HIROSHIMA and NAGASAKI: Ionized Radiation and the Akita

By Barbara Bouyet

(For your convenience a Glossary is included at the bottom of this article.)


For the last two decades I thought about the overall health problems emerging in the Akita. It appeared the breed was experiencing an increasing number of diseases. Not necessarily the number of dogs afflicted but more importantly the number of disorders showing up in Akitas. Without question, the majority of these disorders were linked to the immune system. Working with ARSA presented an opportunity to gather information since rescue volunteers are exposed to a greater number and variety of Akitas and their owners. Like "firefighters" we get called for everything! Many pedigrees were sent to us from people who lost Akitas fairly young to some disease or other. They hoped our experience with the breed gave us the ability to look at a pedigree and instantly know where the disease originated. The pedigrees have piled up but individual common denominators have not materialized--the problems occur in all lines.

Akitas coming in from Japan in the early 1960s were hardy dogs with stable temperaments. The incidence of hip dysplasia was typical of a large breed but the original Akita breeders recognized the importance of screening for dysplasia. When I started in Akitas in 1976, I met many 13-year old Akitas who enjoyed a quality life. By today's standard, a ten-year-old Akita is apparently "living on borrowed time." Hip dysplasia is the least important health problem; the incidence of VKH (uveodermatological syndrome) has become a real threat to the Akita. Why? What happened to cause these strange new anomalies? Where are these immune system diseases coming from?

Two Akitas with symptoms of multiple myeloma certainly were unrelated: one was an import from Japan, the other a puppy in New York. In the back of my mind I always suspected the majority of health problems in the Akita were NOT typically inherited but were related to the effects of radiation. I am more convinced than ever of the validity of this theory. I am not a scientist which is both a blessing and a hindrance: a blessing because my research allows for more speculation than scientists find acceptable, a hindrance because I need more dictionaries and textbooks than a trained researcher.

I started my research believing radiation damage, if any, occurred in Japan in August 1945. But it is not possible to study Hiroshima and Nagasaki without touching on the history of nuclear energy in the United States. Now I consider the effects of radioactive fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be just the first incident of irradiation in the Akita. Perhaps the escalating incidence of autoimmune diseases and cancer in all dog breeds in this country can be attributed in part to radioactive fallout occurring within our own borders.

First I will address the atomic bombing of Japan, homeland of the Akita, Shiba, and other Japanese breeds. This article will show you how nuclear weapons tests in the United States covered our country with radioactive fallout, and how the manufacture of those weapons continues to destroy the health of our dogs and ourselves as you sit and read these words.


"At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima..." writes John Hershey. His book "Hiroshima" chronicles the events of that day told through the eyes of survivors when the first atomic bomb was dropped on a city. A few minutes past eleven in the morning on August 9, 1945 a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

The suffering experienced by the victims of these bombs was beyond imagination. To date, the total number of people killed in both cities from the two atomic bombs is estimated at 200,000 for Hiroshima and 110,000 people in Nagasaki. These figures are estimates because the periodic Japanese census was not completed at the time. During the last fifty years published studies and reports detailing the degrees of suffering, types of injuries and psychological/social effects of these bombs have been numerous. The information is available to anyone who wishes to learn more about the devastation of nuclear warfare. Until recently, most of the data about radiation and its long-term effects have come from these studies conducted by Japanese and Americans scientists. Contributing to the immense bank of information on the destructive force of these weapons have been over 1,000 nuclear explosions carried out by the United States,

Initially, radiation is of less concern as a factor in mortality from a nuclear explosion. When a nuclear bomb explodes, it turns into a ball of energy five times hotter than the center of the sun. At the same instant the radioactive by-products of fission are released. The subsequent light and heat (known as a thermal pulse) instantly expands outward and upward producing a mushroom shaped cloud. The mushroom cloud over Nagasaki reached 40,000 feet within four minutes of the explosion. The expanding fireball causes a shock wave of compressed air and roaring winds as it continues to expand bringing immediate destruction. The superheated air and winds fan the fires started by the thermal pulse leaving a wide area of destruction The atomic bomb over Nagasaki caused earth leveling devastation to approximately 42.9 square miles.


The purpose of this discussion is to briefly examine the most lethal aftereffect of the atomic bombs: radioactive fallout. The radioactive materials released after a bomb explodes deliver considerable radiation damage. As the mushroom cloud expands and rises it carries the radioactive materials with it into the atmosphere. When the material drifts back down to earth it covers a greater area than the initial destruction caused by the blast. This is known as fallout--minute radioactive particles drifting down to earth covering an area. Radioactive fallout was NOT measured for Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The precise pattern of radioactive fallout after Hiroshima and Nagasaki is UNKNOWN.

The technology of the time was focused on creating a bomb and getting it to work. The exact nature and effects of radioactive particles were unknown. Gamma rays and x-rays were fairly well understood but alpha, beta radiation and neutrons were a mystery. We now know alpha particles travel a short distance and cannot penetrate through the skin. Beta particles can travel farther and can penetrate into human tissue. Gamma radiation travels the farthest, can go through the body and causes damage similar to an overdose of x-rays. Neutrons, another by-product of nuclear fission, are easily absorbed by tissue. Neutrons and gamma radiation are more dangerous as contaminants because they penetrate deeply into tissue. The neutrons from a fission bomb although not as numerous as gamma rays, are twenty times more biologically damaging. Neutrons and gamma radiation were present after the explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Scientists knew plutonium emits alpha particles but in 1944 there were no devices to measure the new radioactive particles. British physicist, Herbert Parker, headed the group within the Manhattan Project entrusted with the job of developing a measuring device. Unfortunately, Parker was unable to come up with a portable alpha counter until AFTER the war.

Actually the first atomic explosion occurred in New Mexico and provided an excellent opportunity to understand the behavior and effects of radioactive fallout if anyone had been inclined to investigate. On July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, scientists successfully exploded the first atomic bomb, code-named "Trinity." After the explosion, a radioactive fallout cloud traveled northeast. Two Manhattan Project physicists, Joseph Hirschfelder and John Magee, were sent to follow the cloud! Imagine the scene: a cloud of the most lethal particles on earth being tracked by two men in a car carrying crude measuring devices. Hirschfelder and Magee followed the cloud along Highway 380 to an isolated general store at a crossroads called Bingham. There they found an old man tending the store but after concluding there was not much radiation, they continued on to a nearby Army post where soldiers were cooking breakfast. The ground and cooking food was covered with highly radioactive, flaky dust particles. The reading was twenty times higher than the exposure limit allowed in 1945.

As the two physicists traveled the area taking readings they learned the phenomena of radioactive fallout and hot spots: varying wind patterns and terrain meant fallout did not settle evenly. It formed unpredictable areas of intense radiation called hot spots. One such hot spot was discovered thirty miles from the explosion but Army maps indicated the area was uninhabited. The Army concluded that cattle grazing in areas of high fallout were the only victims of Trinity but that was not true. There were human residents in the area. No further effort was made to gather information on fallout patterns or to track the cloud from Trinity and no attempt was made to contact the people living within the circle of radiation.

In 1948, an attempt was made to trace the fallout pattern from Trinity after a complaint from Eastman Kodak Company. A number of customers complained to Eastman Kodak that they had been sold fogged film. An investigation discovered the film had been packed in paper made from straw that had been washed in water from the Wabash River, which had been contaminated by the explosion at Alamagordo, more than 1,000 miles away.

The civilian population seemed more adept at discovering radioactive fallout than the military. On April 27, 1953, at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, Professor Herbert Clark and his students entered a metal shack that served as a laboratory for their radiochemistry class. All the Geiger counters were registering radiation many times the normal rate. The students carried the radiation measuring devices to areas on campus noting the high readings. Assuming the previous night's heavy rains had washed some atmospheric radiation onto the campus, Dr. Clark contacted John Harley, an associate at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Health and Safety office in New York City. Dr. Clark summarized the details of campus measurements from his class. Gamma radiation on the ground was ten to five hundred times normal; beta ray radiation was even higher and hot spots of even high readings were found in rainspouts and puddles.

Later that day, Dr. Clark learned there had been an atomic bomb test conducted by the AEC in the Nevada desert two days earlier. The mushroom cloud had reached 40,000 feet into the atmosphere then drifted 2,300 miles across the United States in a northeasterly direction. It passed over Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania before being caught up in a storm that dropped rain on upstate New York, southern Vermont and parts of Massachusetts.

Dr. Clark's students took their geiger counters on the road and began measuring the radioactivity on the ground, roof shingles and vegetation wherever they stopped in Albany, Saratoga Springs, and Schenectady, New York. Typical readings were twenty to one hundred times higher than normal. This has become known as "the Troy incident."

The first official government study of radioactive fallout occurred after a test explosion at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, in 1954 when a change of wind patterns carried lethal levels of radiation to nearby inhabited islands. Following this explosion, AEC Chairman, Lewis Strauss, put into effect a plan of "total secrecy," saying: "...no public release will be made in regard to fallout or evacuation in Trust Territory unless forced by leak or other circumstances." As of 1997, Bikini Atoll's topsoil remains too contaminated with cesium-137 to allow its former inhabitants to return to their homes.

What type of radiation was released over Japan?

First, let's look at the bombs: "Little Boy" was the name given to the uranium-235 fission bomb dropped on Hiroshima; the implosion plutonium-239 bomb dropped on Nagasaki was called "Fat Man." Little Boy detonated at 1,900 feet above Hiroshima; Fat Man detonated over the slopes of Nagasaki. The explosive energy of each bomb was equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT Weapons that work on the principle of "fission" --atoms splitting apart to release energy--create considerably more radioactivity than fusion bombs. These were fission bombs.

Plutonium has been called the most dangerous element on earth. It is a man-made radioactive metallic element that releases alpha, beta and gamma radiation. During the process of fission, when uranium is bombarded with neutrons, the aftermath creates plutonium, plus hundreds of radioactive isotopes. Most of these isotopes are so radioactive they decay within seconds or minutes, becoming other isotopes, which also decay into others and so on. The shortest-lived isotopes are the most radioactive but the most dangerous are the long-lived because they contaminate all living things and still remain in the environment. These include strontium-90 with a half-life of 30 years, iodine-131 with a half-life of eight days, and others. Plutonium has a half-life (see glossary) of 24,000 years. In the laboratory, plutonium has been shown to cause cancer and immune system defects. Plutonium may remain in the liver, lungs, other body organs, or move to the bones. It generally stays in the body for decades exposing surrounding tissues to radiation. Iodine-131 collects in the thyroid gland and strontium-90 mimics calcium storage in bones.

An example of radioactive longevity appeared in American Nuclear Society, December 1991:

"While cleaning ashes from his fireplace two years ago, Stewart A. Farber mused that if trees filter and store airborne pollutants, they might also harbor fallout from nuclear weapons tests of the 1950s and 1960s. On a whim, he brought some of his fireplace ash to Yankee Atomic Electric Company's environmental lab. . . where he manages environmental monitoring. Farber says he was amazed to discover that his sample showed the distinctive cesium and strontium signatures of nuclear fallout."

All of these by-products of fission occurred with both atomic explosions in Japan. Following Hiroshima, Dr. Harold Jacobson of Columbia University, one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project stated in a newspaper interview:

"Hiroshima will be a devastated area...for nearly three-quarters of a century...Rain falling on the area will pick up the lethal rays and will carry them down to the rivers and the sea. And animal life in these waters will die...Investigators in a contaminated area will become infected with secondary radiation, which breaks up the red cells in the blood. People will die much the same way leukemia victims do..."

Okay, but did the radioactive fallout drift out to sea or descend back to contaminate the Japanese countryside?

A phenomenon known as the "black rain," occurred thirty minutes after the bomb exploded over Hiroshima. It continued for three hours and was followed by clear rains. The black rain started falling forty minutes after the explosion over Nagasaki, continuing throughout the day, alternating with clear rain. The black rain, containing radioactive fallout and ash, killed fish in nearby rivers, sickened grazing cattle and caused gastrointestinal disorders in humans. The dark clouds of dust and radioactive debris moved North, Northwest bringing radioactive particles to the surrounding countryside. Paper debris was found scattered throughout an area 15 miles north of Hiroshima.

Little is known about the Akita population during this period. Apparently, the Akita was slaughtered during the war--used for food and clothing. The remaining dogs were hidden for their own protection. Were they living in the mountains of Akita prefecture, North of the two-bombed cities? The whereabouts of surviving Akitas is pure conjecture-- we can only say with some certainty the dogs were in Japan.

The United States was at war. The explosive power of the atom bomb was the immediate objective; the effects of atomic radiation and these two bombs in particular were unknown. Little thought was given to the radioactive fallout that showered the region. The technology to understand and monitor the effects of lethal ionized radiation was not available in August 1945.

The atomic bombs ended the war and started the longest study of health effects from radiation. After the signing of the peace treaty, Japan and the United States mounted an investigation to understand the aftereffects of nuclear radiation. To accomplish this study, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was formed in 1947. The first dose-related study was released in 1957 but was considered crude and flawed by any standard. The next study used data obtained from tower reactor experiments conducted in the Nevada desert. In 1980 reports concluded this study was also flawed, the calculations incorrect.

The focus of the original studies was concentrated on looking for abnormalities caused by the blasts--congenital defects, stillbirths, sex chromosome abnormalities, and screening for protein alterations. However, the technology for genetic research was in its infancy in 1945. In 1975, with the formation of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) in Hiroshima, the investigation shifted to cancer and other radiation diseases. It seems extraordinary that it took scientists thirty years to undertake cancer studies on a large population of irradiated human beings.

Early studies of expected cancer increase show a fifty- percent rise in leukemia rates between 1946 and the early 1950s. The increase was noted "for all of Japan." Finally, children of the atomic bomb survivors were studied from 1976-1984 using the electrophoretic gels. As of 1990, the data collected from this 50-year Adult Health Survey shows an increased rate of cancer in bomb survivors, which has not diminished with the next generation. The government studies concluded there was no evidence of radiation-related genetic damage. It took four decades before the truth emerged but now it has become clear the radiation released was ten times more dangerous than anyone believed possible not just to those killed at the time, but to the survivors as well.

The question is not IF there was radioactive fallout over Japan in 1945 but how much. In 1960, Dr. E. Arakawa of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) released a report of his findings. There had been little amounts of radioactive fallout over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact the fallout had drifted down outside city limits covering the surrounding suburbs. The amount of radioactivity in the suburbs was estimated to be TWENTY TIMES greater than Dr. Clark's class discovered in Troy, New York. The fallout from Nagasaki was even worse--ONE THOUSAND TIMES higher than Troy. The radiation dosimetry system used to gather information for this report in 1960 has since been reassessed. New findings suggest the actual fallout was higher than these original estimates. Many researchers have come to believe the patterns of concealment and distortion about the effects of these two atomic bombs can be called "the mother of all cover-ups."

The prevailing attitude of our postwar government was one of secrecy and guilt. There was considerable controversy over the use of such a destructive weapon on a non-military objective. The AEC believed it was in the public's interest to protect citizens from the truth. If the American public were to learn the nuclear weapons being tested in Nevada and Utah released harmful radioactive materials into the atmosphere which then fell to earth, people would worry about their own safety.

The AEC preferred to keep secret the results of studies that proved exactly how dangerous nuclear weapons were on fragile human beings. The AEC press releases stated: "Fallout does not constitute a serious hazard outside the test sites."

By 1953, scientists knew that many of the radioactive elements from an atomic explosion entered the atmosphere then settled on the earth to contaminate food, water and air. What they did not fully understand was the extent to which these radioactive particles concentrated in various body organs. Strontium, for example, settled in bones and teeth while radioactive iodine concentrated in the thyroid gland. In the 1950s, researchers realized radioactive iodine became concentrated in the milk of cows that grazed on pasture contaminated with radioactive fallout. Cow's milk contaminated with radioactive iodine was regularly fed to children. A study published in 1960 by researchers at the University of Michigan showed the radiation dose to the thyroid gland of children was ten to one hundred times higher then adults. This occurs because of the greater concentration in the smaller thyroid glands of children.


The amount of radioactive fallout over Japan remains a mystery. However, the radioactive fallout contaminating the United States equals or exceeds anything encountered in Japan. Let's assume Akitas imported into the United States after 1945 had some ionized radiation damage. Once they settled into the United States, they were consistently exposed to additional radioactive fallout. To confirm this statement let's look briefly at the nuclear explosions conducted in the United States between 1946 and 1992.

The number of nuclear explosions at the Nevada Test Site is over 900. On December 7, 1993, U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary revealed there had been 204 secret tests from 1963 to 1990. On June 27, 1994 O'Leary released additional information, adding three more to the "secret list" which brought the total number of U.S. tests to 1,054 (excluding Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The reasons for the additions were "simultaneous explosions. Sixty-three tests had involved more than one explosive device. These 63 tests involved 158 detonations resulting in 95 additional explosions that are not counted as tests. One test used six nuclear explosive devices, two used five, four used four, 14 used three, and 42 used two devices. The new official total of 1,054 nuclear tests actually involved the detonation of 1,149 nuclear devices. Of these explosions, 935 occurred in Nevada, three in Alaska, three in New Mexico, two in Mississippi, and two in Colorado.

Each of these explosions released fallout throughout the United States. A series of bombs exploded at the Nevada Test Site beginning in 1952 were termed "very dirty" by the AEC--a term used to describe the bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This term describes bombs that brought down an excess of radioactive particles. Fallout from these tests left the town of St. George, Utah a "hot spot" of radioactivity but the AEC promotional material stated: "Your best action is not to be worried about fallout." The AEC assured ranchers whose sheep and cattle were dying of "unknown causes," that radiation had not injured anyone outside the Nevada proving ground boundaries. In other words, the official government rhetoric stated there was no fallout--don't worry, be happy!

There was fallout. Using the rather crude measuring devices available, a great deal of fallout was noted in Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and Roswell, New Mexico, Albany, New York, Grand Junction, Colorado--all from one atomic test! The amount of radioactive particles dumped throughout the United States remained a government secret until 1997. In 1982, Congress passed legislation calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop methods of estimating exposure to Iodine-131 received by Americans during the Nevada Tests conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. (Iodine-131 is just one of the radioactive particles released during a nuclear explosion.)

It took 15 years but on October 1, 1997, the National Cancer Institute released a 100,000 page county-by-county report. Apparently, every human and animal living in the contiguous 48 states during those two decades was exposed to iodine-131. Exposure rates were highest in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Missouri, Idaho, Nevada and Arkansas. This information is available to you at the NCI's web site: http://rex.nci.nih.gov, in the "What's New" link.

Typically, the NCI report downplays any serious health effects. NCI Director Richard Klausner said: " We do not feel we have the data to support the idea that there was a large risk. On the other hand, we cannot rule it out." Klausner said scientists do not yet have firm proof that iodine-131 causes thyroid cancer. In 1977, however, the NCI reported the incidence of thyroid cancer had risen "twofold to fourfold" in a 1969-71 survey when compared to the number of cases occurring in 1947.

Missing from the NCI report is any reference to other radioactive particles released during nuclear fission. These include cesium 137 and strontium 90. In the 1991 book, Deadly Deceit, by Dr, Jay Gould, Benjamin A. Goldman and Kate Millpointer, the authors state:

"There has been an almost complete absence of serious debate in American scientific and medical journals about the effect of ingested or inhaled fission products on the hormonal and immune systems. "

Ultimately, radiation contamination within the United States may offer the only real hope for understanding the overall effects of radiation exposure. For more than forty years production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, including the two exploded atomic bombs, was conducted at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington. Hanford released radioactive material into the air, soil and the Columbia River from 1944 through 1972. The area exposed covers 570 square miles in eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, most of Idaho, into Montana and Canada, through the Columbia River downstream from Hanford to the pacific coast. Over two million people were exposed to radioactive iodine-131, plutonium, cesium, strontium and ruthenium. During the time Hanford operated to partially transform uranium fuel into plutonium, there were "large releases of particles," meaning radioactive particles. Average doses to children in the most affected counties indicate they received a dose of 27 to 112 rads! The Hanford "downwinders" are among the most irradiated people on earth.

In 1986, citizens of these western states pressured the U.S. Department of Energy into releasing previously restricted documents relating to the radioactive materials contaminating the area. The Hanford Dose Reconstruction Project (HEDR) was established to estimate radiation dose exposures for people living in the area from 1944 through 1992. HEDR is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on this project. In 1988 by an act of Congress the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study was initiated to investigate thyroid disease in persons exposed to atmospheric release of radioactive material. The CDC funds this study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Other studies are planned for 1998 and hopefully will yield more information on the biological effects of radioactive particles. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is studying death certificates on 4,000 infants and fetuses in eight Eastern Washington counties from 1940-1952. Plans are underway to open a registry of 15,000-17,000 people who lived in Benton, Franklin and Adams counties. People in the registry will be tracked for 35 health problems attributed to radioactive iodine-131.

As you can see, radioactive fallout travels great distances across mountain ranges and waterways. Its range of contamination is unpredictable. When mingled with rain or snow it forms varying degrees of intensely irradiated areas. From the Radiological Emergency Information for Farmers and Food Processors handbook we read:

"People and animals can be internally contaminated by breathing radioactive particles in the air, by eating contaminated food, or by drinking contaminated water or milk."

Did the predecessors of today's Akitas in America escape the effects of radioactive fallout? I think not.

Besides cancer how does radiation harm the body?

For thirty years the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)ignored the opportunity to study the incidence of health problems in the large population of victims of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. The absence of such studies was all the more striking because there were already strong indications that radioactive fallout was causing fatal cancers. Studies conducted at Oxford University in 1955 showed a 50% increase in childhood leukemia cases in England and the United States. A study in May 1957 linked the increase of leukemia to a combination of medical x-rays on the mothers of these children, and increased radiation in the environment. Data gathered by government agencies other than the AEC showed a significant increase in death rates from all types of childhood cancers in the United States during the period from 1948 through 1951.

There was widespread malnutrition in Hiroshima and Nagasaki before the bombs landed on the populace. The effects of radiation on an already weakened immune system are more damaging. We can assume that if the human population were malnourished, concealed Akitas would also suffer the ravages of hunger.

It should be noted that all investigative efforts have been focused on human genetic damage, which offers researchers only the original atom bomb survivors and their offspring. That is two generations of adults with the emergence of a third generation (grandchildren). (With the shorter life span of dogs, Akitas in the United States today are in the tenth generation or greater since the end of WW2.)

Radiation attacks the body at its most basic level--the cell structure. Research from atom bomb survivors indicates exposure to ionizing radiation causes strokes, heart disease, digestive disorders, and damaged immune systems. From the August 3, 1994 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association article entitled "Thyroid diseases among atomic bomb survivors in Nagasaki:"

"There seems to be an increase in the rate of autoimmune hypothyroidism among bomb survivors. Autoimmune hypothyroidism is decreased activity of the thyroid gland due to an abnormal immune response...In most forms, this condition afflicted more women than men."

The few study reports released on atom bomb survivors claim there are no lasting genetic effects but these studies were conducted when genetic technology was in its infancy, and were based on only two generations of humans. Within the last four years, the science of genetics has gone from wagon trains to super highways! But even with advanced technology, it is a learning process as the human genome is mapped. Using these more accurate, enabling resources, scientific studies reveal that plutonium causes genetic damage to humans but a new type of damage that becomes evident in later generations.

A brief synopsis of chromosomes and genes to refresh your memory from biology class may be helpful before going any further. Chromosomes are long thread-like structures found in the nucleus of cells. They consist of one molecule of DNA combined with proteins. The DNA looks like a spiral staircase, called a double helix and is arranged in units called genes; the genes carry genetic information. Genetic information is a set of coded instructions passed from one generation to the next. Dogs have 78 chromosomes. They inherit half that number from each parent at conception

The biological damage from ionized radiation is due to high-speed radioactive particles traveling through cells, randomly unloading high concentrations of energy in unnatural places. Radiation causes ionizations in the molecules of living cells. Ionization occurs when a radioactive particle strikes an atom in the cell displacing one of the electrons surrounding the atom. Gamma rays (the major type of fallout in Japan) penetrate more deeply into tissue leaving behind a longer trail of tissue damage. The ionization (s) can dislodge electrons from one or more atoms in one or more cells, or sever one or more strands of the double helix. When opposite strands of the double helix have been broken, pieces of the DNA double helix sometimes end up in the wrong place or become permanently lost. Radiation can also damage DNA indirectly by leaving a trail of electrically unbalanced ions, electrons or other particles. These often collide with other molecules.

"Recent studies have demonstrated that cells which survive alpha-particle and x-ray exposure may show chromosomal instability; i.e. they continue to develop chromosomal aberrations at an increased frequency for many division cycles after the exposure." (International Journal of Radiation Biology; September, 1995)

"DNA damage induced by ionizing radiation can result in gene mutation, gene amplification chromosome rearrangements, cellular transformation and cell death. Although many of these changes may be induced directly by the radiation, there is accumulating evidence for delayed genomic instability following x-ray exposure." (Molecular Cell Biology, November, 1993)

"Transmissible chromosomal instability, characterized by non-clonol cytogenic aberrations with a high frequency of chromatid-type aberrations together with a lower frequency of chromosome type aberrations has been demonstrated in the clonol descendants of human haemopoietic stem cells after alpha-but not X-irradiation." (International Journal of Radiation Biology, March, 1995)

Translated this means damage can occur to the cell wall, cytoplasm and nucleus. Normally low levels of background radiation do not prevent a damaged cell from repairing itself. Large instantaneous doses of radiation like those in Japan cause irreparable damage by breaking the covalent bond (see glossary) that holds atoms together. The worst case scenario is radiation damage to a cell in such a way that the damage is repeated when the cell divides.

"...wear and tear at any particular location, damage to a cell's DNA usually occurs to only one of the paired strands; repair enzymes remove the damaged sections and rebuild them from the remaining strand. But all bets are off when it comes to radiation, which travels in a straight line. The damage it does hits both strands of DNA at the same location. And without an intact model, enzymes may or may not be able to effect an adequate repair." (The Economist , January 27, 1996)

And from other journals...

"Radiation accelerates the natural aging process and causes such "mild" genetic mutations as allergies, asthma, juvenile diabetes, muscular or bone defects and reduced resistance to disease." (American Journal of Public Health, 1964)

"...These results suggest that very low doses of alpha radiation may lead to radiation-induced genetic alterations." (Mutation Research, July, 1990)

"...Over 90% of the mutations identified arose in the expanding colonies after more than 12 cell divisions postirradiation and therefore cannot be attributed to the initial DNA damage. Such a high frequency of delayed mutations has important implications for mechanistic studies of radiation mutagenesis and for risk estimation." (Experimental Hematology, March, 1997)

"Virtually every type of cancer - blood, breast, lung, digestive system, and others - can be initiated by radiation exposure. Also, heart disease, aplastic anemia, cataracts, shortened life-span, and weakening of the immune system may result..." (National Academy of Sciences, 1980)

" A Department of Energy study of 30,000 workers at Hanford (Washington) shows that deaths from multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancers were clearly correlated with exposure to radiation..." (Health Physics, 1977)

Dozens of similar research citations exist. When translated into a language we can all understand, they point in the same direction: a new type of genetic damage is being uncovered, one that increases with each new generation. Could this be the reason Akitas are showing more bizarre health problems with each new generation? Does inbreeding exacerbate the genetic instability?

"Damage can occur to the cell wall, cytoplasm, and nucleus. It is most serious, however, when the DNA or genetic coding in the nucleus is harmed. Dr. Karl Z. Morgan has likened the disorganization by radiation of the cell DNA structure to a madman loose in a vast library, randomly tearing out pages of ancient, irreplaceable manuscripts. Once the DNA is damaged, distorted messages can be transmitted to the cell and passed on through reproduction." ("Killing our Own" Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon, C 1982)

Dr. Rosalie Bertell, consultant for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states:

"The ability of ionizing radiation to cause hereditary defects was first shown by H. Muller in 1927. Artificial sources of radiation mimic the genetic damage caused by naturally occurring radioactive particles. Scientists generally agree that in highly evolved species (human included) 99% of these induced mutations are harmful. All types of mutations which can be induced by chemicals can also be induced (and induced more efficiently) by radiation.

Many genetic changes are recessive, and will not become visible in the population until the third or fourth generation of offspring. The observed damage likely precedes a sharper increase to be observed later.

There is no such thing as a radiation exposure that will not do damage. There is a hundred per cent possibility that there will be damage to cells. The next question is: which damage do you care about? The damage which is apt to cause the most trouble in a whole system like a human being, is the damage that hits the nucleus of the cell. Because inside the nucleus is the chromosome material that carries the template of what the cell does. If you change that, you change what the cell produces. If you change one cell, and it is still able to produce, it makes two cells with damaged chromosomes, which can cause exponential growth of cells that are not going to do the right thing.

You know it takes only one ovum and one sperm to make a baby and the DNA in that cell contains all the information on how to make a normal baby. If you start destroying that DNA, you get a deformed child or a sick child."

The possibility that germ-line cells of some bomb survivors (canine) may have suffered more subtle forms of radiation-induced genetic damage that have not been detected is certainly feasible. Geneticists cannot catalog every potential genetic abnormality present in the cells of humans and mapping the canine genome is in its infancy--barely even started at this date. Many radiation-induced mutations may have been latent in egg and sperm cells of the foundation Akitas brought to this country. Some of these germ-cell mutations may be either severe or mildly harmful recessive traits that are surfacing after generations. The additional nuclear radiation and contaminating radioactive debris entering into our ecosystem following fifty years of uninterrupted nuclear testing in Nevada, could prove equally damaging to genetic molecules as what took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

"It is generally acknowledged that the amount of radioactive bomb debris now lacing the airflow of the earth's atmosphere is in the tens of tons. Scientists now estimate that everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere carries some fallout debris--including plutonium in their bodies. New York City residents, for example, eat plutonium in their bread every day." ("Killing our Own, The Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation" Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon, 1982)

If we accept the plausibility of ionized radiation damage to our Akitas, is it hopeless or can we do something to prevent further damage? I believe there is too much evidence to ignore the likelihood Akitas were victims of radioactive fallout both in Japan and in the United States. The National Cancer Institute and the Department of Energy tells us we are all victims of ionized radiation. Now what?

Ideally, genetic engineering--repairing the damaged chromosomes would be a permanent solution. It's not that far-fetched. On September 17, 1997, a team of researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology revealed the elementary structure of the chromosome in atomic detail, using x-ray crystallography and synchrotron radiation. "What we have done is show where all the atoms are. We have determined its atomic structure.... this is how the DNA is organized in a cell nucleus." The discovery brings us closer to the day when repairing chromosomes before breeding will be possible. The first step toward genetic repair is mapping the canine genome but even with the best of tools progress is slow, uneven and woefully under-funded.

The only immediate hope is a natural diet, filtered water, and supplementing with vitamins, minerals and amino acids known to have a radio-protective effect. Eliminating environmental pollutants is another important step in protecting your Akita. We will discuss protective supplements later in this article.


During the last three decades, as Akitas were imported into the United States and Canada, ironically, the world they entered was more dangerous than the one they had left. To create the bombs used against Japan, uranium mines flourished in Canada and the U.S. Uranium, a naturally occurring radioactive heavy metal, is essential for production of nuclear weapons. The first uranium mined and processed for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from Canada. Besides nuclear weapons, uranium mines supply fuel for nuclear reactors.

"When we extract uranium from the ground, we dig up the rock, we crush it and we leave behind this finely pulverized material--it's like flour...called uranium tailings...85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. How long will it be there? Well it turns out that the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years."

"As these tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread... In addition, as the tailings are sitting there on the surface, they are continually generating radon gases. Radon is about eight times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. It'll travel 1,000 miles in just a few days in a light breeze. "

"The tailings will remain dangerously radioactive for millions of years. Thorium-230, itself a by-product of uranium, is an alpha-transmitter with a half-life of almost 80,000 years. It continually replenishes all the other radioactive by-products of uranium in the abandoned tailings. Radium-226, a bone-seeking alpha-emitting carcinogen which is at least 20 times as harmful as strontium-90, is blown in the wind, washed by the rain, and leached into the waterways from the tailings piles, where it re-concentrates by factors of thousands in aquatic plants and by factors of hundreds in land plants. It has a half-life of 1,600 years. When the levels of radium increased in Canadian rivers as a result of uranium mining activities, the nuclear establishment obligingly increased the standard for an "acceptable level" of radium in drinking water by a factor of nine." (Dr. Gordon Edwards at the World Uranium Hearings, September, 1992)

In the United States, huge piles of radioactive uranium tailings are the responsibility of the Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE states there are over 130 installations in 30 states and territories containing 2500 billion liters of contaminated groundwater and more than 200 million cubic meters of contaminated soil with a radioactive half-life of 80,000 years! The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates there may be as many as 45,000 sites in the U.S. contaminated with radioactivity (N.Y. Times 4/9/92).

"From 1943 to 1970, much of the uranium ore mined in the United States was processed by private companies under procurement contracts with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. This ore was used in national defense research, weapons development, and the developing nuclear industry. After fulfilling their contracts, many of the uranium mills closed and left large quantities of waste, such as uranium mill tailings and abandoned mill buildings, at the mill sites."

"Beginning in the late 1960s and 1970s, direct gamma radiation, radon gas, and uranium decay products at the abandoned mill sites were determined to be potential health hazards. In 1972 concern for the potential long-term adverse health affects from uranium mill tailings used as fill material in construction projects in Grand Junction, Colorado, led Congress to pass Title II of Public Law 92-314, which authorized the Atomic Energy Commission to pay for 75 percent of the cost of remediating such contaminated buildings. Public concern about other abandoned uranium mill sites led to engineering and radiological studies to identify other mill sites in need of cleanup. As a result of these studies Congress passed the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) on November 8, 1978."

"The UMTRCA directed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to stabilize, dispose of, and control, in a safe and environmentally sound manner, uranium mill tailings at the designated inactive uranium mill sites. To comply with the law, DOE established the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project. Under the UMTRA Project, DOE has been performing remedial action of the surface contamination (including uranium mill tailings and abandoned mill buildings) since 1983; this effort is called the UMTRA Surface Project. The first site to be cleaned up is in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania; surface remediation has now been completed at 18 sites and is under way at 4 sites. The designated uranium mill sites at Belfield and Bowman, North Dakota, will not be remediated by DOE because the state of North Dakota has declined to provide their statutorily required cost-sharing to remediate the sites."

"Congress acknowledged the potentially harmful health effects associated with uranium mill tailings. As required by the UMTRCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed standards to protect the public and the environment from potential radiological and non-radiological hazards from the abandoned mill processing sites; these standards include exposure limits for surface contamination and concentration limits for ground water protection."

"On January 5, 1983, EPA published standards for the disposal and cleanup of residual radioactive materials. The UMTRCA requires that DOE comply with EPA's proposed standards. The Ground Water Project was planned under the proposed standards. On January 11, 1995, EPA published the final rule, with which the DOE must now comply. The EPA standards allow the DOE to apply "Supplemental Standards to contaminated ground water" based on the following criteria: If remedial action at a site poses a risk to workers or the public; if the burial of radioactive waste causes further environmental hazards; if the remedial action is too expensive; if there is no known remedial action based on current technology and if the ground water is not a current source of drinking water. These situations in which the EPA has determined that cleanup is not required appear to be a "fix-it if you can" list of loopholes."

"At the next level is Natural Flushing. Once the surface tailings and other contaminated materials are contained in disposal cells, contamination of the groundwater should greatly diminish. At some of the sites, the natural processes of nature will attenuate the contamination over time. If these natural process can reduce the contamination to an acceptable numerical levels such as MCLs {maximum concentration limits} background or ACLs {alternate concentration limits} within 100 years, the use of natural flushing is permitted by the EPA standards. Under this strategy the Department must demonstrate through analysis that natural flushing within 100 years or less will reduce the constituents. If approved, monitoring will continue and if the natural flushing does not work as predicted, DOE would then have to propose and implement a more active strategy." (Physicists and other scientific minds state 80,000 years as the window of contamination from uranium tailings.)"

Before we look at the DOE's UMTRA "worksheets," a brief explanation of "groundwater" may help clarify the health dangers at these sites.

"Water can be divided into two types--groundwater and surface water, Surface water is the kind you can see--brooks, streams, rivers, lakes. Groundwater is a large underground body of water (on average, 30 feet below the surface of the earth). Half of all Americans take their daily water supply from groundwater. Unfortunately, groundwater is more subject to contamination than surface water. Many biological processes operate in surface water, destroying contaminants. However, groundwater is different. Groundwater resides in a cool, dark region where few, if any, biological processes are active. Once groundwater is contaminated, it is difficult or impossible to clean up." (Dr. Peter Montague "Landfilling Low-Level Radioactive Waste is a Problem For All States" March, 1988)

The DOE's surface "remediation" to stabilize surface contamination of the environment consists of on-site or off-site burying of radioactive waste followed by planting of vegetation. The UMTRA Project discusses a small umber of the uranium tailings sites in the United States. This information is important because it offers a glimpse at the extent of radioactivity in our environment.

In general, of all UMTRA Project sites, 22 sites are near surface water bodies including major rivers such as the Colorado, Dolores, San Juan and Yampa. Ground water contamination in varying degrees has been observed at all but one site. Lowman, Idaho is the only site where ground water contamination does not exist. Milling at the Mexican Hat, Utah, and the Ambrosia Lake, New Mexico, sites created areas saturated with contaminated ground water in geological formations that previously did not contain ground water.

From the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the UMTRA Ground Water Project:

"The MONUMENT VALLEY, ARIZONA site consisted of two tailings piles, windblown-contaminated soil and piles of debris. A series of spring-fed wetlands and ponds occur along Cane Valley Wash, northeast of the tailings site...The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Monument Valley site is 1.2 billion gallons." Groundwater contaminants: uranium, nitrate, radium-226, radium-228 and net gross alpha.

"TUBA CITY, ARIZONA...the tailings, windblown and waterborne deposits, demolished mill building and other contaminated material. The site is approximately 7000 ft northwest of Moenkopi Wash, an intermittent stream that joins the Little Colorado River to the southwest. A natural spring and seeps appear along the base of an escarpment, approximately 6000 ft east-southeast of the site. The largest of these is used to water livestock." Groundwater contaminants: molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, uranium, radium-226, radium-228 and net alpha gross.

"DURANGO, COLORADO...The site consisted of two areas: the tailings piles in the milling areas and the raffinate pond area to the south. The contaminated material was transported to the Bodo Canyon disposal site 3.5 miles from the processing site. Analysis of background water quality of the alluvial aquifer indicates that concentrations of cadmium, chromium, molybdenum, selenium and net gross alpha have exceeded the maximum concentration limits several times. Seven hazardous constituents have exceeded the EPA maximum concentration limits beneath both sites at least twice since 1990: cadmium, lead, molybdenum, radium-226, radium-228, selenium, uranium and net gross alpha. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Durango site is 100 million gallons."

"GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO, along the north side of the Colorado River. All the contaminated material was moved to the Cheney disposal cell, 18 miles southeast. The Grand Junction processing site is underlain by Colorado River alluvium...At this time, there is some uncertainty regarding background water quality at the Grand Junction site."

"GUNNISON, COLORADO. The processing site is on the floodplain alluvium between the Gunnison River and Tomichi Creek. Tailings seepage has contaminated the alluvial ground water beneath the processing site; radium-226 and -228 and uranium have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990. The uranium plume extends approximately 7000 ft southwest from the site to the Gunnison River. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Gunnison site is 1.9 billion gallons"

"Downgradient of the site, 311 private wells are completed in the alluvial aquifer. Twenty-two of these private wells are known to contain elevated levels of uranium from the processing site plume. A permanent alternate water supply system was constructed for the residents who have wells in and adjacent to the contaminant plume. The municipal water supply for the city of Gunnison is unaffected by the contamination because it comes from wells in the alluvial aquifer upgradient of the processing site."

"MAYBELL, COLORADO. Approximately 3,500,000 yards of contaminated material are at the processing site and in the windblown contaminated areas. In addition, 1.9 mi. of Johnson Wash and 1.0 miles of Lay Creek were contaminated by the inadvertent discharge of 200,000 to 400,000 pounds (90,000 to 180,000 kilograms) of tailings and the routine discharge of tailings pond effluent into these streams in the early 1960s. The proposed surface remedial action is to stabilize all contaminated material in place."

"The principal land uses are grazing and hunting (for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse). Wetlands occur along Johnson Wash and Lay Creek near the site. Johnson Wash is a dry arroyo that runs near the eastern border of the site. This wash joins Lay Creek about 1 mile south of the site. This creek is a tributary of the Yampa River."

"Contaminants that have exceeded the maximum concentration limits in the tailings pore fluid and the ground water beneath the site at least twice since 1990 are arsenic, cadmium, molybdenum, nitrate, radium-226 and -228, selenium, and uranium. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Maybell site is 230 million gallons."

"RIFLE, COLORADO (Two Sites). The Old and New Rifle UMTRA Project sites are near the city of Rifle, Colorado. The contaminated materials from both sites are being transported to the Estes Gulch disposal site, approximately 6 miles north of the Rifle sites. The Old and New Rifle sites are in the floodplain of the Colorado River."

"Background ground water in the alluvial aquifer has exceeded the maximum concentration limits for chromium, molybdenum, selenium, uranium, and net gross alpha at various times since sampling began. The maximum concentration limits have been exceeded for molybdenum, selenium, uranium, and net gross alpha in the Wasatch Formation background ground water. In addition, background ground water for the Wasatch Formation exceeds the maximum concentration limits for barium and activities of radium-226 and -228."

"Both the alluvial and Wasatch aquifers are contaminated by seepage from the tailings piles at both sites. Contaminants introduced into the ground water from the tailings at the Old Rifle site that have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990 are arsenic, molybdenum, selenium, and uranium, and activities of net gross alpha and radium-226 and -228. In addition, levels of fluoride, vanadium, and zinc are elevated above background levels."

"Tailings seepage has also contaminated the Wasatch Formation below the Old Rifle site; cadmium and chromium concentrations and activities of net gross alpha and radium-226 and -228 have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least once since 1990 in monitor wells 623 and 624. Antimony, strontium, vanadium, and zinc are above background levels. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Old Rifle site is 70 million gallons. Most of the contaminated ground water at the Old Rifle site discharges into the Colorado River, several hundred feet downriver from the tailings pile. At the New Rifle site, ground water contamination in the alluvial aquifer extends at least 5000 ft downgradient from the pile. Downgradient contaminant concentrations in the alluvium generally are higher at the New Rifle site than the Old Rifle site. Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, and uranium and radium-226 and -228 activity have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990. In addition, levels of antimony, fluoride, strontium, vanadium, and zinc exceed background levels in the alluvial aquifer. The horizontal extent of contamination in the Wasatch Formation at New Rifle extends 3500 ft downgradient from the tailings pile. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the New Rifle site is 600 million gallons. Concentrations of molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, uranium, and activities of net gross alpha and radium-226 and -228 have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least once since 1990; levels of antimony, fluoride, strontium, sulfide, vanadium, and zinc are elevated above background levels in the Wasatch Formation. The Colorado River is the primary source of municipal water in the Rifle area."

"SLICK ROCK, COLORADO (Two Sites). Two processing sites are near Slick Rock, Colorado, along the Dolores River in San Miguel County. Both sites are partially in the floodplain of the Dolores River in a sparsely populated area. The proposed surface remedial action is to move the contaminated material out of the floodplain to the Burro Canyon disposal cell, 2 miles north of the sites. The Dolores River is the only permanent water body in the area of the sites, although there are dry washes. Surface water and sediment samples indicate contaminated ground water at the site has not adversely affected the water or sediment quality of the river.... Both processing sites are on private land. The major land use in the area is grazing...Ground water discharges from the alluvium into the Dolores River downgradient. Contaminants: molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, uranium radium-226 and -228 have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Union Carbide site is 26 million gallons. Tailings seepage also has contaminated the alluvial ground water beneath the North Continent site, although the concentrations generally are lower than at the Union Carbide site. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the North Continent site is 12 million gallons...The contaminated ground water in the alluvium at both sites discharges into the Dolores River. "

"LOWMAN, IDAHO. The Lowman processing site is in the northern Rocky Mountains in heavily wooded terrain within the Boise National Forest. It is surrounded by ponderosa pine forest on the north, south, and east sides. Clear Creek, a perennial trout stream, forms the site's western boundary. Contaminated material from the processing site was deposited in a small portion of the Clear Creek floodplain and associated wetland. The principal land uses in the surrounding forest are logging, recreation, wildlife management, and livestock grazing. The site is characterized by a continental climate with dry, hot summers and cold winters...A total of 128,000 yards was stabilized on the site in a 8.2-acre disposal cell."

"AMBROSIA, NEW MEXICO. The site is in the Ambrosia Lake Valley...An estimated 3,759,000 yards of contaminated material at the processing site and windblown area covered 612 acres. Surface remediation consisted of stabilizing all contaminated material on the site in an 88-acre disposal cell. The Ambrosia Lake site lies within the drainage basin of Arroyo del Puerto, an intermittent stream 1.0 miles southwest of the site. "

"Concentrations of molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, and uranium and activities of radium-226 and -228 have exceeded the maximum concentration limits in the alluvium and upper Mancos Shale ground water beneath the site at least twice since 1990. Ground water in the Tres Hermanos-C Sandstone unit has exceeded the maximum concentration limits of molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, uranium, and the activities of net gross alpha at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Ambrosia Lake site is 320 million gallons."

"LAKEVIEW, OREGON. The Lakeview processing site is in Lake County, Oregon, about 1 mile north of the city of Lakeview. About 926,000 yards of contaminated material at the Lakeview processing site were stabilized off the site at the Collins Ranch disposal cell, 7 miles northwest of Lakeview. The site is nearly surrounded by ranch lands. Two lumber mills to the southeast constitute most of the industrial facilities in the immediate area."

"Ground water beneath the site occurs in an alluvial/lacustrine aquifer. Ground water is withdrawn from agricultural, industrial, municipal, and domestic wells in the site vicinity and discharges into surface water channels that drain into Goose Lake, about 8 miles south of the site. The background ground water has exceeded maximum concentration limits for molybdenum, and radium-226 and -228 at least once. Arsenic, molybdenum, and net gross alpha have exceeded the maximum concentration limits in the alluvial/lacustrine aquifer beneath the processing site at least twice since 1990. Current information indicates a contaminant plume extends approximately 1500 ft (460 m) southwest from the processing site, as determined from sulfate and total dissolved solids concentrations. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Lakeview site is 1.2 billion gallons. The ground water is used for domestic, livestock watering, and industrial purposes in the processing site area."

"CANONSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA. The Canonsburg site is in Washington County in western Pennsylvania. This site consists of the former processing site in the borough of Canonsburg, approximately 20 miles southwest of downtown Pittsburgh. The Canonsburg disposal cell is surrounded on the north, south, and west by a buffer zone that separates it from nearby residential and commercial properties. Approximately 172,000 yards of contaminated material on 30 acres were stabilized in an on-site disposal cell. Surface remedial action was completed in December 1985. "

"Uranium exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Canonsburg site is 5.3 million gallons. In general, contaminant concentrations in ground water have decreased since post-closure monitoring started. The Burrell site is a vicinity property disposal cell associated with the Canonsburg site. The Burrell site is within the floodplain of the Conemaugh River. A spring has created wetlands at the base of the south-facing slope of the disposal cell. This spring drains into the nearby Conemaugh River, which is contaminated by mine drainage, industrial pollution, and municipal wastewater discharge. Water samples have not been collected from the wetlands along the north side of the cell. Sediment samples have not been collected from any water bodies near the site"

"FALLS CITY, TEXAS. The Falls City, Texas, site is 46 miles south of San Antonio. The contaminated material was stabilized on the site in a disposal cell. Surface remedial was completed in June 1994. Grazing is the principal land use for the mesquite-dominated woodlands around the site."

"Background water quality is highly variable with depth and location because it occurs within the uranium ore body. The background ground water is classified as limited use, based on high average uranium concentrations and activities of net gross alpha and radium that render the water untreatable by methods reasonably employed by public water systems in the region."

"Tailings fluids have migrated into the uppermost aquifer; as a result, concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nitrate, radium-226 and -228, selenium, and uranium have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Falls City site is 1.2 billion gallons."

"GREEN RIVER, UTAH. The Green River processing site is partially in the floodplain of Brown's Wash, an intermittent tributary of the Green River. The tailings pile, an estimated 382,000 yards of contaminated material was placed in a disposal cell on the site. Surface remediation was completed in October 1989."

"The Green River disposal cell is on a terrace above Brown's Wash. This wash is approximately 800 ft (north of the cell. The original tailings pile was in the floodplain of Brown's Wash, along the southern border of the wash. The wash flows only during periods of heavy precipitation and is dry for most of the year. However, pools of water that may be created by the discharge of contaminated ground water into Brown's Wash are often present downstream of the site. Sampling over the years has shown that these pools contain elevated concentrations of nitrates, selenium, uranium, and other constituents that have the potential to be harmful to aquatic and terrestrial organisms. "

"Seepage of hazardous constituents from the former tailings pile area has contaminated the alluvial and upper Cedar Mountain aquifers. Net gross alpha and radium-226 and -228 activity and concentrations of molybdenum, nitrate, selenium, and uranium have exceeded the maximum concentration limits beneath and downgradient of the former tailings pile at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Green River site is 180 million gallons."

"MEXICAN HAT, UTAH. This site consisted of two tailings piles. An estimated 2,810,000 yards of contaminated material are contained in these two tailings piles and on an additional 250 acres of adjacent land. The contaminated material at this site and contaminated material from the Monument Valley, Arizona, processing site are being stabilized in a disposal cell at the Mexican Hat site. "

"During construction of the Mexican Hat disposal cell, seeps were discovered in the North Arroyo. In Gypsum Creek northeast of the site, naturally occurring seeps are present. The North Arroyo and Gypsum Creek seeps discharge site-related contaminated ground water with concentrations or activities of nitrate, molybdenum, selenium, uranium, and radium-226 and -228 that have exceeded EPA maximum concentration limits at various times. Ground water beneath the Mexican Hat site occurs in the Halgaito Shale and the underlying Honaker Trail Formation. "

"Because the ground water in the Halgaito Shale occurs as a result of milling operations, background ground water quality could only be defined from seeps isolated from site-related contamination. Background ground water in the Honaker Trail Formation shows maximum observed concentrations of arsenic, chromium, radium-226 and -228, selenium, and uranium that have exceeded maximum concentration limits. Ground water in the Halgaito Shale has concentrations of arsenic, chromium, and nitrate that have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Mexican Hat site is 110 million gallons."

"SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH. The Salt Lake City processing site is in Salt Lake County, Utah, 4 miles south-southwest of the center of Salt Lake City. A total of 2,710,000 yards of tailings was removed on this site and transported to the South Clive disposal site, 85 miles west of Salt Lake City. "

"A contaminant plume exists beneath the site, and molybdenum, and uranium have exceeded the maximum concentration limits in some on-site and downgradient monitor wells at least twice since 1990. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Salt Lake City site is 350 million gallons."

"RIVERTON, WYOMING. The Riverton, Wyoming, site is 2 miles southwest of the city of Riverton. The site is on private land within the boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation (Northern Arapaho and Shoshone Indian Tribes). Contaminated material totaling 1,793,000 yards at the processing site and at off-site vicinity properties was transported 45 miles to the Gas Hills uranium district, consolidated into an active uranium tailings pile, and stabilized. "

" Elevated levels of uranium were detected in a side channel of the Little Wind River, which may represent the discharge of site-related contaminated ground water. The predominant land use in the site vicinity is agricultural; the primary crop is hay grown on irrigated fields. "

"Molybdenum, selenium, radium-226 and -228, and uranium have exceeded the maximum concentration limits at various times in on-site and downgradient monitor wells in the uppermost aquifer. Molybdenum, radium-226 and -228, and uranium have exceeded maximum concentration limits in on-site and downgradient ground water at least twice since 1990. Plume movement is in the direction of ground water flow, which is to the south-southeast. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Riverton site is 500 million gallons."

"SPOOK, WYOMING. The site is on private ranch land in central Wyoming. The site is approximately 48 miles northeast of Casper, Wyoming. A total of 315,000 yards of contaminated and 1,600,000 yards of overburden material from open pit uranium mines were on the site. All the contaminated and overburden material was stabilized in an on-site open pit mine. "

"The Spook site is in rolling sagebrush and grassland terrain and is surrounded by cattle and sheep ranches. Background ground water quality in this aquifer is affected by naturally occurring mineralization related to the uranium ore body. Concentrations of uranium and selenium in the background ground water exceed the regulatory limits. Contaminants in the ground water beneath the processing site and downgradient that exceed the maximum concentration limits are cadmium, chromium, molybdenum, nitrate, radium-226 and -228, selenium, silver, and uranium at least twice since 1990. The contaminant plume extends 2500 ft (1200 m) downgradient from the tailings pile. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Spook site is 1 billion gallons."

The following two sites in North Dakota are not scheduled for federal clean up. "The designated uranium mill sites at Belfield and Bowman, North Dakota, will not be remediated by DOE because the state of North Dakota has declined to provide their statutorily required cost-sharing to remediate the sites."

"BELFIELD, NORTH DAKOTA. The Belfield, North Dakota, processing site is in Stark County. Surface remedial action, would have cleaned up 58,000 yards of contaminated material on 31 acres. It would have been transported 65 miles to the Bowman site and placed in disposal cell at Bowman. "

"The Belfield site is in the Northern Great Plains, just outside Belfield along the North Branch of the Heart River. Part of the contaminated land is in the floodplain of this river. The volume of contaminated ground water at the Belfield site is an estimated 4.7 million gallons. Background ground water quality at the Belfield site exceeds the EPA drinking water standards for sulfate and total dissolved solids and the EPA maximum concentration limit for selenium. Contaminants have entered the shallow ground water, and concentrations of chromium, radium-226 and -228, molybdenum, selenium, and uranium exceed the maximum concentration limits. Ground water from the shallow aquifer system is used for limited stock watering and some domestic purposes but it is not a drinking water source."

"BOWMAN, NORTH DAKOTA. The Bowman, North Dakota, site 7 miles northwest of the city of Bowman. A total of 128,000 yards of contaminated material would have been cleaned up at the Bowman site. The site is in a rural area surrounded by short-grass prairie and other grasslands used for grazing and dry land farming"

"Background ground water quality at the Bowman site exceeds the EPA drinking water standards for sulfate and total dissolved solids, as well as the EPA maximum concentration limits for chromium, selenium, and uranium. Contaminants from the Bowman site have entered the shallow ground water, and concentrations of chromium, radium-226 and -228, molybdenum, selenium, and uranium exceed the maximum concentration limits. The estimated amount of contaminated ground water at the Bowman site is 58 million gallons. Ground water from the uppermost aquifer is not used as a drinking water source but is used for limited stock watering and some domestic purposes. "

Burying the radioactive waste on site or transporting for burial off site constituted remediation at these sites, with the exception of the two North Dakota sites. In all cases the method of disposal is simply dumping into landfills. Is it a satisfactory solution?

"The U.S. has operated six low-level radioactive waste landfills over the past four decades; three of these (at Maxey Flats, Kentucky; West Valley, New York; and Sheffield, Illinois) are now closed because of severe problems of leakage and environmental contamination. Of the three remaining landfills, the one at Barnwell, South Carolina has radioactivity migrating from it; the problem at Barnwell is expected to get worse as time passes. The low-level dump at Richland, Washington, may be the source of radioactivity in the Columbia River. The dump at Beatty, Nevada, so far seems to have avoided leakage problems." ("Landfilling Low-level Radioactive Waste is a Problem for All States," Dr. Peter Montague)

Some states like New York, are discussing the use of concrete bunkers that will also be buried in the ground. Meanwhile, the EPA has said all landfills will eventually leak. In Hanford, Washington, 60 tanks of radioactive waste are leaking, and 66 tanks are identified as potential leakers. At this site, more than three-quarters of a million gallons of radioactive waste have leaked into the soil. The federal Nuclear Policy Act is planning 16 radioactive waste landfills in New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina and California.

Military sites and National Laboratories contribute enormously to radioactive waste contamination. The Savannah River Plant, a military facility near Aiken, South Carolina has a terrible record of containing radioactive waste. In July 1986, a five-year study released by the Environmental Policy Group said the degree of contamination at the plant is so severe that it is "a national disgrace." In an ABC-TV special aired in 1985, Bill Lawless, a former senior engineer at Savannah River reported:

"The liquid low-level waste have for the past 32 years or so been dumped into seepage basins, which are just huge holes in the ground, and allowed to seep through the bottom of the basins into the groundwater system."

The dumping procedures at Savannah River now threaten drinking water and crop irrigation supplies in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

DOE nuclear sites located at Fernald, and Battelle, Ohio; Hanford, Washington; West Valley, New York; Rocky Flats, Colorado; Ames, Iowa; Idaho Falls, Idaho; various Sandia and Argonne National Laboratories' sites throughout the country, and finally, the Nevada Test Site, have generated huge amounts of low-level and high level radioactive waste. It is an awesome problem.

Were you aware of these radioactive waste dumps in your state? Did you know about the uranium tailings sites in your state? With an estimated 45,000 radioactive sites in 30 states, the facts presented to you here are just the tip of this very hot iceberg! I was shocked to learn of two radioactive sites short distances from where I live: a 14 acre site turned into a parking lot in Oxnard, California, and a contaminated site of unknown size surrounding the Rockwell facility in the Simi Hills. I have unknowingly walked and hiked through radioactive contamination and I have exposed my dogs to the same danger. We cannot see it, smell it, taste or feel it but it surrounds us with its own unique powers.

"Among the permanent genetic injuries which can be inflicted by ionizing radiation are three types:

A. Single-gene damage: Chromosome damage confined to a segment of DNA representing a single gene.

B. Deletions: Breakage of a chromosome, followed by permanent loss of part of a chromosome carrying some or many entire genes, or just part of one gene.

C. Translocations: Breakage of one or more chromosomes, followed by permanent removal of some or many genes (and partial genes) from their normal place in the DNA chain. These relocated DNA segments can end up in an abnormal place within the same DNA chain or within the DNA of an entirely different chromosome.

All three types of permanent chromosomal injury are now called "genetic mutations," and types (B) and (C) are also called "structural chromosome aberrations." The terms "genetic" and "inherited" are not synonymous. Genetic injuries or mutations can occur in cell-nuclei.

1. Before conception in an ancestor's germ cells (sperm or ova). 2. After conceptions during the person's gestation (in-utero). 3. Anytime during childhood and adulthood."

"When genetic mutations occur before conception (inherited) or during early gestation (not inherited), the health consequences can be virtually identical. Distinctions are poorly defined between "genetic diseases," "irregularly inherited disorders," "constitutional diseases," "chromosomal disorders," "congenital diseases," and "birth defects" or "anomalies." ("Radiation-Inducible Chromosome Injuries: Some Recent Evidence on Health Consequences --and Major Consequences," Dr. John W. Gofman, Spring, 1992. This quote from Dr. Gofman is extraordinary because of his credentials. John W. Gofman is Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley and Lecturer at the Department of Medicine, University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco. He was director of the Biomedical Research Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and among his many accomplishments, Dr. Gofman co-discovered uranium-232 and -233, and protactinium-232 and -233, and proved the slow and fast neutron fissionability of uranium-233. As medical doctor and physicist, Dr. Gofman is uniquely qualified to discuss the dangers of radiation.)


There is NO SAFE DOSEAGE OF RADIATION! Low-level radiation is cumulative; meaning it should not be ignored. Because of its invisibility it cannot be avoided. With half-lives of 1,600- 80,000 years for some elements, mankind has created a pollutant that will outlive us all! The primary focus of my follow-up research was to discover possible protective solutions for my own dogs and share that information with everyone.

Radioactive elements are structurally similar to their non-radioactive counterpart. That is why nutrition is very important in preventing or blocking damage from exposure to radioactive elements. When an element is lacking, the body takes up a similar element. In other words, if you do not obtain sufficient nutrients your body may absorb the radioactive elements comparable in structure. This is called the "Principle of Selective Uptake." For example, adequate dietary calcium prevents absorption of strontium 90, radium-226 and barium-140. Ample dietary potassium protects against cesium 137 that concentrates in muscles and the reproductive organs. The mineral, iodine, protects against radioactive iodine-131 (I-131). Other stable elements that protect against similar radioactive elements include sulfur against sulfur-35, Vitamin B12 against cobalt-60, iron against plutonium, and zinc against zinc-65.

"Plutonium, another common byproduct of fallout and nuclear power plant emissions, is similar in atomic structure to iron. As a result, plutonium collects in the blood and it too travels throughout the body. Secondary sites, of course, are the blood-cleansing organs such as lungs, liver, and kidneys. Plutonium, whose half-life is 24,400 years, like other long-lived radio-nuclides has a devastating effect on reproductive organs and sex cells, threatening future generations." ("Fighting Radiation & Chemical Pollutants with Foods, Herbs & Vitamins," Steven Schecter, N.D.)

The biological effects of radiation include carcinogenesis (cancer) and the formation of free radicals. We all know about cancer in one form or another but what are free radicals and how do they damage living cells? Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms, byproducts of biochemical processes. Normally, the healthy body controls free radicals but exposure to ionizing radiation accelerates the formation of free radicals causing an overload and malfunction of the body's defense systems. The existence of too many free radicals causes more free radicals to form each with the potential to damage cells. Their damage varies from causing fluid between cells and/or destroying the fat layer in cells. They cause calcium imbalances and can interfere with the cell's coding of genetic information.

"Such interference can result in mistakes in the synthesis of proteins. This has serious consequences because we cannot live without the multitude of special proteins manufactured in the body. The synthesis of proteins is a vital, round-the-clock job. A protein that contains a mistake confuses the immune system. Under normal circumstances the immune system is able to distinguish "self" from "non-self." But it sees an abnormal protein as a foreign substance and tries to eliminate it. Eventually, waste material piles up faster than it can be handled by the lymph glands, which are the filters for the immune system. When the immune defense cannot keep up with the demands made upon it, viruses, microbes and cancer cells, which are ever present--in fact, any kind of infection--can take hold." ("How Radiation Damages Us" Sara Shannon)

Scavenger enzymes normally manufactured in the body control free radicals. When free radicals reach overload, the body needs help and antioxidants such as Vitamins A, E and C, plus selenium act as scavenger enzymes helping the body destroy free radicals.

All commercial dog foods are processed at high temperatures and it is this processing that destroys many vital nutrients. If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of raw feeding, visit these websites:




The following recommendations are for those feeding a commercial dog food:

Vitamin A is the master cell builder. In addition to its role as an antioxidant A is needed for photo-pigments in the retina, proper growth and development, healthy skin and coat, reproduction, and immune function.

"We believe Vitamin A affects growth and development by its necessary role in the synthesis of many glycoproteins (e.g. mucus), some of which may control cellular differentiation and gene expression. The adhesion between cells is apparently related to the manufacture of molecules known as glycoproteins. The synthesis of these compounds is markedly depressed in Vitamin A deficiency. Consequently, during deficiency there is a loss of normal stimuli for cellular growth and differentiation. In addition, cellular retinol-binding protein is transferred directly into the nucleus of the cell and may function in a fashion similar to some of the steroid hormones in stimulating cellular processes."

"The effects of a Vitamin A deficiency most readily appear in tissues that have a rapid turnover rate, i.e. the epithelial cells that line the oral cavity, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and ducts of secretory glands. The role of Vitamin A and carotenes in the development and maintenance of epithelial tissue cannot be overstated. Vitamin A determines whether mucin or keratin is synthesized in epidermal cells; the presence of adequate Vitamin A results in mucin production, while a lack results in hyperkeratinization of the skin, cornea, upper respiratory tract and genitourinary tract." (Michael T. Murray, N.D.)

Vitamin A deficiency may be related to unknown factors that interfere with the absorption, storage or transportation of Vitamin A.

Recommended: 10,000IU Vitamin A from fish liver oil.

Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant, as well as boosting immunity and protecting against pollution. Vitamin C is required for formation of collagen and it is collagen that forms connective tissue, cartilage, and tendons. Studies indicate the body produces more antibodies when supplemented with Vitamin C. A dog apparently manufactures Vitamin C but is it enough during times of stress and exposure to pollution? Absorption of Vitamin C is enhanced when it's given with bioflavonoids.

Recommended: Vitamin C as ascorbic acid, 1,000mg twice daily; citrus bioflavonoids with rutin and hesperidin, 2,000mg twice daily. Begin with 500mg of Vitamin C, increasing by 500mg twice monthly up to 1,000mg.

Each of the B Vitamins plays an important role in the body, especially the immune system. For example, Vitamin B6 aids in synthesis of protein, inhibits histamine release for treatment of allergies, supports the nervous system and protects against pollution. Vitamin B12 and folic acid stimulate repair of red blood cells. Many studies conducted in Russia show the B Vitamins offer significant protection against radiation.

Recommended: B Vitamins in the proper ratio as they appear in nature are available as "B-complex vitamins." 50mg twice daily.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that offers protection from environmental pollutants and radiation by protecting the fatty membranes of cells. In laboratory experiments, Vitamin E was shown to be protective against cesium-137. It enhances antibody response and improves the immune system as well as having a natural anti-inflammatory action. Refined flours, rancid fats and oil and polyunsaturated fats increase the body's need for Vitamin E.

Recommended: d-alpha-tocopherol; 400-800 IU daily

"Vitamin F" or the more familiar designation of essential fatty acids (EFAs), are linoleic acid, alpha linoleic acid, gamma linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. EFAs are major components of cell membranes that convert into hormone-like cell messengers integral to good metabolism and in support of proper adrenal and thyroid function. Essential fatty acids mediate immune responses and direct endocrine hormones to their target cells. They regulate smooth muscle and nerve transmissions and are involved in healthy blood vessels, blood cells and circulation. Fatty acids are destroyed by exposure to radiation and food processing.

Sources for omega-3 EFAs include cold water fish and fish oils, and flaxseed oil; evening primrose oil, black current seed oil and borage oil are sources for the omega-6 EFAs. Both families of fatty acids are important in a dog's diet, but few dog foods meet this requirement. Animal fat is the most common source of EFA's found in most dog foods but during processing, high temperatures destroy the fatty acids. One of the more popular dry foods available uses poultry fat and safflower oil but these ingredients offer little more than carbohydrates after processing.

Recommended: Flaxseed oil, organically grown, 1,000mg twice daily or whole fish daily. Evening Primrose Oil: 1,000mg once daily

Minerals and trace minerals are the most basic building blocks of life. They are essential for digestion, bone formation, and most metabolic functions. Minerals must be obtained through food. In many areas of the country, minerals have been leached from the soil by pesticides and other chemicals used in farming, leaving many of us mineral deficient. Important minerals for immune function that are also radio-protective include calcium, magnesium, iodine, zinc, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and selenium. The best source for easily absorbable minerals are plants and herbs. If you're regularly feeding sea vegetables, you're probably supplying sufficient minerals.

In any discussion of Akitas, thyroid health inevitably becomes a topic. Radioactive I-131 is fairly widespread in the environment due to atmospheric contamination of food and water. It is found in cow and goat milk when they graze in fields contaminated by radioactive rain. The thyroid gland requires iodine to produce the hormones necessary for proper body processes. If iodine in the diet is insufficient, the body may absorb radioactive iodine for use by the thyroid. Radioactive iodine entering the thyroid gland damages the cells decreasing the gland's ability to function. Another way iodine is leached from the thyroid gland is through chlorinated and flouridated water.

The Akita comes from a culture where ocean fish and sea vegetables, both naturally high in iodine and trace minerals, are dietary staples. One of the most powerful radio-protective elements in sea vegetables is sodium alginate. The sodium alginate binds with strontium then safely removes it from the body. The best sources for sodium alginate are brown sea vegetables like kelp, arame, wakame, nori, and kombu. Red sea vegetables such as dulse bind to plutonium and green algae binds with cesium.

Sea vegetables contain fifty-six minerals and trace elements plus amino acids, antioxidants and vitamins. Use fresh or dried sea vegetables, about two teaspoons sprinkled on the food at each meal.

Chlorophyll-rich foods in the diet decrease radiation toxicity by blocking intestinal absorption. Alfalfa, spirulina, chorella, sprouts of all types and leafy green vegetables are all sources of chlorophyll.

Recommended: Alfalfa tablets are inexpensive and convenient. Spirulina and chorella are available in capsule form. Follow directions on the bottle.

Digestive enzymes are an important addition to the diet. Cooking or processing food above 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys all food enzymes. If your dog's diet consists mainly of cooked or processed foods, the animal's store of metabolic enzymes will be converted into digestive enzymes. The lack of food enzymes puts a heavier burden on the body to generate adequate enzymes to complete digestion.

In nature animals know to seek out those foods that satisfy their nutritional needs. For example: free-roaming wolves hunt grazing animals whenever possible. Before eating muscle or bone, the wolves feast on stomach contents, the liver, pancreas, and intestines-in other words, they are gorging on enzyme-laden tissues. Wolf pups are weaned and maintained on regurgitated food, also heavily laced with digestive enzymes.

Since it's unlikely we can provide the same food a wolf enjoys in the wild, adding a digestive enzyme supplement to each meal may be essential for optimum digestion and overall good health. A multiple digestive enzyme should contain pancreatin, lipase, ox bile, pepsin, betain hydrochloric acid (HCL), bromelain, papain, amylase and protease. The enzyme should be a powder or capsule to assure the digestive process begins in the stomach. These enzymes are readily available at all health food and vitamin stores.

Supplement with as much raw fruit and vegetables as your Akita will consume. Additional antioxidant supplements like Co-Q10, quercetin, grape-seed extract and silymarin are important.


ABSORPTION As radiation passes through a substance or tissue it gradually loses energy and is absorbed. Alpha and beta rays are more easily absorbed than gamma rays.

ALPHA PARTICLE RADIATION: Alpha particles are positively charged particles made up of two protons and two neutrons. They lose their energy quickly and do not penetrate the surface of the skin when exposed externally. Alpha particles can enter the body through a cut in the skin, by ingestion or inhalation. Alpha-emitting particles are harmful once inside the body. Uranium-238 and plutonium-239 are sources of alpha radiation.

ATOM The atom is the basic component of all matter everything is made up of atoms. It is the smallest part of an element and has all the chemical properties of that element. The outside of an atom is composed of tiny electrically charged particles called electrons that move with great speed around the center of the atom, called the nucleus.

AUTOANTIBODIES Proteins that act against the protection mechanisms within one's own body.

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE A disease caused by the immune system attacking the cells of one's own body rather than attacking foreign cells such as germs.

AUTOIMMUNE HYPOTHYROIDISM An autoimmune disease that prevents the thyroid gland from producing enough thyroid hormone.

BETA PARTICLES These particles are fast moving electrons, which are negatively charged. Beta radiation can penetrate a few millimeters into human tissue before losing all its energy. Iodine-131, phosphorus-32 and strontium-90 are sources of beta radiation.

CESIUM A radionuclide created during the process of irradiating uranium to make plutonium. It collects in the bone marrow and is linked to leukemia. Soluble forms of cesium cause liver damage, liver cancer, nasal cavity cancers and bone cancer. Produced at Hanford, Washington.

CHROMOSOME One of 78 bodies in the cell nucleus that is the bearer of genes.

COMPOUNDS Atoms of elements joined together. Atoms come together in one of two ways. A negative ion and a positive ion are pulled together like two magnets. Many atoms joined together this way are called an ionic bond. In some compounds the atoms will share electrons forming a covalent bond.

COVALENT BOND Electrons move from one atom to the other joining the atoms together. A covalent bond consists of a definite group of atoms joined together. These are called molecules.

CURIE A unit of radioactivity equal to the radioactivity of one gram of radium-226.

DELAYED EFFECT A health effect of radiation exposure which does not become apparent for months or years after the exposure occurs.

DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid is the highly complex part of each cell that carries all genetic characteristics of the organism.

ELECTRONS Tiny particles moving around the nucleus of each atom. Each electron has an electric charge called "a negative charge."

ELEMENTS Substances that contain only one kind of atom. For example hydrogen contains an atom with one proton, an oxygen atom contains eight. Everything on earth is made up of 105 elements that occur in nature including carbon, nitrogen, gold, lead, etc. The thousands of different substances we see every day are combinations of elements and these combinations are called compounds. The trees, flowers, your dog, are compounds of 105 elements. See how much we have in common!

FISSION Forcing the nucleus of an atom to break into two nuclei. Each of these nuclei is half the size of the original. Fission is a man-made process whereby neutrons are made to strike the nuclei of some heavy atoms. The nuclei produced are called fission fragments. Atom bombs work by splitting the atoms of uranium-235 or plutonium-239, into a chain reaction releasing enormous quantities of energy. The amount of radioactive material needed to produce a chain reaction is called the critical mass. In a bomb this process is maximized to yield a tremendous explosion. The bomb on Hiroshima utilized two pieces of uranium-235 forced together by an explosive device. For Nagasaki the bomb contained a hollow ball of plutonium-239. An explosive device crushed the plutonium into a solid mass to set-off the chain reaction.

GAMMA RADIATION Gamma rays behave differently from particles. When a photon of such radiation strikes an atom, it ejects an electron from the atom thus ionizing it and producing an energetic electron. Ionizations break chemical bonds, they destroy molecules by breaking them up. One ionization in a gene can destroy its biological function.

GENE A gene carries inherited characteristics from generation to generation.

GENETIC EFFECTS A genetic effect is the result of exposure to substances such as radiation that cause damage to the genes of a reproductive cell.

GENOME A complete set of genes.

GERM CELLS Germ cells are reproductive cells, the sperm in males and ova in females. These cells carry the chromosomes for inheritance.

HALF LIFE The time taken for half the energy of a radioactive substance to be discharged by bursts of nuclear radiation.

HEU (Highly enriched uranium). HEU is an important fissile material used in nuclear weapons. It is uranium whose proportion of uranium-235 has been increased to over 90%. Uranium as it exists in its natural state consists of 0.7% uranium-235. Uranium-235 has a half life of 704 million years.

IMMUNE SYSTEM DISORDERS These include allergic reactions and disruption of the immune surveillance system whose prime function is to detect and eliminate diseased cells.

INTERNAL RADIATION Internal radiation exposure occurs when a radioactive substance is taken into the body by eating, drinking or breathing.

IODINE-131 A radioactive by-product of fission created during nuclear explosions and in nuclear reactors. It has a half-life of eight days. It can be inhaled and ingested. It concentrates in milk, and to a lesser degree, on fruits and vegetables. Iodine-131 damages and/or destroys thyroid cells. It increases the risk of thyroid cancer.

ION Usually an atom has neither a positive nor a negative charge but is in balance. When an atom loses or gains an electron it becomes positively or negatively charged and is known as an ion. For example, if the atom gains an electron it gains the negative electric charge of that electron and becomes a negative ion.

IONIC BOND A negative ion bonds to a positive ion joining many atoms together. Ionic bonds are formed by the electrical attraction of atoms which can bring together any number of atoms in any size.

IONIZING RADIATION The type of radiation capable of removing one or more electrons from any atom(s) it encounters, leaving positively charged particles such as alpha and beta. When alpha and/or beta particles strike the human/canine body the particles change the existing atoms. The change occurs because the covalent bond is broken, meaning the molecule that suffers an ionization is so badly damaged it loses its normal function.

ISOTOPE Atoms of an element that contain different numbers of neutrons.

LATE EFFECTS A health effect of radiation exposure that does not become apparent for years, even decades after the exposure occurs.

MANHATTAN PROJECT A huge industrial operation formed to create an atomic bomb. Started in January 1942 as the Manhattan Engineer District, with 45 researchers, it was renamed the Manhattan Project after the war. By the end of the war, the Manhattan Project had grown into a top-secret organization, with 40,000 employees at 39 plants throughout the country and a budget of $2.2 billion.

MOLECULE Groups of atoms held together by a covalent bond--sharing electrons.

NEUTRONS Neutron particles are released following fission of uranium and plutonium. Neutrons penetrate deeply into tissue but do not carry an electrical charge. When a neutron strikes a nucleus it may merely bounce off or it may be absorbed into the nucleus causing a change in the nature of the nucleus.

NUCLEAR RADIATION In a radioactive atom, the nucleus carries too many or too few neutrons making the atom unstable. In order to get rid of the instability, bursts of radiation are produced. Because the energy comes from the nucleus it is called nuclear radiation. These bursts of radiation are sent out as alpha rays, beta rays or gamma rays. (Although all three types of rays can be produced by a radioactive nucleus, they are never all produced by one nucleus at the same time.) This process of change is called radioactive decay. Eventually after one or more bursts of nuclear radiation, the nucleus becomes stable and non-radioactive.

NUCLEUS The central part of something like the yolk of an egg. The nucleus of a cell is the part that controls activity. The nucleus of an atom is the central part of the atom that contains its mass and defines the element to which it belongs. The nucleus is made up of tiny particles called protons and neutrons compacted together. Protons are positively charged, while neutrons carry no charge. The positive and negative charges in an atom are usually equal in number.

PHOTON A particle of light or other electromagnetic radiation.

PROTON A particle in the nucleus with a positive charge.

PLUTONIUM A highly toxic radioactive metallic element with a half-life of 24,000 years. Plutonium-239 is an isotope of plutonium used in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. Plutonium emits primarily alpha particles, which cannot penetrate the skin. The small amount of neutrons and gamma photons emitted can penetrate the body but it takes a large exposure to be dangerous. The danger from plutonium occurs when it enters the body. When inhaled or absorbed into the body it is highly toxic. Plutonium metal exposed to the air oxidizes into plutonium oxide, a powdery substance that is easily dispersed. Plutonium oxide can be ingested in food or water, is inhaled and can be absorbed; it lodges in the alveoli of the lung or may end up in the liver or bone. Little data exists on effects of exposure in humans or animals. In 1991, the White Office of Science & Technology Policy released a statement on plutonium stating: "...sufficient human data are not available to provide accurate risk assessment of exposure."

RAD (Radiation absorbed dose) A unit used to measure a quantity of absorbed radiation. A rad relates to the amount of energy actually absorbed into some material and is used to measure any type of radiation and any type of material but it does not describe the biological effects of radiation.

RADIATION The process by which electromagnetic waves carry energy from one place to another. The transferred energy is a form of heat.

RADIOACTIVE Substances that have their own energy because of their unstable nuclei.

RADIONUCLIDES Unstable atoms with constantly degenerating nuclei. They give off alpha, beta or gamma radiation until they achieve a stable state. These substances have chemical properties and the body uses them chemically.

REM (Roentgen equivalent man) The rem is used to determine a quantity called an equivalent dose. It relates to the absorbed does in human tissue and both the known and assumed biological effects of different types of radiation. This measurement applies only to gamma rays and x-rays.

ROENTGEN (R) A unit used to measure the quantity of exposure to gamma radiation and x-rays in the air.

RUTHENIUM Two ruthenium isotopes are by-products of plutonium production. Virtually nothing is known about the effects of these radionuclides on body systems except contact with skin cause burns. These isotopes were produced at Hanford, Washington.

STRONTIUM-90 An isotope chemically similar to calcium. It collects in the bones and irradiates the bone marrow where white cells are formed. Animal studies show high doses of strontium cause bone cancer. Continuous low doses weaken the immune system.

URANIUM Uranium is found in small quantities everywhere on earth. Natural uranium consists of three isotopes: uranium-238, uranium-235 and uranium-234. These three types of radiation are all ionizing radiation, meaning they have enough energy to break chemical bonds causing damage or destruction to living cells. The uranium isotopes are radioactive meaning they are transformed into other elements by emitting or absorbing particles through the process known as radioactive decay. Uranium-238 used in the production of plutonium has a half-life of 4.46 billion years. Like plutonium, uranium is dangerous when it is inhaled or absorbed. Uranium is more easily absorbed than plutonium through the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have shown uranium damages reproductive organs, increases the risk of leukemia, soft tissue cancers and acute kidney damage.

(c) 1997 Barbara Bouyet