Rachel Carson wrote in her book "Silent Spring" in the 1960s that pesticides which mimic the effects of radiation may actually be more dangerous than radioactive substances.
Some scientists are concerned that the combined effects of radiation and pesticides present a more serious risk to the world's human population.
The risks found in the "Radiation Industries" are recognised in the Government papers "Notes on the Diagnosis of Prescribed Diseases" under the heading of Conditions due to Physical Agents Disease A1.
The paper is headed "INFLAMATION, ULCERATION OR MALIGNANT DISEASE of the skin or other subcutaneous tissues, or of the bones, or blood dyscrasia, or cataract, due to electyro-magnetic radiations (other than radiant heat), or to ionizing particles.
The information states that "All electro-magnetic radiation is harmful if there is enough of it." Reference to radiation usually means ionizing radiation which occurs at wave lengths of 100 nm or lower where the radiation is of sufficient energy to penetrate the body and disrupt atoms in its path.
Such radiation can cause heat, and therefore the potential for burns, and ionization, which can cause damage and death of cell structures and, or, the cell replication process, which can result in dysplasia (the production of abnormal cells) or malignancy.
Ionizing particles are listed as alpha and beta particles, protons,
and neutrons, each of which has a different biological effect.
Alfa particles emitted by elements such as radium, radiothorium and polonium, are large slow particles which do not penetrate the skin but can be inhaled or swallowed and can penetrate the surface millimetre of the lining of the gut or lung.
Beta particles, or electrons, are more energetic and can penetrate the skin to a depth of several centimetres.
Protons are more penetrative than alpha particles.
Neutrons have no charge and are highly penetrative.
The "Radiation Industry" covers a wide range of jobs and almost any
other work may involve exposure to electro-magnetic radiation of some
description. Recommendations for the "safe" levels of exposure have
recently been reported as being set too high to prevent harm to
those exposed in the work place. Furthermore with the depletion of
the ozone layer each of us receives ever higher doses from the sun.
Ultra-violet radiation is known to cause cancer of the skin
Everyone is therefore continuously exposed to ionizing radiation and
that radiation can cause burns and cataracts, cell death and
The most vulnerable tissues are those which are most active because the greater the number of cell divisions the more chance there is that there will be an unrestrained cancerous growth.
For this reason the skin, subcutaneous tissues, bones and blood are the most likely to show the malignant effects of exposure to radiation.
Radiation induced cancers are no different from other forms of cancer and so the same procedures for diagnosis and treatment are employed.
Cancer is known to be caused as the result of insufficient oxygen reaching the cells and recent discoveries demonstrate that changes in the formation of vital proteins can also trigger the development of cancer.
Pesticides act on the very processes of life itself which is why they
kill the target organism be it plant, insect or animal.
It is commonly believed that organophosphates only act on the cholinesterase system but it is known that insects can survive with that system totally destroyed and yet die with it completely intact.
Other mechanisms of toxicity must therefore be present and it is clear
that OP compounds can interfere with a host of biological processes,
all of which are vital to life.
Of most importance is the oxygen transport system which provides the energy for life at cell level. Without oxygen cells will die and anoxia due to the ability of the pesticides to interfere with this system is a recognised symptom of poisoning.
Cells with insufficient oxygen may not divide correctly and mutations may form which can result in cancer. The immune system should protect the exposed individual but these chemicals also interfere with that action.
That is not the only action of the pesticide which can cause such
damage and it is clear that the vital part played by phosphorus and its
compounds within the body can lead to protein formation abnormalities in
It has been admitted for example that glyphosate, the OP herbicide, can damage the action of the mitochondria. The mitochondria carry the genetic code for a number of vital proteins including the enzyme ATPase which is involved in energy transfer, including muscle contraction, the control of sodium and calcium movement, and is directly linked to other related phosphorus compounds which are essential for hormonal and enzyme mediated actions. The pH level is also of vital importance in these actions and this may also be altered by the presence of pesticides and the co-formulants used.
Another OP pesticide which has been shown to disrupt protein formation is pirimiphos methyl, the insecticide added to harvested grain. This chemical interferes with the proteolytic enzymes which also form the proteins vital for proper function of the cells.
Pesticides act on a variety of systems and none of us is exposed to just one of them at any one time. Most of us will have organochlorine stored somewhere in our bodies and many OPs are stored in the fats. Loss of weight can release those stores back into the blood stream where further damage can be done. Such damage may be much more serious if the individual loses weight as the result of appetite suppressing effects of illness or another exposure to a toxin.
All these factors can trigger mutation and cancer in the human body and it is perhaps not surprising that scientists have expressed concern about the combined effects of radiation and pesticides.
In the modern world we have pesticide residues in, and even deliberately added to, our food. We have OPs as fire retardants in furniture and used in fuel and lubricating oils. Wood in the home is treated with pesticides and even passenger aircraft are sprayed with them in flight, despite the closed air circulation system. On top of these risks we have increased radiation from the sun, radiation released by nuclear power stations and recycling plants which now contaminates the waters of the Arctic. We have the fall-out from nuclear weapons tests and the effects of medical scanning and treatment procedures without the accidental releases from Chernobyl and the other less publicised incidents around the globe.
The human body can only take so much and yet in the industrial countries we add to that burden with radiation from televisions, computers and now the widespread use of mobile telephone masts and the transmitters which serve them. There are many who will be certain that their brain tumours are the result of mobile phone use but children are being born with brain tumours so this could be simply yet another trigger for cancer rather than the sole cause.
If warnings from science were not enough the world has been given a demonstration of the deadly combined effects of radiation and pesticides. The soldiers and civilians who took part in the Gulf War and the aftermath of the conflict were exposed to the deadly combination of depleted uranium, pesticides and, some say, nerve gas such as Agent VX.
Reports suggest that not only were they themselves damaged by such exposure but they took the problem home to their loved ones and to their unborn children.
It is said that the air crew on passenger jets have a higher incidence
of cancers and that this has been suggested to be caused by the higher
radiation levels found at such altitudes.
Recently it has been reported that cabin crew are instructed to spray insecticide in the aircraft. Many insecticides have been shown to be carcinogenic but there may be other hidden risks.
A cargo aircraft crashed near a UK airport and landed in a lake.
The Boeing 747 aircraft was of Korean ownership and later reports suggested that the lake was drained so that certain parts of the airframe could be recovered.
Those panels were made of depleted uranium.
It appears that depleted uranium is used in such aircraft as ballast and in other more vital areas and that they did not recover all the panels after the crash. The depleted uranium can become more dangerous if involved in a fire which causes it to act in a similar way to plutonium which is recognised as extremely dangerous and carcinogenic.
It would seem that some aircraft engineers find the use of depleted uranium in aircraft structure somewhat strange since the first priority is to reduce weight while retaining the strength of the airframe and use of such materials is at odds with those ideals.
Now we find reported plans to send depleted uranium into space as the power source for satellites. Given that several launches have ended in explosions, which spread the fabric of the satellite and the transporting rocket far and wide, this would seem a dangerous proposal.
Radiation and pesticides have another thing in common.
Our food and our immediate environment can be dangerously contaminated and we have no way of knowing. There is therefore a hidden danger which can have serious adverse effects on our health and that of our children.
Given those dangers and the need to protect the health of the people it would be expected that Government would make every effort to reduce the risk and yet the opposite is true.
Government agencies have attempted to hide the real risks posed by pesticides and they are actively encouraging the import into the country of the nuclear wastes from other nations in the full knowledge that there have been serious problems controlling that from our own nuclear industry.
Given the known risks this is an irresponsible and dangerous policy.
Go to top
Return to Front Page;
Return to Contents file;
Return to Front Page; Return to Contents file;