Publication Laka-library:
Cancer near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant

AuthorHatch, J.Beyea, J.Nieves, M.Susser
DateAugust 1990

From the publication:

August 31, 1990
Radiation Emissions

Maureen C. Hatch, Jan Beyea, Jeri Nieves
and Mervyn Susser

Columbia University School of Public Health
and National Audubon Society
New York, New York

Summary based on a paper by the same title in the September 1990 issue of
the American Journal of Epidemiology (vo1132, No. 3, pp 397-412).

In the study summarized here, we tested the hypothesis that the risk of certain cancers might have
been raised by exposure to airborne radiation from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, which had a
widely publicized reactor accident early on the morning of March 28, 1979. Monitoring equipment was
limited but, based on available measurements, dosimetry experts stated that the average exposure to
individuals living near Three Mile Island was in the range of 0.1 • 0.2S mSv (that is, 0.01 - O.02S rem).
According to these estimates, exposure from accident releases was a fraction of the average yearly exposure
from natural background radiation (about 0.8 • 1 mSv, or 0.08 - 0.1 rem). Official reports predicted that
among those within SO miles of the Three Mile Island facility, at most one cancer death would occur as a
result of the accident. Nonetheless, when a survey by area residents found a cluster of cancer deaths, there
was concern in the commmunity that accident releases had not been correctly estimated.

At the request of the Three Mi1e Island Public Health Fund, we agreed to investigate the situation
further, by specifically testing whether the geographic patterns of cancer occurrence and airborne radiation
emissions from the plant could be related. In addition to accident releases, we considered routine
emissions from TMI during normal operations, since the plant operated for some years prior to the
accident. Outdoor background gamma radiation was considered as well, using data available from a
national program that monitors background levels around nuclear facilities.