Radiation andPublic Health Project
Home About RPHP Projects Publications & Reports Journal Press Room
   
   


Spotlight

Executive Summary
ENVIRONMENTAL RADIATION FROM NUCLEAR REACTORS
AND INCREASING CHILDREN'S CANCER
IN SOUTHEASTERN FLORIDA
A SPECIAL REPORT ON THE FLORIDA BABY TOOTH STUDY
By
The Radiation and Public Health Project
Miami, Florida
March 28, 2001

RPHP Research Associates
Jay M. Gould, Ph.D., Director
Ernest J. Sternglass, Ph.D., Chief Scientist Jerry Brown, Ph.D.
Joseph Mangano, MPH, MBA
William McDonnell, MA
Marsha Marks, ACSW, LCSW
Janette Sherman, MD

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Operations at the four nuclear reactors in southeastern Florida (Turkey Point 3 and 4, and St. Lucie 1 and 2) have added considerable radioactivity to the local environment, raising concerns of whether local residents have been harmed. The Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) research group has investigated this issue, and has documented facts that suggest such harm is occurring. A number of these findings have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Radioactivity Emissions, Environmental Levels, In-body Levels
  • From 1970-87, Turkey Point and St. Lucie emitted 10.39 trillion picocuries of radioactivity into the air.
  • From 1985 to 1995, the level of radioactive chemicals in Miami precipitation remained constant, suggesting that a current source of emissions (nuclear power reactors) was supplementing and offsetting the decay of fallout from old atomic bomb tests.
  • Similarly, concentrations of radioactive Strontium-90 in 86 Dade County baby teeth tested by RPHP have been rising since the early 1980s. The current level is equal to that in the late 1950s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union conducted large-scale nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere.
  • Dade County and other southeastern Florida baby teeth have the highest levels of radioactive Strontium-90, a known carcinogen, than anywhere in the U.S. where baby teeth have been studied. In addition, the area also has a rate of childhood cancer that is considerably higher than the US average.
Health Effects
  • Since the 1950s, breast cancer mortality rose significantly in the counties near the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors (up 26% near Turkey Point, up 55% near St. Lucie, compared to a 1% US increase).
  • From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, cancer incidence in children under 10 rose 35.2% in five southeastern Florida counties, compared to a 10.8% rise in the US Children are especially sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of radioactivity.
  • .These five southeastern Florida counties are: Broward, Dade, Martin, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie.
  • In the same period, from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, an enormous 325.3% increase in childhood cancer took place in St. Lucie County, increasing the current rate in this area to more than double the national average.
  • In the 1990s, the cancer death rate in young adults age 15-34 in these five southeastern Florida counties has risen, in contrast to a decline in the US Increases were particularly large for breast cancer and bone and blood cancers, each especially sensitive to radioactivity.
  • In Dade County, childhood cancer rises after radioactivity levels in precipitation rise, and declines after levels drop. This is strong evidence that exposure to radioactivity is one cause of childhood cancer in southeastern Florida.
Opening and Closing Reactors
  • In 1983-84, when the Turkey Point reactors were mostly closed for repairs, infant deaths in Broward and Dade Counties fell 19.1%, compared to only 6.4% in the US The following two years, when Turkey Point returned to full power, the local infant death rate rose 1.2%.
  • In 1983-84, the first two years that the St. Lucie 2 reactor operated, infant deaths in St. Lucie County rose 35.3%.
  • These findings are consistent with the large declines in infant deaths near eight out of eight US reactors that closed since 1987.
Recommendations
  • The recent evidence suggesting that radioactive chemicals emitted from Turkey Point and St. Lucie are one cause of rising cancer rates in southeastern Florida is significant and merits more detailed study.
  • The Tooth Fairy Project will provide critical data on levels of in-body radioactivity, which will allow researchers to better understand the link between environmental radiation and cancer, especially in young persons. The Project is especially important in southeastern Florida, which has the highest levels of Sr-90 in baby teeth of any US area analyzed to date and above-average childhood cancer rates.
  • Information on the radiation-cancer link should be considered in federal policies regulating the operation of nuclear reactors, in southeastern Florida and across the US.
  • Information on the radiation-cancer link should be considered in the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's environmental review of utility applications to renew and extend the licenses of aging nuclear power plants in Florida and across the US.

< Back to Spotlight