Communication by: Dr. Michel Fernex (Switzerland), Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine, Basel, former WHO consultant:
“What should WHO have done after Chernobyl?” asked Dr Nabarro, Acting DirectorGeneral of the World Health Organization in 2002. He received an immediate reply: Convene a “Scientific Working
Group on “Ionizing Radiation and Genetics” similar to the one in 1956 but add the words “and Genomic Instability”.
It was in response to this question, that the World Health Organization convened a study group in Geneva in 1956, composed of Nobel prize winner in genetics, Professor Muller, and other luminaries of international repute in the field…Together, these scientists reminded us that «the genome is the most valuable treasure of human kind. It determines the life of our descendants and the harmonious development of the future generations. As experts we confirm that the health of future generations is threatened by the expansion of the nuclear industry and the growth of the quantity of radioactive sources. We also consider the fact of appearance of new mutations observed in people to be fatal for them and for their descendants».
Since then, a new area of research in genetics has opened up: genomic instability brought about, in particular, by radiation. In 1986, the Minister of Health in the USSR, asked WHO for assistance for the victims of Chernobyl
but WHO did not have the authority to respond to this request. It was therefore the IAEA, whose mandate is the promotion of civil nuclear energy that set up the International Research Project, in which no mention was made of genetics. Instead, the IAEA gave higher priority to the problem of dental caries and this became an area of investigation and research.
What genetic damage to the population has resulted from the accident at Fukushima? Is it already recorded in the cells of those workers who have exhausted themselves over the last year in the effort to limit radioactive contamination of the environment? And what about people who inhaled the radioactive clouds and who ate contaminated food? Have the events of spring 2011 induced genomic instability? And the children that have been born since, and those who are yet to be born, to mothers or fathers who were exposed to radiation. Have they been affected by the genomic instability of their parents? Will the effects on them be worse?
What surprises researchers is that the genetic and especially perigenetic damage, responsible for genomic instability, to descendants is much more severe than the damage to parents, and it may get worse from generation to generation. What action should the authorities be taking? With the aid of geneticists, they should try to reduce the genetic damage that renewed contamination could exacerbate. They should reduce internal radiation from incorporated radionuclides that are 10 to 100 times more damaging than the equivalent external dose. They should provide uncontaminated food. In case of contamination, they should accelerate the elimination of the radionuclides with chelators such as pectin from algae, fruits and vegetables. They should help the body to fight the damage done by free radicals or peroxides induced by ionizing radiation by reinforcing the antioxidants in the body with vitamin A and E and by providing natural carotenoids contained in carrots, beetroot, and numerous coloured vegetables and fruit. Children should drink the milk of Jersey cows which is rich in
carotenoids and vitamin A.
More about WHO / IAEA:
Our Genome is Eternity!