History / Resources / Scientific Concepts

“POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF FEBRUARY 16, 2000 ACCIDENT AT INDIAN POINT ON HEALTH OF LOCAL INFANTS” by Joseph J. Mangano, MPH MBA Radiation and Public Health Project

“On February 16, 2000 , the Indian Point Unit 2 reactor experienced a Level 2 (4 being the most severe) accident, necessitating the shutdown of the unit for the next year.  Consolidated Edison and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that the accident caused minimal levels of radiation to escape into the environment; that the exact level of emissions was unknown; and that these emissions did not threaten local public health.

As these three statements seem presumptive and contradictory, a review of the vital statistics collected by public health departments may add information on whether or not local health was harmed.  Because the human body is most vulnerable to hazardous effects of radiation exposure during pregnancy, an examination of two fetal health indicators is appropriate.  These indicators are

  1. Neonatal mortality (rate of live births dying before age 28 days)
  2. Premature births (rate of live births with a gestation period under 36 weeks)

For both of these measures, the 2000 rate jumped in Westchester and the Bronx – and not for any other nearby county.  Rates declined in the rest of New York State and the U.S.   Increases for Westchester were higher than those for the Bronx .  The increase for neonatal mortality was of borderline statistical significance, and was significant for premature births.  Local rates for both fell in 2001.

Because these two counties are closest to Indian Point; and because they lie to the southeast (prevailing local winds in February are from the northwest), consideration should be given to the role of Indian Point harming public health, during the 2000 accident and in general.

Change in Neonatal Mortality Rate

Bronx and Westchester Counties , 1999 vs. 2000  

Deaths < 28 Days         Live Births                     Deaths/1000

Area                 1999    2000                1999    2000                1999    2000    % Ch

Bronx                100      119                  22453  22747              4.45     5.23     +17.4

Westchester        37        49                  12551  13032              2.95     3.76     +27.5

Total                137      168                  35004  35779              3.91     4.70     +20.0 (p<.07)

Other NYS      1005    1010                220608  222958                 4.56     4.53     –   0.6

U.S.                  18728  18776              3959417  4058814              4.73     4.63     –   2.2

Source: National Center for Health Statistics , U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov, underlying cause of death.

Change in Prematurity Rate

Bronx and Westchester Counties , 1999 vs. 2000

<36 weeks gest.           Live Births*                  % Premature

Area                 1999    2000                1999    2000                1999    2000    % Ch

Bronx                1575    1623                21742  22089              7.24     7.35     +  1.5

Westchester        633      751                11949  12426              5.30     6.04     +14.1 (p<.01)

Total                2208    2374                33691  34515              6.55     6.88     +  5.0 (p<.04)

Other NYS      12317  12140              211818  214063                 5.82     5.67     –   2.5

U.S.                  239308  242128                 3796233  3890533              6.30     6.22     –   1.3

* only births with known gestation

Source: National Center for Health Statistics , U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov, natality.”

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