Sir: Chris Brunning (Letters, 8 August) wonders if there has been any research into the health of British personnel who served with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan. The governments concerned do not even have a clear record of the numbers who served in the BCOF. The Australian Department of Veterans Affairs guesstimated their contingent at 25,000, of whom they assumed barely 40 per cent were alive in 1989. The Atomic Veterans Associations are analysing death certificates of their members to understand the "cluster effect" of the massive incidence of cancers that are known to be radiogenic, which on preliminary results are consistently accounting for three-quarters of the causes of death.
Yet the allied governments still refuse to acknowledge that there was fall-out and residual radiation in the two cities and neighbouring camp areas which was absorbed, inhaled and ingested by the occupation troops.
There has been a major study of the British veterans present at the atmospheric tests in the 1950s and 1960s, conducted under the auspices of the National Radiation Protection Board. The remarkably high incidence of radiogenic cancers was dismissed as a "chance finding", despite the established bias of the "healthy soldier" effect in veterans' epidemiology. As with the leukaemia clusters around Sellafield and Dounreay, the cluster effect does not jibe with the proportionate mortality studies which are statistically guaranteed to dilute the significant findings.
Sue Rabbitt Roff
Centre for Medical Education
University of Dundee
The writer is author of `Hotspots: the Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki' (Cassell).Reuse content