Radioactivity released during the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in 1979 does not appear to have caused an increase in cancer mortality among people living within a five-mile radius of the nuclear accident, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH). The findings were published Friday, April 28, on the website of Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The paper will also appear in the June issue of the journal.
While several previous follow-up studies on the TMI population have been conducted in the past, this one is the most extensive due to its longer, 13-year time-frame and the use of information about residents' lifestyles (such as smoking habits and education levels) and everyday background radiation exposure beyond what was caused by the TMI incident.
"This study helps put to rest the lingering question of whether the residents of Three Mile Island are experiencing an increase in cancer deaths as a result of the nuclear accident," said Evelyn Talbott, Dr. P.H., associate professor, department of epidemiology and principal investigator on the study.
The TMI incident occurred at a nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., on March 29, 1979, when a reactor leaked small amounts of radioactive gases. It is often referred to as the worst nuclear accident in American history. Scientists have calculated that the average person present in the area during the 10 days after the incident was exposed to considerably less radiation than the annual dose an individual receives from the everyday environment in the United States.
The University of Pittsburgh study covered the years 1979-1992. For demographic and lifestyle data on the individuals living in the TMI area, researchers used information collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in interviews conducted with TMI residents within two mo
Contact: Kathryn Duda
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center