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Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 17 Jun 2011, 01:34
by Lantzelot
The following text is a longer version of the blog entry from Friday 17 June 2011, named: Shame on you, Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano!
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On 10 June 2011 there was a article with the title "Is the Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the US a Result of Fukushima Fallout? - A 35% Spike in Infant Mortality in Northwest Cities Since Meltdown" published on the Counterpunch web site.

The authors, Janette D. Sherman and Joseph Mangano claim a statistically significant increase of infant mortality deaths with 35% after the Fukushima accident in eight selected cities in the northwest U.S.

They write:
The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.


Wow, that sounds really serious! But if there would be any health effects on infants in the U.S. due to the release of radioactivity in Fukushima, would it really show up that fast? Well, let us first look at the data they use before getting too excited about their finding.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is found on the http://www.cdc.gov/ web site. For each week there is a report about illnesses in the U.S. Sherman and Mangano have used data from Table 3 in each of the weekly reports.
If anybody is interested: For each week the table can be found by using the following direct link and by replacing the numbers with the year and week that is requested. For example 6010 stands for year 60 (i.e. 2011, 59 is 2010, and so on, don't ask why...) and week 10, so these numbers can be changed to get directly to each table (please note that the number occurs twice in the url):
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6010md.htm?s_cid=mm6010md_w#tab3
Alternatively, one can go to the Weekly Report index page and click on the table for each week:
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_wk/wk_cvol.html

So, from this data base, Sherman and Mangano have selected eight major cities in the northwest:
Boise ID (205,671)
Seattle WA (608,660)
Portland OR (583,776)
Santa Cruz CA (59,946)
Sacramento CA (466,488)
San Francisco CA (805,235)
San Jose CA (945,942)
Berkeley CA (112,580)

Within brackets I have added the population of each city, as given in the 2010 United States Census. Most likely some of the cities in the CDC listing include several cities nearby. One odd thing is why they have included Boise, ID, which is further inland, while they have excluded the following two cities, which are well within the defined geographical region and have fairly large populations, but it does not affect the result very much:
Spokane WA (208,916)
Tacoma WA (198,397)
Therefore we assume that the two cities were omitted accidentally by Sherman and Mangano.

Now we go to the exciting stuff. First we plot the weekly infant mortality for each of the eight cities, between week 8 and week 21. If anybody has forgotten, the Fukushima events started in the end of week 10, i.e. the days after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11:

Image

As seen the actual numbers tend to be quite low, so we are sensitive to random variations. It would be quite foolish to try to draw any conclusions from this plot. One could of course try to make up an explanation about, for instance, the drastic increase in San Jose from a single infant death in week 14 to seven in week 18, but that would need to be a very good story to convince anyone that it is a real effect related to some specific cause that we are seeing.
What we do see, however, is that for most of the cities the number of infant deaths tend to be 3 or less for the entire time period, it is mainly Sacramento and San Jose that have an increase in the last ten weeks with respect to the first four weeks.

Instead of loosing time on these low statistics data we plot the sum of the 8 cities in order to try to see any effect for the entire region, first for the 4 weeks ending on March 19 (black dots) and then for the 10 weeks ending on May 28 (orange squares). I have included the statistical uncertainty for each data point, i.e. the error bars are calculated as the square root of each value, and the average values for the two periods, 9.25 as a black line, and 12.50 as an orange line.

Image

As seen the first number of infant mortalities in the period before the Fukushima accident (the events started with the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, but it took about a week before the first releases reached the U.S.) is indeed much lower than for the period after March 19. We also see that the data for the 10 weeks vary quite a lot, for instance the number of infant deaths for weeks 13 - 14 are lower than for the 4 weeks before March 19.

There is no denial that the total amount of infant mortalities for the 10 weeks after March 19 is 35% higher than for the 4 weeks before. But the large deviations, and the low statistics, should be a warning for anybody who wants to draw conclusions from these data. As a reader of the article by Sherman and Mangano, I ask myself:
    -- Why have they used only 4 weeks before March 19?
    -- The data after March 19 are quite scattered, what is the longer trend before March 19?
Well, let's find out!
It is quite tedious to extract the data from the CDC data base, so I settle for adding weeks 1 - 7 of 2011 to the data set.
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Now we are all eager to find out if the level in the four weeks before March 19 is representative for northwest U.S. before Fukushima. What will be the pattern for the data for the first seven weeks (I will add them as blue triangles to the plot)?
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Still very eager...
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...and voila!:

Image

WOW!
Very surprising, there are several conclusions to be drawn here:
    -- There is no spike in infant mortality due to Fukushima. Instead there is an accidental dip during the 4 weeks before the radioactive releases reached the U.S. west coast.
    -- The infant mortality rate in the northwest U.S. was actually 23% higher in the first 7 weeks of 2011 than after Fukushima, 108 cases in 7 weeks give a weekly ratio of 15.43. We can thus say, by using Sherman and Mangano's own way of phrasing it, that this amounts to a decrease of 23% and is statistically significant.
    -- The data for the full time period of weeks 1 - 21 amount to 272 infant deaths over 21 weeks, i.e. a weekly rate of 12.95. This is slightly higher than the weekly rate after Fukushima (12.50).
    -- Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano have a lot to explain for us...if anybody cares to listen to them after this low point in their so called scientific careers.

While we're at it, we may as well scrutinize a few other claims in the article. How about that statement in the bracket about increased mortality rate for the entire U.S. after Fukushima?:

(the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%)


Well, let's plot it:

Image

Here we have
    7 weeks ending February 19, 2011 - 1343 infant deaths (average 191.9 per week)
    4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 776 infant deaths (average 194 per week)
    10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 2005 infant deaths (average 200.5 per week)

Actually, I get the increase to 3.3%, even "worse" than the claim by Sherman and Mangano. And our first seven weeks have a lower infant mortality rate than both of the latter groups. But let's get serious. For all three time groups, the data are all over the place. Once again we probably see just random fluctuations that can have a large number of reasons. Radioactivity from Fukushima is not one feasible reason, we found out above that in the area of the U.S. that has been most affected by Fukushima the trend was the opposite.

The rest of the article is mixing a number of things, releases of radioactivity from Fukushima, various facts about infants (vulnerability to radiation, low birth weights, costs for babies with birth defects, etc, a bit confusing actually), and then of course a reference to the by now infamous book released in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature. The book was edited by Sherman, and should be addressed in a separate entry, it has been severely criticized by others. The history of Joseph Mangano, the tooth fairy project, and his friendship with stars like Christie Brinkley and Alec Baldwin also deserves a separate entry, so we leave it aside for the moment.

Instead we go back to the very beginning of the article. It starts quite dramatically, probably in order to make people worried. Let us take a look at what they say:

U.S. babies are dying at an increased rate. While the United States spends billions on medical care, as of 2006, the US ranked 28th in the world in infant mortality, more than twice that of the lowest ranked countries. (DHHS, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States 2010, Table 20, p. 131, February 2011.)"

and a few lines below the data that we scrutinized above:
In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.


Sherman and Mangano have kindly supplied a link to the 2010 report (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus10.pdf) so we can easily look up how well their claims hold.

On page 131 in this extensive report (more than 500 pages) we can verify that the U.S. is indeed ranked 27th (close enough, and you can find similar ratings for instance on this Wikipedia page) in the world in infant mortality for the year 2006.

On page 4 the report says:
In 2007, the infant mortality rate was 6.75 infant
deaths per 1,000 live births—2% lower than in 2000
(Figure 25).

The top rank countries, Luxemburg, Iceland and Sweden, have infant mortality rates at about 2 per 1000 live births, so the U.S. can indeed improve. But the report says that the rate has decreased since 2000. This does not quite agree with how Sherman and Mangano manage to interpret it by saying "U.S. babies are dying at an increased rate."
And on page 35 we find that the mortality rate has decrease by 5-8% between 1997 and 2007.
So it seems that Sherman and Mangano have difficulties to read. Well, on page 35 there is also an instructive graph that shows the decrease in infant mortality rate, how could they miss that?
We also learn from the information on pages 35 and 131 that some countries do not count children with premature births into the category infant mortality in case that they die. The U.S. do this, and thus its ranking may look worse than it actually is. Countries like Sweden do count the same way as the U.S., so the americans indeed have things to learn from other countries, but it may not be so relevant to get stuck on the ranking itself the way that Sherman and Mangano do. And when they compare values on the second digit...from what we saw in the plots above, that could very well be within the statistical variations. To call it an increase is a bit alarmistic, to say the least.

Here is a link to a Gapminder animation where the time trend for infant mortality data are displayed for the U.S. and Sweden. Just press the play button and enjoy the show (it may take a few seconds to load the animation).
One can clearly see that, while Sweden has continued to improve on the infant mortality rates during the last 10 years, the curve for the U.S. tends to flatten out. However, there is a gradual, although slow, improvement over time also here. Once again, the U.S. seems to have a lot to learn from other countries on how to reduce the infant mortality rates, but the complaint from Sherman and Mangano on the second digit on the numbers is just silly.

Finally, as written both in the CDC report and elsewhere, poverty seems to be a major reason for the relatively high infant mortality in the U.S. The clumsy attempt by Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano to try to link it to the radioactivity from Fukushima, by cherry-picking official data, is a very disgraceful act for anybody who holds the title Medical Doctor.

/Mattias Lantz - member of the independent network Nuclear Power Yes Please

Re: Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 16 Nov 2011, 16:39
by brylle28
The average number of infant deaths for the region moved from an average of 9.25 in the four weeks before Fukushima' nuclear meltdown, to an average of 12.5 per week in the 10 weeks after. The change represents a 35% increase in the northwest's infant mortality rates.

Re: Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 16 Nov 2011, 22:30
by Lantzelot
Brylle28, what is your point?

Re: Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 17 Nov 2011, 12:56
by NuclearSpeak
The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age. Let your voice be heard as you talk about whether you feel nuclear energy is useful and safe. Give your opinion freely

Re: Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 21 Mar 2012, 19:06
by darjon
It certainly has an influence on the USA mortality rate in infants. We all know it, but we keep our mouth shut..

Re: Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012, 08:34
by jamesbarclay
Fissioning of uranium proven far to dangerous far to hazardous for humanities survival and must be forbidden world wide. Replacing it with Thorium fission may prove much safer, much cheaper and if so , apparently good for 1000 years. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4971 tells of this. Bill Gates also off to China to develop a safer cheaper spent fuel burning, thorium burning reactor, Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, Bio-mass, will never support the American dream lifestyle. Oil faces even more rapid scarcity with the vast Pan Eurasian Empire buying it up with very high bid in secure Yuan against the fiat"Funny money" faith based U.S. Dollar.America rapidly approaching a threshold, a "Y" in the road, a 'point of no return' a position far up Shiite creek, no paddles in sight. This recession/depression the tip of an iceberg - we still await consequences of derivatives.

Re: Infant mortality increase in the U.S. after Fukushima?

PostPosted: 30 Mar 2012, 01:08
by Lantzelot
darjon wrote:It certainly has an influence on the USA mortality rate in infants. We all know it, but we keep our mouth shut..


How do we know it, by listening to the alarmists and taking their words for the truth? Or have you checked the numbers yourself?
If you do the latter and compare 2010 and 2011 you will find that there is no increase any of the age group, you need to play number tricks the way Sherman and Mangano does in order to get an increase. That is not knowledge, it is alarmism.