Radiation tests on kids’ bodies
Published on 11/07/2007
ORGANS from children and Cumbrian crash victims have been tested by nuclear scientists probing plutonium levels in human tissue.
The evidence emerged as QC Michael Redfern launched his year-long inquiry yesterday into the harvesting and testing of human tissue from workers at nuclear sites such as Sellafield over three decades.
Fifty seven non-nuclear workers – as well as accident victims aged between 18 and 22 – had organs removed for testing.
It is not clear whether consent was sought from the relatives of the dead but the research paper points out: â€œthere are legal difficulties in obtaining autopsy material.â€ Nor is it clear whether families were told of the tests.
Mr Redfern confirmed that Sellafield Limited has given him the names of 65 workers whose organs were taken and tested.
The work was part of a research programme into the physical effects of working with radioactive materials such as plutonium.
In a handful of cases, it is said that consent for organ removal was not sought from the relatives of the dead.
Launching the inquiry, Mr Redfern QC, who headed the inquiry into the removal of childrenâ€™s organs at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, confirmed that scientists tested tissue from two control groups – meaning non-nuclear workers, as well as body parts from staff who worked at nuclear sites across England.
He said lawyers found evidence for the wider testing in academic research papers.
Though he did not identify specific research documents, a report written by a scientist from the National Radiological Protection Board has been tracked down by the Times & Star’s sister paper, the News & Star.
Entitled Plutonium in Autopsy Tissue in Great Britain, the report outlines how scientists tested bones, lives, lungs from dozens of Sellafield workers.
Similar tests were carried out on tissue from more than 50 non-nuclear industry workers, including young adults who died in road crashes in the north-east and West Cumbria and from several â€œvery young children.â€
Speaking in Whitehaven yesterday, Mr Redfern set out the terms of his inquiry, which will examine organ testing in the nuclear industry between 1962 and 1992.
He said information already before the investigation showed scientists felt it necessary to compare test results for Sellafield worker body parts with results from tests on the body parts of people outside the industry.
There was evidence that body parts were taken from workers at other nuclear sites, including Springfields nuclear plant in Lancashire and Aldermaston research facility in Berkshire.
The two control groups, he said, were non nuclear workers who lived and died either in West Cumbria or elsewhere in the country.
He said: â€œWhat we need to do is look at those nuclear installations which have laboratory facilities which are able to test organs or tissue to ascertain whether levels of radiation are within satisfactory limits.â€
There has been public unease over claims that organs were taken without the consent of relatives.