Chennai, March 21: Does “low dose ionizing radiation” among employees and workers at various atomic power stations across the country lead to increased cancer incidence'
If an “Epidemiological Report” released here is any yardstick, then workers exposed to such radiation at the atomic stations stood no greater risk of suffering cancer than those who were not. The report, based on a health survey conducted among employees at the Madras Atomic Power Station, Kalpakkam, and their families, says: “No increase in cancer prevalence was observed in the radiation workers of MAPS as compared to the non-radiation workers.”
Applying the result to other atomic stations, the report says: “This finding has been consistently observed at all the power stations where similar surveys have been carried out, namely the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station and Narora Atomic Power Station.” No cancer cases were detected in the small group of employees of Kakrapar and Kaiga atomic power stations either, the report says.
The report was made public, nearly two years after it was finalised, at a function here organised by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited under the auspices of the department of atomic energy.
“There was no excess of cancer prevalence in the spouses and offspring of the employees as well, as compared to the corresponding control groups.”
Releasing the report in the presence of top officials of the corporation, the Kalpakkam station and Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, state education and health minister S. Semmalai said the study showed “fears about low dose ionizing radiation causing cancer is quite unfounded”.
The survey at Kalpakkam was done by Arignar Anna Memorial Cancer Hospital, Kancheepuram. The other surveys were conducted by Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai.
Corporation senior executive director V.K. Sharma said the “epidemiological studies” at Kalpakkam and the other atomic stations showed “there was no correlation between low dose radiation from the power plants and any morbidity in the employees.
There was hardly any association between radioactive exposure and incidence of cancer, he said. The findings of the Tata Memorial surveys were “in close match with findings overseas”.
Explaining the details of the Kalpakkam survey, Kancheepuram cancer hospital dean Dr Jayaraman said 5,462 employees, 3,969 spouses and 5,589 children were examined.
The prevalence of malignancies in the three groups, besides congenital anomalies in the offspring of the employees, was also studied. The resultant information was compared with that on the corresponding groups of non-radiation workers at the Kalpakkam power station.
Jayaraman said of the total number of people studied, “we could see only 4 cases of cancer in MAPS workers, 6 cases in their spouses and 4 other instances of cancer in their offspring”.
Of the 15,000-odd radiation workers and their families surveyed, only 14 had cancer. This worked out to less than 1 per cent of the total, he said, which was much less than the normal incidence of cancer of 1.50-2 per cent in a general population of up to 100,000, Jayaraman said.
So, “we say that this low dose radiation has not been proved to be a causative factor of cancer”, he said.