BARDA’s $60M plan to protect against radiation poisoning

DOTmed, Oct. 30, 2011

Federal officials announced they were funding the development of five drugs designed to protect people from the horrors of radiation poisoning. The government’s also financing studies to develop an improved version of another drug to treat people exposed to radioactive particles that could be released during a so-called dirty bomb attack.

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced the roughly $60 million in funding in a series of releases Wednesday and Thursday.

About $56.3 million will go toward five contracts for a variety of drug companies and scientists working on countermeasures for acute radiation syndrome, or radiation sickness. When exposed to high doses of ionizing radiation — such as from a nuclear bomb blast — fast-reproducing cells in the gut, bone marrow, and lungs can be destroyed, which can in turn lead to internal bleeding, a depressed immune system and death over the following days or even weeks.

Winners of contracts include Neumedicines Inc., which got a $17 million award to study recombinant human interleukin-12 (rhuIL-12). Also called HemaMax, a 2008 BARDA-funded study showed it might be able to protect bone marrow from radiation.

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Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think

Al Jazeera, June 16, 2011
by Dahr Jamail

“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,” Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.

Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

“Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed,” he said, “You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively.”

In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

“There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children,” Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety, told Al Jazeera.

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

“These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant,” he explained, “One cigarette doesn’t get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can’t measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April.”

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Group warns EPA ready to increase radioactive release guidelines

Tennessean
Anne Paine

The EPA is preparing to dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in drinking water, food and soil after “radiological incidents,” according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

What is termed a guidance that EPA is considering – as opposed to a regulation – does not require public airing before it’s decided upon.

EPA officials contacted today in the Atlanta and D.C. offices had no response on the issue as of 6 p.m.
The radiation guides called Protective Action Guides or PAGs are protocols for responding to radiological events ranging from nuclear power-plant accidents to dirty bombs.

Drinking water, for example, would have a huge increase in allowable public exposure to radioactivity, the group says, that would include:

A nearly 1000-fold increase in strontium-90

A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for iodine-131

An almost 25,000 rise for nickel-63

The new radiation guidance would also allow long-term cleanup standards thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted, permitting doses to the public that EPA itself estimates would cause a cancer in as much as every fourth person exposed, the group says.