NH #29: The (Nuclear) Chain of Life: Are Cancer and Autism Linked to Your Grandmother’s Radiation Exposure?

An email forwarded to me from Mary Olsen of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS.com) has been haunting me.

It’s well known within the anti-nuclear movement that radiation most profoundly affects fetuses and the very young.  In explaining this phenomenon, Mary wrote, “In addition to radiation impacts on DNA (both egg and sperm), there is heritable impact on cytoplasm (egg only) as well.  Note that the cytoplasm/egg is formed while the female is in utero… which means the egg forms in its GRANDMOTHER’s body.”

Let’s wrap our heads around that one.  Females are born with their full allotment of eggs already in place.  At adolescence and the onset of menstruation, these eggs can potentially become fertilized and grow into independent living beings, but at birth every female already contains within them every egg they will ever have.

That means the grandmother’s health is a key factor in the health of the grandchild, because the grandmother’s body forms the fetal female’s eggs.  If a mother is exposed to toxins, pollutants and/or radiation, it may not directly effect the child she bears, because the egg to create that baby was formed before the toxic exposure happened. But another generation down the line, the damage created by radiation or other pollutants has the potential to show up in her grandchildren… and from them, continue down the generations.

I was born in 1949.  The DNA in my mother’s egg came from her mother, who gave birth in 1917 – well before the current nuclear problems.  The first nuclear blast took place on July 16, 1945, a test in New Mexico before the Japanese bombs, and by 1949 only eight atmospheric explosions had occurred.  So I probably was born with pretty undamaged DNA and healthy eggs.  Still, following Three Mile Island and my inability to know what damage the radiation exposure might have done to my genes, at 30 I decided not to have children for fear of what I might be birthing into the world.

Here’s the part of Mary’s email that really got to me:  “If there are a bunch of healthy Japanese babies NOW it does not mean that there will not be a cancer/other epidemic coming in another two birth cycles… which I think does at least correlate to the outburst of cancer in the USA, about two birth cycles after we started this mess!”

Cancer used to be a rare disease.  But since 1945, its growth has been exponential.  Now we’re facing epidemics of cancer, autism and other formerly-rare illnesses.  Coincidence?  A sign of our increasingly poisoned lives with depleted soil, chemically fertilized crops, unrelenting stress, GMO “frankenfoods,” etc.?  Or is it the payoff of the atomic age two generations down the line, as the eggs created in the post-atomic grandmothers’ wombs have led to  grandchildren being born from damaged DNA?  In this delayed way, are we currently reaping the “rewards” of our nuclear recklessness in the diminished and diminishing health of our children?

And if that is the case, will the human race ever again have a chance to be as it once was, with the easy assumption that our kids will enjoy health and a fair chance to live illness-free as they achieve a productive, extended adulthood?  Or have we so poisoned our future that can we will last for only a limited number of life cycles before human life itself collapses under the weight of our terminally ill, mentally ill or mentally diminished children?

No way to know for sure.  We’ll have to live it through and see.

There’s an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”  Would that it were not so.