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Paying tribute to Maohi Nui heroes

July 21, 2021

[Message of support and solidarity to the Maohi Lives Matter event, 17 July 2021, Papeete,
Maohi Nui/French Polynesia

From our international medical federation, representing national affiliate organisations of physicians and health professional colleagues around the world, we send our warm greetings and solidarity to people participating in the Maohi Lives Matter event in Papeete on 17 July 2021.

We note that this day marks the anniversary of the infamous Centaur nuclear test explosion at Moruroa in 1974, one of many which indiscriminately contaminated inhabited areas of Maohi Nui and other areas of the Pacific region with radioactive fallout. These invisible radioactive toxins will continue for many generations hence to damage the genetic inheritance of human beings and other organisms, increasing the risk of cancer, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. We also know that the effects of nuclear test explosions go well beyond physical radiation harms; in addition causing physical damage and chemical and toxic contamination of islands and reefs; distress, displacement, disruption of livelihoods, communities, cultures and connections to ancestral lands.

We recognise the need for the prosecuting government of France – like all the others who have imposed radioactive racism on peoples they colonised or considered expendable – to end denial and cover-up; to finally step up to their responsibilities for truth, accountability, recognition, apology, care and compensation for those put in harm’s way, ongoing environmental monitoring and feasible environmental clean-up or stabilisation.

We are proud to have published 30 years ago a landmark report on nuclear testing worldwide: Radioactive heaven and earth: the health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing in, on and above the earth: a report of the IPPNW International Commission. In it we provided then new estimates – sadly an underestimate from what we know now – that the fallout from atmospheric nuclear test explosions would cause some 2.4 million additional cancer deaths worldwide. The report noted clear evidence of major outbreaks of ciguatera fish poisoning related to the French nuclear test program, at a time when the French government continued to falsely claim its nuclear tests caused no evident health or environmental harm.

We are proud to have worked tirelessly over more than four decades to end nuclear testing, and immensely grateful for the courageous testimony provided by the global hibakusha from Japan, Maohi Nui and other nuclear testing locations which has been so crucial. Like nothing else, they have helped the world understand the catastrophic indiscriminate radioactive violence unleashed by nuclear weapons, which the healing professions cannot effectively treat, and the urgent humanitarian imperative to entirely eliminate these global suicide bombs before they are otherwise inevitably used again by accident, inadvertence or design.

We pay tribute to brave Maohi Nui heroes no longer with us in this epic struggle to save our world, including John Taroanui Doom and Roland Oldham.

Global hibakusha voices played a crucial role in the development of the first international treaty to comprehensively and categorically prohibit nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2017, which entered into force on 22 January this year. The treaty is a historic and essential step towards the elimination of the worst weapons of mass destruction.

The TPNW provides the only internationally codified and agreed pathway for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It also includes, for the first time, obligations on states which join the treaty to cooperate in assisting the survivors of nuclear weapons use and testing, and undertake measures towards the environmental remediation of areas contaminated by nuclear use and testing. The treaty thus provides a powerful tool for disproportionately affected people and communities in the ongoing struggle for nuclear justice.

We stand with you for Maohi Lives Matter in our shared responsibility and commitment to safely end the nuclear age.

  1. Tilman Ruff permalink
    July 22, 2021 8:54 pm

    Yes David there is good evidence of outbreaks of ciguatera related to coral reef damage of various kinds – blasting, dredging, construction work, rubbish dumping. The dinoflagellate plankton at the base of the marine food chain, that produce ciguatoxins, are opportunistic colonisers of dead and damaged coral surfaces. In the Pacific nuclear test explosion sites and the infrastructure of bases, ports, airfields etc that supported them were associated with a number of ciguatera outbreaks – in the Marshall Islands and especially well-documented in French Polynesia. The same thing with World War II damage in Kiribati. I published about this in the Lancet in 1989. It got a fair bit of media and political attention at the time because the French government was continuing to claim that no proven adverse health and environmental consequences had been shown from their nuclear test explosions, and they didn’t like their lie being made plain, as was privately acknowledged by the French environment minister at the time.
    There’s no evidence to my knowledge that ciguatoxicity is associated with radiation.
    The papers on this in the Lancet and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists seem to be behind a paywall, but I can email them to you if you can’t easily get access to them. References are :
    Ruff TA. Ciguatera in the Pacific: A Link with Military Activities. The Lancet 1989; 1: 201-5.
    Ruff TA. Bomb tests attack the food chain. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 1990; 46(2): 32-4.

  2. DAVID NICHOLSON permalink
    July 22, 2021 12:43 am

    Ciguatera related to nuclear contamination? Tell me more. I experienced it working in the Leeward Islands in the early Sixties, but never knew there was any such link.

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