- cancer - environment
Corsica's environmental cancer
Cancer remains the leading cause of death worldwide, and yet 40% of cancer cases are said to be preventable. On the island of Corsica however, many locals feel that prevention was not an option, since they say they were the victims of their own environment.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 remains the largest ever radiation accident. The fallout crossed national boundaries and washed the French island of Corsica in a wave of radioactive ions. Given insufficient warning about the possible dangers, doctors in Corsica say locals continued to eat fresh produce as normal and the result is an elevated level of cancers on the island.
"The thyroid is an organ that needs to accumulate iodine to produce thyroid hormones required for normal body function; when there is radioactive iodine in the environment it goes straight to the thyroid and radiates it," Dr Denis Fauconnier notes. A general practitioner in Corsica, he has worked hard to try to get the French state to accept responsibility for failing to warn the population.
And while the environment in Corsica is now clear, an organisation of nuclear experts is now worried that radioactive waste could become commonplace in everyday items such as bikes or bags. Since 2002 in France a law has forbidden the fabrication of items made directly from radioactive material, but in May of last year a modification was made to allow concrete or metals from French nuclear plant to be reused. Some experts, like Roland Desborde of the commission for independent radioactivity research, are worried: "If you're in contact with only one radioactive product, well of course, risks should be very low. But if they're all around us, the risks grow significantly."