Prevention is the Only Cure: Health Effects of the Uranium Cycle on Women, Fetuses and Children

Susan Howlett, BA, RM, RLC

There are many sources of potential contamination throughout the uranium cycle, which can affect the health of families for generations to come. Children and fetuses are especially vulnerable due to rapid cell division during physical growth. This is documented internationally through outcomes such as increased incidence in spontaneous abortions, childhood leukemia and other childhood cancers. Research on this topic arose out of a local concern in eastern Ontario due to proposed uranium mines at the watershed of major rivers, which may pose a risk to midwifery clients who live near tailing ponds, in communities who rely on the rivers for their source of water, or who work in reprocessing and nuclear power plants. As Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of uranium, the health impacts extend to the most recent use of depleted uranium in weapons abroad. As primary health practitioners, midwives can play a role in promoting public health through becoming better informed, and supporting local and international initiatives which address the threat posed to human and environmental health by the uranium cycle.

Radiation exposure, pregnancy, uranium cycle, children, fetuses, midwives, public health promotion.

This commentary has been peer-reviewed.


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