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Carbon-14 "bomb effect" - The Baby boom - Cancer risks and you

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No that Carbon-14 won't hurt you, no, it's not giving you lung or bone cancer... Just keep saying that.
Lucky for kids today, they aren't sucking as much of that stuff as we did.....



What is the Bomb Effect?
The bomb effect refers to the phenomenon that produced “artificial” radiocarbon in the atmosphere due to nuclear bombs.

Nuclear weapons testing brought about a reaction that simulated atmospheric production of carbon 14 in unnatural quantities. The huge thermal neutron flux produced by nuclear bombs reacted with nitrogen atoms present in the atmosphere to form carbon 14. The carbon 14 produced is what is known as bomb carbon or artificial radiocarbon.

According to literature, nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s have nearly doubled the atmospheric carbon 14 content as measured in around 1965. The level of bomb carbon was about 100% above normal levels between 1963 and 1965. The level of bomb carbon in the northern hemisphere reached a peak in 1963, and in the southern hemisphere around 1965.

Long-term Effects to Radiocarbon Levels
Even after nuclear weapon testing was banned, the bomb effect still remains. According to literature, the excess carbon 14 produced during nuclear weapons testing has already decreased due in part to the global carbon exchange cycle. By 1990s, the carbon 14 level is only about 20% higher than the theoretical 1950 level as measured by the activity of the oxalic acid reference standard.


August 1958 - High-altitude nuclear explosions - Johnston Island, 717 miles W.S.W. of Honolulu - HARDTACK I--Teak --  3.8 Mt, Alt 76 Km

August 1958 - High-altitude nuclear explosions - Johnston Island, 717 miles W.S.W. of Honolulu - HARDTACK I--Orange -- 3.8 Mt, Alt 43 Km

July 1962 - High-altitude nuclear explosions - Johnston Island, 717 miles W.S.W. of Honolulu - DOMINIC I/FISHBOWL--Starfish Prime 1.4 Mt, Alt 400 Km

1968-1980 - Virus Cancer Program - National Institutes of Health attempts to prove that viruses caused human cancer  - Gallo - Human Genome Project

1969 - Nixon ends BioWarfare development with Geneva Accord

1971 - Nixon begins "War on Cancer"
10/00 1971 - Army's Fort Detrick, Maryland, biological warfare facility was converted to a cancer research center

1998 - Pakistan

The government says there is no danger....

Carbon-14 is eliminated from the body with a biological half-life of 40 days.

What Is the Primary Health Effect? Carbon-14 poses a health hazard only if it is taken into the body,
because it decays by emitting a weak beta particle with no gamma radiation. The beta particle emitted by
carbon-14 has low energy and cannot penetrate deeply into tissue or travel far in air. Carbon-14
behaves the same as ordinary carbon, both in the environment and in the human body. Hence, a
significant fraction of the carbon-14 taken in by either ingestion or inhalation is absorbed into the
bloodstream, where it is transferred to all organs of the body. The health hazard of carbon-14 is
associated with cell damage caused by the ionizing radiation that results from radioactive decay, with
the potential for subsequent cancer induction.

What Is the Risk? Lifetime cancer mortality risk coefficients have been calculated for nearly all
radionuclides, including carbon-14 (see box at right). Additional values are also available,
including for inhalation of carbon-14 as a gaseous oxide, i.e., as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
As for other radionuclides, the risk coefficient for tap water is about 80% of that for dietary ingestion.

Risks are for lifetime cancer mortality per unit intake (pCi), averaged over all ages and both genders (10-12 is a trillionth). Carbon-14 6.5 × 10-12 1.4 × 10-12

Does the way a person is exposed to beta particles matter?
Yes. Direct exposure to beta particles is a hazard, because emissions from strong sources can redden or even burn the skin. However, emissions from inhaled or ingested beta particle emitters are the greatest concern. Beta particles released directly to living tissue can cause damage at the molecular level, which can disrupt cell function. Because they are much smaller and have less charge than alpha particles, beta particles generally travel further into tissues. As a result, the cellular damage is more dispersed.

Health Effects of Beta particles
How can beta particles affect people's health?
Chronic effects result from fairly low-level exposures over a along period of time. They develop relatively slowly (5 to 30 years for example). The main chronic health effect from radiation is cancer. When taken internally beta emitters can cause tissue damage and increase the risk of cancer. The risk of cancer increases with increasing dose.

Some beta-emitters, such as carbon-14, distribute widely throughout the body. Others accumulate in specific organs and cause chronic exposures:

Iodine-131 concentrates heavily in the thyroid gland. It increases the risk of thyroid cancer and other disorders.
Strontium-90 accumulates in bone and teeth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Atomic Bombs Yield Cardiology Data

A collaboration between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Karolinska Institute, Université Claude Bernard Lyon, Lund University and Lund University Hospital, analyzed heart biopsies for Carbon-14 content of people born before, during and after the period of above ground testing of nuclear weapons.
“By analyzing individuals born at different times before 1955, it is possible to establish the age up to which DNA synthesis occurs, or whether it continues beyond that age,” Buchholz said

In the study, carbon 14 concentrations were elevated in subjects compared to those people born up to 22 years before the beginning of nuclear bomb tests.

The team determined the ages of heart cells by determining the time at which the sample's carbon 14 concentration corresponded to the atmospheric concentration. Buchholz [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist] found that people born around or after the nuclear bomb tests corresponded to atmospheric concentrations several years after the subjects' birth, indicating substantial postnatal DNA syntheses.

“DNA of myocardial cells is synthesized many years after birth, indicating that cells in the human heart do, in fact, renew into adulthood,” Buchholz said. “At the age of 50, 55 percent of the heart's cells remain from the time around birth and 45 percent have been generated later.”

At one time, strontium-90 was the major man-made beta emitter in the environment. Fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing from the 1950's to the early 1970's spread strontium-90 worldwide. However, most of the strontium-90 from these tests has now decayed away.

Testing also released large amounts of cesium-137 into the environment. Although, cesium-137 emits beta radiation, its gamma radiation is of greater concern. Some cesium-137 from fallout remains in the environment, but most of it has decayed as well.

Nuclear Radiation Effects: Beta Radiation Health Risks

If the particle ends up on the skin and stays there for a prolonged time,skin damage can occur. If the particle comes in contact with DNA within the cell, it can cause mutations. The mutation can end up being cancer.

Our young children and especially the unborn are at greatest risk for mutations due to their bodies natural rapid cell division going on in their bodies.

Young children and especially unborn babies are more vulnerable to these mutations due to the rapid rate of cell division going on in their bodies. The mutated celldivides continuously, making the damage in their case exponential. The same exposure would result in far less damage in an adult.

Just like alpha particles, beta particles can also cause serious damage to your health if they are inhaled or swallowed. For example, some materials that emit beta particles might be absorbed into your bones and cause damage if ingested.

Teacher Notes:
Questions to consider for class discussion:

1)    Beta particles are identical to what subatomic particle?
   Beta particles are identical to electrons.  

2)    What subatomic particles make up a beta (minus) particle?   
   Beta (minus) particles are made up of an electron and an antineutrino.

3)    What subatomic particles make up a beta+ particle?
             Beta+ particles are made up of a positron and a neutrino.

4)    Is there a health risk associated with beta particles?
Yes – if beta particles enter the body, the health risks can be quite severe ranging from cell damage to cancer but the risks are much lower than that of alpha particles. Even though beta particles can penetrate deeper into the body their ionizing energy is lower.


The above-ground nuclear tests that occurred in several countries between 1955 and 1963 dramatically increased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and subsequently in the biosphere; after the tests ended the atmospheric concentration of the isotope began to decrease.

One side effect of the change in atmospheric carbon-14 is that this enables the determination of the birth year of an individual: the amount of carbon-14 in tooth enamel   is measured with accelerator mass spectrometry  and compared to records of past atmospheric carbon-14 concentrations. Since teeth are formed at a specific age and do not exchange carbon thereafter, this method allows age to be determined to within 1.6 years. This method only works for individuals born after 1943, and it must be known whether the individual was born in the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere .

An alternative dating method relies on the lens of the eye; transparent proteins called "lens crystallines" produced during the first year of life are unchanged afterward, so measuring carbon-14 concentrations there can provide a record of the time of birth. The primary restrictions on the technology are that the person has to have been born after 1950, the lens must be removed while the subject is alive or within three days after death before it decays too much, and the individual cannot have subsisted primarily on seafood.


Hmmm,then wouldnt that have a result and infact change the results of radiocarbon dating?  :D


--- Quote from: Dok on February 26, 2010, 03:45:49 PM ---Hmmm,then wouldnt that have a result and infact change the results of radiocarbon dating?  :D
--- End quote ---


Implications of the Bomb Effect on Radiocarbon Dating
The change in global radiocarbon levels brought about by human activities necessitated the use of a reference standard for carbon 14 dating. Radiocarbon dating needed an organic material that was not contaminated with carbon 14 from fossil fuel burning or nuclear weapons testing.

Oxalic acid stocked by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards had been adopted as standard for radiocarbon dating. Its radiocarbon content was theoretically the same as a wood sample grown in AD 1950. The year AD 1950 is the zero point of the radiocarbon timescale used in quoting radiocarbon dating results.

Cold War Remnant: Cancer for Baby Boomers
Posted: 10/21/09

Even with a half-century's hindsight, the U.S. government's willingness to risk the health of the nation's children seems somewhere between unfathomable and unconscionable.

Between 1951 and 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission detonated more than 100 nuclear bombs in the atmosphere over its Nevada Test Site, just 65 miles from Las Vegas. The radioactive fallout menaced not only the ranchers and the miners unlucky enough to live in that remote area of southern Nevada, but -- as a new study unveiled Tuesday demonstrated -- untold millions of unsuspecting Americans as well.

The winds carried Strontium-90, Iodine-129 and other lethal particles across a broad swath of the country. Infants who were bottle-fed, which was then considered the modern approach, were particularly vulnerable to the Strontium-90 that ended up in cows' milk.

In 1961, as John Kennedy was poised to resume atmospheric testing after a two-year moratorium, he met with White House science adviser Jerome Wiesner in the Oval Office one rainy day. The president wondered how fallout reached the earth. Wiesner explained that it was washed out of the clouds by rain. "You mean," Kennedy asked, "it's in the rain out there?" As Wiesner tells it, the president then "looked out the window, looked very sad and didn't say a word for several minutes." Nonetheless JFK, fearful that the Soviet Union might score a nuclear breakthrough, authorized a new round of above-ground testing before negotiating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963.

With Nov. 9, 2009 marking the 20th anniversary of the breaching of the Berlin Wall, Cold War retrospectives are again in season. But the grim legacy of nuclear testing is apt to be lost amid the memories of Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, the Berlin airlift, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan's famed exhortation at the Brandenburg Gate. The mushroom clouds over the Nevada desert seem so long ago, so devoid of any real-world consequences.

But a study released Tuesday documents the enhanced cancer risk that Baby Boomers face because of these long-ago atmospheric tests. Epidemiologist Joseph Mangano analyzed the lingering radiation in infant teeth (donated long ago by the parents of baby boys born in the St. Louis area between 1959 and 1961) and compared the results to contemporary cancer data from the subjects. "What we found out was shocking," Mangano said. "Persons who had died of cancer had more than double the Strontium-90 in their (baby) teeth than did healthy persons." The original variance in Strontium-90 levels among individuals, he explained, was caused by seemingly small factors such as how much milk expectant mothers drank, diet and the source of the municipal water supply.

So where did these teeth come from? In the late 1950s, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis collected teeth from about 300,000 children and chemically analyzed them to demonstrate the prevalence of nuclear fallout. Even though it contributed to public support for the Test Ban Treaty, the Washington University study had been all but forgotten. But in 2001 a biology professor at the university discovered 85,000 left-over teeth in tiny manila envelopes that had never been used in this Cold War research.

The 53-year-old Mangano, the executive director of the small anti-nuclear Radiation and Public Health Project, saw the potential to use these teeth to conduct a longitudinal study measuring the life-long effects from atmospheric testing. For reasons of simplicity and consistency, he initially limited himself to boys born during a two-year moratorium in testing (so only lingering fallout was measured) who had not been breast-fed. "This is the pay dirt right here," he said excitedly Tuesday. "All the 50 years of collecting teeth, discussing bombs tests and all, this is the payoff. The difference is statistically significant." Mangano's paper, which is slated to posted Wednesday on his organization's Web site, has been submitted to an academic journal where it will be subjected to peer review.

Accompanied by model and anti-nuclear activist Christie Brinkley, Mangano had planned to unveil his study at a Washington press conference in the Rayburn House Office Building. There was only one small public relations problem: I was the only reporter who showed up. So in between discussing cancer and Strontium-90, I found myself in the midst of a where-did-we-go-wrong therapy session featuring an earnest epidemiologist and an articulate and committed spokesmodel, whose bitter divorce has been tabloid fodder for weeks. "We'll have to do something celebrity heavy in Manhattan," Brinkley declared. "That's the only way to get media these days."

Mangano and Brinkley view this research as a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear power. What fascinates me, however, is that 50 years ago, the angry scientists and the ban-the-bomb protesters were right – nuclear testing was dangerous for children and other living things. "Maybe at the beginning of bomb testing, people weren't sure how much this would spread across the globe," Mangano said. "But by the mid-1950s, after dozens of bombs had been tested, they noticed the radiation levels going up and up in the milk and the water. They knew that this was trouble."

American history is littered with examples of the government and powerful corporations callously jeopardizing the health and even the lives of the poor, the downtrodden and racial and ethnic minorities. But nuclear testing illustrates a much different lesson: we all share the same Earth. The rain that carried the radiation fell on the progeny of politicians and generals as well as the children of farm laborers and ditch-diggers. There was as much Strontium-90 in the milk fed to infants in wealthy suburbs as in the milk on sale in bodegas across the street from housing projects.

At the height of the late 1950s battle over atmospheric testing, super-hawk physicist Edward Teller scoffed at complaints that nuclear fallout was a danger worth contemplating. As Teller wrote, "The living organism is so complicated and the intertwining of cause and effect is so intricate that we may never know the biological effect of so small a cause as worldwide radiation." Radiation was never a "small" factor. And if Mangano's new study survives academic scrutiny, we may finally begin to understand the biological effects of those mushroom clouds over the Nevada desert.


Joseph Mangano’s book Radioactive Baby Teeth: The Cancer Link describes past and current studies measuring amounts of Strontium-90 in baby teeth, and how this radioactive chemical raises the risk of childhood cancer.

The book reads like a mystery, beginning with the discovery of an old ammunition bunker where thousands of baby teeth from the 1950s are stored. It is an easy-to-read account of one of the most crucial science and health issues of the 20th century.



Joseph J. Mangano MPH MBA
Executive Director
Radiation and Public Health Project

October 20, 2009



Over 400 atomic bombs were exploded in the atmosphere in the period 1945-1963. Most were tested by the United States and the Soviet Union, before large-scale testing ended with the Partial Test Ban Treaty signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Although U.S. bomb tests took place in the Nevada desert and the Pacific, radioactive fallout spread across the U.S. Scientific studies documented the steady rise in the environment (food and water) and in bodies (bones and baby teeth) until testing ended. Even though large-scale testing ceased nearly 50 years ago, few studies have estimated cancer risk to Americans from exposure to fallout.

Several years ago, officials at Washington University in St. Louis discovered 85,000 baby teeth in storage. These teeth, not used in a 1960s study of radioactive Strontium-90 (Sr-90) in bomb fallout, were in envelopes attached to cards identifying the tooth and the donor. The University donated the teeth to the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP), a research group conducting a study of Sr-90 in teeth near nuclear reactors.

RPHP selected the case-control method to assess cancer risk using a sample of the 85,000 teeth. The study compared male tooth donors, born January 1959 to June 1961 in the St. Louis area, with and without cancer by age 50. Through a health survey and a search of Missouri death records, RPHP identified 97 teeth of persons with cancer (“cases”), and selected 194 teeth of healthy donors the same age (“controls”). Of the 97 “cases,” 20 were from persons who died of cancer by their late 40s.

The level of Sr-90 was determined by the radiochemistry lab at the University of Waterloo, Canada. (Sr-90 decays slowly – half life 28.7 years – so about one-third of the original Sr-90 from fallout still remains in teeth). Results of the study were as follows:

The average Sr-90 level in teeth of persons who died of cancer was 122% greater – more than double – than in teeth of healthy controls, a significant difference

Average Sr-90 concentration in teeth of cancer survivors was not significantly elevated

In 2002, the U.S. government estimated that 15,000 Americans will die of cancer from fallout.

This projection is much lower than a 2003 European Committee on Radiation Risk estimate of 61,600,000 cancer deaths worldwide.

 As about 20 million of the 79 million Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s are expected to die of cancer in their lifetime, tooth study results suggest the number of 15,000 cancer deaths from fallout is low, and that the true number may be hundreds of thousands, or even millions.

The findings suggest that further studies be conducted, especially on female tooth donors, who suffer from certain radiosensitive cancers (thyroid, breast) at rates much higher than males. Results should be used in evaluating current and future policies that involve exposure to radioactive chemicals, such as those released by nuclear reactors, and provide a rationale for enacting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


In 1958, Dr. Herman Kalckar of the National Institutes of Health wrote an article in the journal Nature, proposing that scientists around the world begin measuring concentrations of Sr-90 in baby teeth. The idea was quickly adopted by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis, who joined with a citizens group called the Committee for Nuclear Information. For the next 12 years, with the help of federal grants, this scientist-citizen partnership collected approximately 320,000 baby teeth, and tested them for Sr-90. As testing went on, average Sr-90 levels increased rapidly; St. Louis children born in 1964 had about 50 times more Sr-90 in their baby teeth than those born in 1950, before the start of testing in Nevada.

Although government officials offered repeated assurances that doses from fallout were too small to be harmful, many Americans feared that bomb testing was harming health. In particular, effects of radiation exposure to the fetus, infant, and child were known to be much more severe than to adults. The young have undeveloped immune systems, making them less able to fight off invading toxins. In addition, cells in the fast-growing fetus and infant divide much more rapidly than those in adults. If a fetal or infant cell harmed by fallout becomes cancerous, it will multiply at a much greater rate than a cancerous cell in an adult.


In 2003, the European Committee on Radiation Risk (formed by a panel of the European Parliament) issued a report stating that risk had been highly understated. Their estimates of 123,200,000 cancer cases (half of them fatal), 1,600,000 infant deaths, and 1,900,000 fetal deaths from fallout far exceeded any prior projections.


Linus Carl Pauling biography
Although his scientific achievements were known world-wide, his outspoken nature made the anti-Communists viewed him with suspicion. The forced internment of Japanese-Americans was vigorously opposed by Pauling, who spoke about the dangers of atomic weapons and radiation. Although the Atomic Energy Commission claimed that there was no danger from radiation,

 Pauling used simple, layman terms, and facts and figures provided by the AEC themselves, to show that the levels of radiation caused by the scheduled weapons tests would cause children to be born with physical and mental defects, miscarriages, still births and increases in cancer.

He joined the Scientist's Movement, which was a nation-wide group of scientists, who wished to have adequate controls to ensure the safe use of nuclear power. Ava Helen, meanwhile, joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and was an ardent proponent of world peace, human rights and the world wide banning of nuclear testing.

In 1958, his book "No More War!" was published, in which he makes a strong plea for world peace and points out the dangers of a nuclear war.

When President Kennedy decided to resume atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, Pauling sent him a strongly worded telegram protesting his action. Pauling continued in his peace efforts and prepared a draft resolution for a test ban treaty, copies of which he presented to President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev.

Fortunately he was now being noticed and the superpowers agreed to a limited test ban treaty, very much similar to that proposed by Linus Pauling, which came into effect on 10th October 1963, the very day he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an award which was strongly criticised by several people in the United States.

Newspapers and magazines across the country carried articles and editorials which rejected all his work related to world peace, with Life magazine terming the award of the Nobel Peace Prize as a "Weird Insult from Norway".


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