We mourn the passing on February 12, 2015 of Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, the brilliant physicist, humanist and pioneer in the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation and the hidden dangers of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. He was 91.
Dr. Sternglass was responsible for important scientific breakthroughs, including innovations leading to the first live-transmitted photographs of the moon from the first manned lunar landing. As a young researcher with a Ph.D. from Cornell University, he was mentored by Albert Einstein, who encouraged his work in particle physics and other rarefied subjects. But Dr. Sternglass was most proud of his testimony before Congress in 1963 which helped lead to passage of the Nuclear Weapons Atmospheric Test BanTreaty prohibiting nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere.
Dr. Sternglass was born in Berlin, Germany, on September 24, 1923. His parents were both physicians. The family escaped the Nazis by fleeing to the United States when Dr. Sternglass was 15.
Dr. Sternglass served as an expert witness for the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone. His analysis of reports filed by Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc. of its goat milk sampling program near the Millstone nuclear power station led to the Coalition’s expose in 2005 of excessive high levels of strontium-90 and other radioisotopes in the milk of Katie the Goat, who pastured five miles north of Millstone in the early 2000s.
Dominion reported a concentration of strontium-90 of 55.5 picocuries per liter in one of Katie’s goat milk samples taken in September 2001.
Such a concentration is an “extremely large concentration, close to twice the highest concentration measured in Connecticut pooled milk at the height of nuclear weapons testing in 1963 of 23 picoCuries per liter,” Sternglass wrote in an affidavit supporting the Coalition’s expose.
Sternglass calculated that an individual drinking two eight-ounce glasses of the strontium-90-contaminated goat milk on a daily basis would receive a maximum permissible annual dose of radiation – under U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines – within 30 days.
Strontium-90 is among the most deadly byproducts of nuclear fission. Once ingested, its highly energetic electrons damage and cause mutations in nearby cells.
In a sworn declaration submitted to the NRC on behalf of the Coalition in 2004, Dr. Sternglass explained that exposure to low levels of strontium-90 and other bone-seeking radioactive chemicals routinely released by nuclear power plants does not merely increase the risk of bone cancer, breast cancer or leukemia, but it weakens the immune defenses provided by the white cells of the blood that originate in the bone marrow.
Dr. Sternglass appeared with members of the Coalition – alongside Katie the Goat and her two suckling kids, Cindy-Lu and Joe-Joe – at the State Capitol in Hartford at a press conference called in 2005 to bring attention to the issue.
Dr. Sternglass published extensively in the area of low-level radiation and human health. He authored the book “Secret Fallout: Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three-Mile-Island,” published by McGraw-Hill in 1981. He conducted many studies linking releases from nuclear power plants to elevated cancer levels in surrounding communities.
In demand around the world as a speaker, Dr. Sternglass was prescient during a speaking tour of earthquake-prone Japan. A decade before Fukushima, he helped to educate people in dozens of Japanese communities about the special risks of a catastrophic nuclear power plant accident in the event of an earthquake.
Read the obituary published in the Ithaca NY Journal: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theithacajournal/obituary.aspx?n=ernest-j-sternglass&pid=174146534