. Thus, consideration of Hg toxicity may be central to the effective clinical investigation of many chronic illnesses, particularly those involving fatigue and depression.”

– Geir Bjørklund

Reference

1. Kern JK, Geier DA, Bjørklund G, King PG, Homme KG, Haley BE, Sykes LK, Geier MR. Evidence supporting a link between dental amalgams and chronic illness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and suicide. Neuro Endocrinol Lett 2014; 35: 537-552.

New Environmental Initiative in Semey, Kazakhstan: The Former Testing Site for the Soviet Union’s Nuclear Weapons

Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM) has groups in different parts of the world. One of these is CONEM Kazakhstan Environmental Health and Safety Research Group. In June 2017, this group was established at the Semey State Medical University to promote environmental studies. Until 2007 Semey was known as Semipalatinsk. The Semipalatinsk Test Site was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan, south of the valley of the Irtysh River. The head of the CONEM group in Kazakhstan is associate professor Lyudmila Pivina, MD, PhD.

Petition for the Release of Publicly Funded Research Data in the US on Mercury and Infants

Kaiser Permanente in the US used public funding to collect data and conduct a study on infants and mercury exposure. In their study, which had serious methodological flaws, they purportedly found that mercury exposure is safe for infants.

Mercury Free Baby has requested the data from Kaiser Permanente, but even after repeated requests and even though taxpayer dollars funded the study, they refuse to release the data for other researchers to check the results.

Infants are exposed to mercury from several sources, such as their mother’s mercury fillings, flu shots containing mercury, ingesting mercury-containing fish, and from inhaling coal power plant emissions. Approximately 630,000 infants are born every year in the US with high levels of mercury in their blood. Numerous studies show that mercury has detrimental effects on child development.

Kaiser Permanente has a conflict of interest on this matter because they promote a policy that exposes pregnant women to mercury through flu shots given during pregnancy and so they have a vested interest in finding mercury exposure in infants to be safe. The Kaiser Permanente study which purports that mercury exposure is safe for infants has the potential to influence public policy, and that would be bad for our children.

Please sign the petition requesting that Kaiser Permanente releases this data to the researchers.

This petition will be delivered to:
Tracy A. Lieu, MD, MPH, Director, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA, USA

Increased Frequency of Metal Allergy in Patients with Connective Tissue Disorders

Stejskal, Reynolds, and Bjørklund examined the frequency of metal allergy in 38 patients with connective tissue disorders (1). Of these patients, 16 had rheumatoid arthritis, 13 had Sjögren’s syndrome, and nine had systemic lupus erythematosus. A control group of 43 healthy age and sex-matched subjects were included in the study. Metal allergy was evaluated using the optimized lymphocyte transformation test MELISA. For all subjects, the primary source of metal exposure was dental metal restorations. Most of the tested patients (87%) reacted to at least one metal, and many (63%) reacted to two or more of the tested metals. 43% of the healthy subjects in the study reacted to one metal, and 18% reacted to two or more metals. The increased frequency of metal allergy in the patient group compared with the control group was statistically significant (P < 0.0001). The most frequent allergens in the study were nickel, mercury, gold, and palladium.

Vera Stejskal is Associate Professor of Immunology at University of Stockholm, Sweden. She is founder and president of the MELISA Medica Foundation. Tim Reynolds is Professor of Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Wolverhampton, and a consultant chemical pathologist working at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Burton upon Trent, United Kingdom. Geir Bjørklund is founder and president of the Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM).

Reference
1. Stejskal V, Reynolds T, Bjørklund G. Increased frequency of delayed type hypersensitivity to metals in patients with connective tissue disease. J Trace Elem Med Biol 2015; 31: 230-236.