On March 21, 2013, Ed Calabrese, professor of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts, gave a talk to Cato Institute titled A Looming Scientific Revolution in Environmental Regulation. During the talk he provided a brief history of dose response models, the evolution of regulations based on those models and then summarized his decades worth of study aimed at producing dose response models that could be validated and reproduced.
Dr. Calabrese’s conclusion is that a biphasic curve exists for nearly all influences – chemical, biological, radiological – in which low doses will stimulate an effect ranging from about 30%-60% over the effect with no dose at all and much higher doses will inhibit that same response. Whether or not the low dose stimulation is beneficial depends on the perspective from which the effect is observed.
For example, he showed a curve for a chemotherapy drug in which low doses stimulate tumor growth and high doses inhibit that growth. From the point of view of the patient, the low dose stimulation is not a good result; from the point of view of the tumor, the stimulation is highly beneficial.
During the question and answer period, Dr. Calabrese mentioned a time in the early 2000s in which a group of about 40 scientists “if you can call them that”, organized to contradict his research results and destroy his credibility. He explained how at least one or two members of the group would show up at every talk he gave and would produce several letters to the editor for every paper he published. That effort was a result of the notoriety that he gained after publishing an article in Nature about hormesis, which ended up in “the press pack” and resulted in articles in mainstream publications like U.S. News and World Reports.
At the end of the question and answer period, the moderator, Dr. Patrick Michaels, pointed out that one of the reasons that Dr. Calabrese’s research has been so strongly resisted is that accepting the results may put a number of people out of work. I believe he is absolutely correct; not only will people lose jobs in regulatory agencies, but they will also lose capital wealth and political power as that wealth and power shifts to entrepreneurial visionaries who see the value in disruptive, highly competitive nuclear energy enterprises that have been freed from excessive regulatory burdens.
Dr. Michaels and Cato Institute have both made appearances here at Atomic Insights. I am not sure that he or the Institute that provided the venue for Dr. Calabrese’s talk will admit just how many of the people who lose wealth and power by acceptance of a better dose response model will be people that are somehow tied to the massive enterprise of supplying several billion tons of hydrocarbons/year to the world market. I predict that enterprise will slowly shrink in importance as hydrocarbons, as useful as they are, inexorably lose market share to the superior, energy dense, emission-free trio of earthly superfuels – uranium, thorium and plutonium