Experts allayed the fear of radiation-induced cancer from nuclear power plants (NPPs) in India. Dismissing the perception created in public mind, S.A. Bharadwaj, Director of the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) said in New Delhi on Monday (January 09), the radiation level from Indian NPPs was 0.42 to 39.6 micro Sv against 2400 micro Sv/year from natural factors. Sv or Sievert is the international system-derived unit of dose equivalent radiation.
Bharadwaj said the highest incidence of cancer in India is found in the north-eastern states, where there is no nuclear power plant. On the other hand, prevalence of the disease in cities close to NPPs like Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi is comparable to any metropolitan city with no reactors around.
Deaths by radiation-induced cancer is only 2 per cent of the total deaths, while consumption of tobacco products and lifestyle-induced causes contribute to a whopping 60 per cent of cancer-related deaths in India, said Dr. K.M. Mohandas of Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai. “Control tobacco in India to bring down cancer,” said Dr. Mohandas.
Dr. Mohandas cited studies conducted in Canada, France and Finland to buttress his argument. Studies on population in 20 kilometer radius of 29 nuclear facilities in France show, incidence of cancer, congenital anomalies and sterility are comparable to the national average. Similar was the findings around Finnish power plants. On the other hand, national average of deaths due to cancer in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, where there is no nuclear power facility, is higher than the average in India.
Dr. Mohandas, who is the director at the Centre for Cancer Epidemiology at the Tata Memorial Centre said routine medical diagnostic procedures such as x-ray, CT scan, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy gives higher dose of radiation than those from NPPs.
Both Dr. Mohandas and Bharadwaj dismissed general perception about higher prevalence of congenital birth defects among workers of India’s NPPs. Epidemiological survey of workers of power plants in India have found incidence of such defects only in 0.45 per cent.
But Dr. Mohandas cautioned, “in a growing population, where people live longer, chances are that cancer cases may also go up,” as Cancer burden is high among people above the age of 50.
Studies conducted at NPCIL plants over the last 16 years also revealed, prevalence of various diseases among its employees is far less than the national average nor do they have any additional risk factors by virtue of their work.
The employees working in nuclear power stations in the close proximity of radiation are not prone to any higher rate of occurrence of disease, particularly ‘cancer’, than the general public. Addressing media here today, Dr K.M.Mohandas, Director (CCE) , Tata Memorial Center (TMc) said that the misconception has to be cleared.
Quoting a Study which has been conducted by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) for the period 1995 to 2010, he said that the employees working in nuclear power stations in the close proximity of radiation are not prone to any higher rate of occurrence of disease, particularly ‘cancer’, than the general public. The study covered health profile of its employees at nuclear power stations for over 15 years.