WHEN I UNDERTOOK to write the first edition of this book, originally published in 1972 under the title Low-Level Radiation, my primary concern was with the health effects of worldwide fallout from nuclear weapons, particularly on the developing infant in the mother's womb.
At that time I also discussed the first evidence for possible health effects of routine releases of radioactivity from nuclear reactors in their ordinary day-to-day operation.
In the ten years that have intervened since then, my concerns about the safety of nuclear plants have unfortunately been reinforced far more than I could have anticipated. Not only in the accident at Three Mile Island, whose likely effects on human health are discussed in the present book, but also in the normal operations of many other nuclear plants, there is now growing evidence for rising infant mortality and damage to the newborn. In the decade that has passed, cancer rates increased most sharply in areas closest to the nuclear reactors whose radioactive gas releases were found to rise most strongly, following the earlier pattern of death rates among the newborn described in the original book.
The first fourteen chapters have been left nearly unchanged, while the rest of the present book brings the story up to the present time. It deals with the newly disclosed evidence that the possibility of serious health damage from weapons testing was long known to our government. It also presents the evidence for widespread damage to the learning abilities of the children born in areas of heavy fallout during the period of massive nuclear weapons testing.
What emerges is that in order for major governments to be able to continue threatening the use of their ever-growing stockpiles of weapons to fight and win nuclear wars rather than merely to deter them, they must keep from their own people the severity of the biological damage already done to their children by past nuclear testing and the releases from nuclear reactors near their homes.
It is to focus attention on the need to end this hidden threat to the future of human life on this globe that this new edition has been prepared.
Ernest J. Sternglass
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