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Leukemia risk from aces? The number of cancer cases has risen sharply in the region around the Asse nuclear waste storage facility. From a purely statistical point of view, the normal number of new cases of leukemia is eight, in the Asse area it is more than 18.
The scandals surrounding the Asse nuclear waste storage facility do not stop. A total of 126,000 nuclear waste casks are stored in the former mine. According to the environmental protection organization Greenpeace, the mine could soon be completely flooded with water. In addition, the dilapidated facility is in danger of collapsing. As has now become known, an increased incidence of leukemia in the region around the nuclear waste storage facility can be observed. For environmentalists there is a clear connection to the disposal of the aces and the frequent cases of blood cancer. The nuclear medicine doctor Dr. Do not connect Elke Bruns-Philipps from the Lower Saxony State Health Office. So far, there has been "no conclusive explanation" for the increase in leukemia between 2002 and 2009. Although it is known that the incidence of cancer occurs, we "cannot yet carry out further analyzes on individual patients", as the doctor said. The problem: the data were only available to the health authority in an anonymized form. To draw further conclusions The doctors treating them should now be interviewed, and further examinations are intended to establish an existing context for a possible existing radiation exposure.
State government promises quick clarification
The current media interest is great and the fears among the population can hardly be overlooked. For this reason, the Lower Saxony state government has now announced that it will investigate the massive accumulation of blood cancer cases around the ailing Asse nuclear waste storage facility "as soon as possible". The CDU Minister of Health Aygül Özkan therefore promised "quick and transparent information". The affected district of Wolfenbüttel will now be asked for support in the clarification, as a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said on Friday afternoon in Hanover. The Prime Minister of Lower Saxony David McAllister (CDU) promised to contribute to investigating the high number of leukemia growth rates "in the best possible way" and to support the authorities in the investigation.
In the Ministry of Environment, however, one appeases. The routine inspection of the region around Asse would not have yielded any significant findings. The authorities have been monitoring the area around the former salt mine since the 1960s. The radiation levels in the air, groundwater and soil are checked for gamma rays and radioactivity. "Since then, no entry in the area from the Asse has been found," said the spokeswoman for the ministry, Jutta Kremer-Heye.
“The dilapidated Asse repository is a bomb that is already burning the fuse,” explained Heinz Smital, nuclear physicist at the environmental association “Greenpeace”. “Nobody knows exactly which nuclear waste is stored in the aces and how much. But it is clear that the aces are full of water and that sooner or later the lick nuclear waste barrels will radioactively contaminate the drinking water in the region ”. Citizens' initiatives and environmental groups have been pushing for a quick solution and the removal of the radioactive barrels for years.
High incidence of leukemia and thyroid cancer in the region
A note from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health reports 18 new leukemia disorders in the community. It is cancer in men in 12 cases and thyroid cancer in women in 6 cases. According to statistical surveys, only eight new blood cancer cases were expected in the community with around 10,000 inhabitants between 2002 and 2009. Not only have the leukemia cases increased significantly, but the rate of new thyroid cancer has risen three times as expected, according to government circles. "This is a result that gives cause for concern," says radiation expert Dr. Elke Bruns-Philipps. However, the data currently available do not allow a final determination of the possible causes. But: "Radioactivity is of course a risk factor. But there are also others." as the expert emphasized.
A top meeting of experts is planned for the next few weeks. Together with the experts from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, he wanted to consider how further information could be obtained in order to investigate the worrying phenomenon. However, quick information cannot be provided. Bruns-Philipps believes that it may take several months for all of the patient's medical histories to be known. It should also be checked whether some sick men might have worked earlier in the Asse mine. As part of this, the Mayor of the Asse community, Regina Bollmeier (SPD), appealed that those affected should release their medical files so that the incidents could be investigated closely. "We do not know how old the people are, where they once worked, when they have been sick, since when they have lived in the region. There is a lot of important information that we simply do not know, and this has to be collected now "said the SPD politician.
Federal Office for Radiation Protection: No contamination by radioactive substances
For the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) there are currently no signs of health risks for the population. Measurements in the mine "above and below ground" would have given no cause for concern. "Extensive soil and arable fruit samples were taken from the area around the Asse", which showed that "there is no fear of contamination from radioactive substances from the Asse". The authority has been responsible for the Asse nuclear waste storage facility since 2009.
In an interview with the "Hamburger Abendblatt", the head of the German Childhood Cancer Registry, Peter Kaatsch, said that it is generally known that "ionizing radiation causes leukemia and thyroid cancer". After the Chernobyl accident, it was found that "the number of thyroid cancer cases among children has risen very sharply". With increased radiation exposure, leukemia and thyroid cancer "are most likely to occur," says Kaatsch. The German Cancer Registry examines the distribution of diseases in children very closely. However, the expert pointed out that there is no single cause of cancer in at least children. "Of course there are regions with higher disease rates and those with lower ones, that is simply the natural statistical fluctuation range. But there is no region where the counties lie together with increased disease rates." (sb)
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Aces: Increased number of leukemia disorders
Photo credits: Asse II Coordination Group