In March 2015, Foreign Policy magazine published an article by Sarah Laskow titled The Mushroom Cloud and The X-Ray Machine. The article described the controversy over the radiation protection model known as the linear, no-threshold dose response.
Ms. Laskow conducted some admirable literature research and talked with a number of well-known people.
The ones that made it into her article as quoted sources included Dr. Tony Brooks, Chief Scientist of the Department of Energy’s Low Dose Radiation Research program, Dr. Helen Caldicott, a long time antinuclear activist, John Boice of the National Council on Radiation Protection, Dr. Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Dr. Greg Jaczko, who was Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until asked to resign because due to a loss of confidence in his managerial performance, and Dr. David Brenner from Columbia University and Image Gently.
From my point of view, her choices for quotable sources were not especially balanced; Tony Brooks is the only person in the above list whose scientific research has led him to the conclusion that the LNT overestimates radiation health risks at low doses. John Boice isn’t sure and wants another 7 years and $25 million to conduct additional epidemiological research while the rest firmly believe that there is no safe dose of radiation.
Sarah agreed to fit me into her busy schedule to about her article.
We talked about our respective research into the history of the LNT model, the biological logic guiding those who question the no safe dose assumption, the choices made during the process of editing her piece to fit the space available, and the difference between interviewing a variety of people with opposing points of view and seeking scientific truth.
We also delved a bit into the financial and political motives that underly certain policies that are supposedly based on sound scientific research and truth.
I hope you enjoy the conversation and learn something about how opinions are formed and shared.