• Allow me to unpack your question.

    by  • March 29, 2017 • * Safe for Work *, To You • 0 Comments

    There are a few ideas colliding in ambiguity there. The prevailing concern when studying the long-term effects of radiation fallout is resolution of questioning. In the event of catastrophic nuclear fallout populations are relocated but usually to somewhere close enough to be dosed with higher-than-background levels since they are still within a short radius of the source. This presents a methodological problem in radiation epidemiology, which is not my chosen field, even if I am adjacent enough to understand their language a bit.

    There is somatic injury and genetic injury. Biomes within some radius of the source are dosed. These effects are acute, manifesting as immediate radiation poisoning, which can be fatal, and a long-term prevalence of certain cancers in survivors. These are somatic injuries. Populations in Belarus show an increased incidence of thyroid cancer. This effect arises from long-term dosing close to the source. Genetic injury, which is the component implied in the “human evolution” part, is harder to trace, since it is a question of replicating DNA that has suffered damage at a cellular level, and in the case of the mid-1980s Eastern Europe, was not investigated well initially due to the same thing that ultimately caused the disaster–a lack of government funding.

    There is some evidence for increased genetic mutations in the generation following the parents’ survival near Chernobyl. There is a lot of speculation over whether this is a bad thing, though, since genetic mutations are the source of genetic diversity, which is correlated with robust populations. The culprit for this problem is Cesium-137, which spreads through the body like potassium, giving survivors full-body doses of radiation that can damage DNA when they have ingested agricultural products from high-radiation zones. However, until the long-term effects of Fukushima can be properly traced, this consequence can only be studied in that specific set of nuclear disaster survivors, as the isotopes from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not radiocesium, and to date the posterity of survivors show no evidence of genetic injury.

    The “habits and thought” part of your question is even more difficult to determine since socioeconomic factors are the most predominant problem in high-anxiety areas, which includes a lot of Eastern Europe. Really, there is no answer because this question is too esoteric within the financial constraints of the post-USSR economies.

    A skeptical biological epidemiologist might say that there are long-term effects in these areas, with some wildlife showing more resilience than others, but this is a question of what environmental factors allow species like wild boar to thrive. They are less likely to be afraid of humans in evacuated ghost towns near Fukushima because they have come into a new food source from what was left behind as survivors escaped the most intense zones of fallout. Some populations near the Chernobyl sarcophagus are thriving because human activity in these areas has ceased. However, less-resilient species have decreased in population and that adds another complication to the methodology that demands study of shifting dynamics in predator-prey relationships.

    These questions are on-going and the answers will become more precise with time. Since I am not a radiation epidemiologist, I had to look these things up. What intrigues me the most is the traceable effect of Cesium-137, which binds so readily to biological soft tissue even though it is now entirely anthropogenic with its last natural occurrence on Earth dating back 1.7 billion years. I am not sure if radcon has a method for capturing it at nuclear reactors yet. If so they are not full proof to date, given the abnormally large amount of it found near Fukushima.

    These are not really my “thoughts” so much as an extremely crude review of the literature I found. I suppose I have shaped them somewhat. I would also wager that this summary contains inaccuracies since I have not studied things like this extensively. It’s probably a better answer than the one I offered at two in the morning.

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