Fears for the hearts of nuclear workers

March 8, 2008

nuclear-plant.jpg

Image by Oi at Flickr

New research suggests that British nuclear plant workers are more likely to suffer from heart attacks than cancer from occupational radiation. 

The study used 64,937 individuals that worked at plants across Britain from 1946-2005. The researchers used personal dosimeters on the majority of the workers that were classified as “radiation workers” to measure their individual radiation exposure.  

The study found a clear link between the rise in radiation exposure and the occurrence of heart attack, the higher exposure to radiation the greater chance of developing circulatory health problems.

 In 1980 new technologies were brought into the nuclear plants that control and reduce radiation exposure. Therefore those working on the plants before the 80’s are thought to be those at any significant risk of developing circulatory diseases 

200 nuclear plant workers from four of nuclear plants studied have died up to a year earlier than expected. However more research is needed to prove whether or not radiation exposure was the main cause of their deaths. 

Other contributing factors such as diet, exercise and stress have not been ruled out completely. Michael Gillies, a statistician on the study team said “Many studies associate these factors with an increased risk of circulatory disease and this is clearly something that requires more detailed investigation.”

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