You are reading from a free online WORK-IN-PROGRESS e-book titled 'Deception, Cover-up and Murder in the Nuclear Age.' Visit the Table of Contents to access the links to this free content. Footnotes are located at the end of each chapter.
Taking just 20 samples on Rongelap Island doesn't make a great snapshot, but the 1982 report was a 'characterization study,' and the real study, the so-called 'update' study, An Updated Dose Assessment for Rongelap Island [1994, UCRL-LR-107036] was issued in 1994 but included zero samples of strontium-90 in soil. On the heels of that study, the RMI completed their own study, published in 'Findings of the NATIONWIDE RADIOLOGICAL STUDY' by Steven L. Simon and James C. Graham (December 1994), but didn't study strontium-90 either. The abovementioned document notes that 'Because the dose from 90Sr is relatively well understood and because it is a relatively small contributor to health risk, this radionuclide has not been measured as part of this study.' [p.38]
This means that other than the 1965 University of Washington data, there are only the meager 20 samples of Sr90 from the DOE's 1978 survey!
Other islands showed much higher concentrations of Sr90 in the DOE's 1982 study (based on 1978 sampling; ALL data from nearby Arbar island was deleted because of QC problems.)6:
It is quite possible that strontium-90 hot-spots were missed on the main island.
It is recommended that MORE soil Sr90 samples (300 or 400 samples at all soil depths) be taken to make sure that hotspots weren't missed. After all, the The Northern Marshall Islands Radiological Survey was itself a 'screening study' (also called a 'characterization study') that would be used to 'determine whether or not further detailed sampling effort might be required at any of the atolls.' [Introduction to part 4]3
Body burden of Sr90
Also, since the real danger of strontium-90 in the environment in accumulation in the bone, samples are necessary. There is scant data on Sr90 in bone/teeth.6 The September 1960 report 'Medical Survey of Rongelap People Five and Six Years After Exposure to Fallout' (Brookhaven) stated that
"Two bone samples of vertebra and ileum from a deceased 35-year-old Rongelap male at this time indicated a level of about 3.7 uuC/gCa, which gives, upon application of the normalization factor of 2 from vertebra to average skeleton, an average skeletal value of 2 uuC/g [2 pci/g].'"
According to the report "Metabolism of Fission Products in Man: Marshallese Experience" by S. H. Cohn of Brookhaven, this abovementioned value " was approximately tenfold higher than the average (0.19 pc/g Ca) reported in January 1958 for adult bone in the world."
This 1958 level, of 2 pCi/g, was actually 20 times higher than Rongelapese's levels before their return in 1957 and one-third of their 1959 levels: "The Sr90 level in 1958...was 2 muC, 20 times as high as in 1957 before the return to Rongelap. The estimated body burden in 1959 increased to 6.0 muC..."7
That number would keep rising. Cohn's abovementioned report also noted "In March 1962 another check by direct measurement of a bone sample was possible. An autopsy samples of rib and vertebra of a 79-year-old Marshallese woman gave Sr90 values of 13.7 +- 0.5 and 16.3 +- 0.4 pCi/g. These bone values are equivalent to a skeletal body burden of 9.1 - 13.7 nc when normalized... From an analysis of the diets of 14 male adult Marshallese, an average daily intake of 67.5 pc Sr90/g Ca was estimated . With the presently accepted discrimination factor of four, an equilibrium value for body burden of 17 pc Sr90/g Ca would be expected."
One can surmise that the Rongalepese's strontium-90 body burden increased at six- to eight-fold from 1958 (from 2 pCi/g) to 1962 (~12-17 pCi/g); and if their pre-(1957)-return body burdens of Sr90 were 0.1 pCi/g then they rose 120 to 160 fold from 1957 to 1962!
Actually, in the early 1960s, BNL scientists took back some of the food grown on Rongelap to see for themselves what it would do to them in terms of body level flux of Strontium-90 and Cesium-137. Under 'controlled conditions,' they ate the foods for seven days and 'Urinary and fecal specimens were collected and whole body counting measurements were made over a period of 180 days.' Their findings: 'The intake of strontium-90 over a seven day period was twenty times higher than normal and that of cesium-137, sixty times higher than normal.'8
Clearly you can see for yourself in the below chart that eating Rongelapese food for just 7 days by the BNL scientists increased their body levels - and body waste levels - to 20 times their normal Sr90 levels (obviously you can surmise that stool has more toxicity, it is more concentrated, than urine...); keep in mind too that in the 1960s American food supplies were already containing high levels of Sr90 relative to American food supplies in the 1950s or even in the 1970s through 2000s; stratospheric fallout increased the Sr90 in our food supplies several fold in that decade. Also, the chart shows that after the 'Rongelap 7-day poison diet' BNL scientists couldn't rid their bodies of the poisons quick enough - it would take nearly half a year to get back to normal. Imagine the Rongelapese who never had a break from their diet. Their body and body-waste burdens of radioactive poisons would remain elevated for decades. Their ingestion of radioactive foods was chronic; BNL's was an acute experience.
Another way to interpret Sr90 body burden is the total number of picoCuries of Strontium-90 lodged in the body (skeleton); this is determined by multiplying the bone concentration (in pCi/g of Ca) by the total number of grams of calcium in the skeleton, which can usually be determined by body weight. So, the deceased Marshallese woman had a Sr90 body burden (1962) was estimated at 11.4 nanoCuries, or 11,400 picoCuries, which was the number of picoCuries of Sr90 in her body. These values are some of the highest that were ever detected in human bone globally from those who weren't human-radiation-experiment victims. Figure our your strontium-90 'body burden' in Chapter 3.
More strontium-90 sampling is required to determine the current body burdens of strontium-90, especially for chidren; see our recommendation "F" below.
It is interesting to note that of the 102 soils samples tested for Cesium-137 in southern Utah by R. Blair Bentley in 2008 for his thesis "A study of residual Cesium 137 contamination in southwestern Utah soil following the nuclear weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950's and 1960's" the highest sample was 18.22 Bq in a volume of 600 mL - which is equal to 0.63 pCi/g. The 1978 data on Rongelap soils shows that the 0-5 centimeter soil column had 15 pCi/g, and is about 6 or 7 pCi/g today - 10 times worse than one of the most contaminated spots in downwind Utah! OMG!
The DOE 1994 study, with its data sampling (over 400 samples for Cs137 in all soil strata down to 40cm), shows a mean concentration in Rongelap Island interior soils of 0.58 Bq/g or 15.66 pCi/g - this is decay-corrected to 1995. Village areas show a mean of 0.17 Bq/g or 4.59 pCi/g - this too is decay-corrected to 1995. Correcting these to 2010 using a multiplication factor of 0.7, we have 10.96 pCi/g in the interior and 3.21 pCi/g in village.