The dose makes the poison. Almost anything can be a poison or health hazard if the dose is high enough. Most people are aware of this idea and use it in their daily decision making. Unfortunately, people do not often question just what constitutes a small, harmless dose and what constitutes a poisonous dose.
Over the last few years it seems that some people have decided that any detectable amount of any material that is remotely suspected of causing cancer in laboratory animals is thus a dangerous poison. This false notion is often hyped to sell newspapers and increase television viewing ratings.
Leaving Out the Best Part
Headlines may scream “Radioactive dust found on old documents” without telling us how much was found. On February 26, 1989 60 Minutes produced a documentary about pesticides on apples with the following opening line, “The most potent cancer-causing agent in our food supply is a substance sprayed on apples to keep them on the trees longer and make them look better.”
60 Minutes failed to emphasize how the amount of Alar on apples in the produce section of a grocery store compares to the amount fed to lab rats.
People who fight nuclear energy regularly make comments about “deadly radioactive material” without mentioning how much of the material must be either ingested or swallowed before it could kill anyone.
The effects of radiation at the doses that one might receive as a result of nuclear power plant operations or the storage of their waste products is a subject that interests many people.
The concern is logical. Some early radiation researchers did die of cancers often associated with radiation. It is also well known that many of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki died several years after the explosions of widespread cancers.
Learning the Truth
What is not so well known are the results of literally thousands of surveys, experiments and tests that have been conducted during the last 50 years. In this issue we will look at a small sample of those tests and share some of the information that the studies reveal.
Of course, we will shy away from too great a reliance on technical discussions, experiment design and other issues that are beyond the scope of a short newsletter.
Verifying AEI Reports
Just in case you are interested in further research, here are two excellent sources, both paperback books available for a modest payment. (We get no royalties for telling you about these publications but we found them so useful that we thought you would, too.)
John Lenihan, The Good News About Radiation, Cognito Books, Madison, WI. (Cognito Books is an imprint of Medical Physics Publishing Corporation, Madison, WI 53705. (608) 262-4021 or (800) 442-5778 in the United States.) This book is a source of information accessible to a general audience of interested readers.
Sohei Kondo, Health Effects of Low Level Radiation, Kiniki University Press, Osaka, Japan and Medical Physics Publishing, Madison WI. (This book is packed with information, but it is written by a medical researcher for his peers rather than the general public.)