When Helen Caldicott Came to Town

Helen Caldicott, a former pediatrician turned anti-nuclear advocate, spoke in Taipei on July 7, 2013.
By Trista di Genova /The Wild East

Helen Caldicott, the world-famous pediatrician who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for her work founding Physicians for Social Responsibility, lectured in Taipei July 9th, speaking on the dangers of nuclear power plants. The event was under-advertised and poorly attended, and for the most part her landmark visit was ignored by local media. So to combat the media blackout on a critical public health issue, I decided to type up my own notes on this extremely important speech.

Dr. Caldicott began by saying the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor – which occurred after an earthquake and then tsunami demolished central Japan March 11, 2011 – is now considered “the worst industrial accident in history.” The Japanese government did not inform the population for two months of the event — a tragedy as immediately afterwards the uninformed, panicked population attempted to escape the area by passing through the most dangerous part of the radioactive plume.

Scientists estimate it will take 50 years just to contain the accident, she said. As it was, the plume crossed the Pacific and was found to have contaminated US food supply.

Caldicott made the connection between this disaster and an imminent one in northern Taiwan – Taiwan’s reactors are built on earthquake faults and prone also to typhoons and other natural disasters.

“There are 9 million people here within the space of 40 square kilometers,” Caldicott said. In the event of a nuclear disaster, “they will never be able to escape and will be doomed.”

‘”What happens to tomatoes, firebugs, and birds happens to us.”
Nuclear reactors #2 and #3 are poorly constructed and if either or both, or if Number 4 (reactor) collapse, the reactor fuel will burn, and the land will remain radioactive for hundreds of years, she says.

The air mass in the Northern hemisphere does not mix and dilute itself with the Southern mass, so in a nuclear disaster she said personally, she’d move her family in Boston to her home country of Australia.

A nuclear disaster such as the one in Fukushima is not only the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs, but 200 new highly radioactive elements are produced, Caldicott explained. Tokyo was also contaminated, and there will be ‘epidemics of cancer forever more’ post-Fukushima, she predicted, much like Chernobyl, which ultimately killed millions in the reactor meltdown that took place in 1986. At the time Chernobyl was considered the worst calamity of its kind, a catastrophe that contaminated 40% of Europe’s land mass.

“One stupid man, doing an experiment in the middle of the night at Chernobyl, can contaminate a whole continent for hundreds of miles,” Dr. Caldicott mused. “And we can’t get rid of them – we’re creating carcinogens that will affect future generations. They’re all in your reactors just north of you.”

Then Dr. Caldicott outlined how radioactive dust, containing Cesium-137, tritium, plutonium and a litany of other invisible killers, enters the human food chain. Take plutonium for example, which has a half-life of 24,000 years. If just one tiny particle of plutonium is ingested — one-millionth of a gram — the effect can be to cause lung cancer 5-10 years later… and one would never know its origins.

Caldicott cited the example of Marie Curie, the Polish-born scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1911) who, while researching radium and polonium in 1800s France, used to carry around a lump of it around in her pocket, discovered first-hand the effects of radioactivity when she died of bone cancer.

Environmentally, fallout settles on grass, is eaten by cows, becomes one hundred times more concentrated in their milk and meat by the time it enters the human food chain, Caldicott said.

She stressed how women are affected two times more than men, and children most of all, as radioactive elements often concentrate in fatty tissue. This is why x-rays are not carried out on pregnant women; for instance, one x-ray doubles the chance of leukemia for the child in the womb.

The only thing that can help our chances of surviving nuclear fallout is by having a potassium iodide pill, before you are impacted (afterwards is too late). This will help you survive the imminent probability of lymph node cancer.

“It’s medically absurd to see, as a physician, that politicians lie to the public” about the deadly effects of these elements on their health. By building nuclear power plants, governments are selling [the public] a bomb factory.”

“The government here [in Taiwan] does not understand,” Dr. Caldicott stressed, “that huge amounts of radiation are still being released into the Pacific.”

“It’s time we said, ‘Look, we’re in grave danger’,” and women can help put a stop to the plans by standing up against it.

In Taiwan, we should be testing fish for contamination, Caldicott suggested. No one should be eating sushi or other food from Japan. In fact, “All Japan food should be banned from coming into Taiwan,” she added.

Finally, Dr. Caldicott spoke of the terrible legacy we’re leaving to our descendents, which is even “more important than the elders.” And she also advised that “You have to educate the politicians, tell them ‘If you don’t close [the nuclear reactors] down, we won’t vote for you.”

She closed the lecture by showing pictures of mutant tomatoes, firebugs, birds affected by radioactivity. ‘”What happens to tomatoes, firebugs, and birds happens to us.”

Watch Dr. Helen’s speech in Taipei on YouTube, filmed by the event’s main sponsor, Mom Loves Taiwan

One thought on “When Helen Caldicott Came to Town

  • July 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Caldicott’s claim that Chernobyl “killed millions” is not backed by evidence. It is very difficult to calculate the exact number killed by radioactive contamination from nuclear disasters. However, most reliable studies suggest tens of thousands were killed as a result of radioactivity from Chernobyl and the number is probably closer to the upper end of that range.


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