Radiation Victims Are Not Black Swans
By Ted Rockwell
An increasingly used anti-nuclear argument claims “it is impossible to prove the non-existence of something,” therefore we can’t be sure that low-dose radiation is harmless. Some day we may discover victims of low-dose radiation, just as we one day discovered the existence of black swans – lots of them (in Australia). We may find circumstances under which irradiated people – perhaps lots of them – are injured by radiation. So the prudent course, the argument goes, is to assume for regulatory purposes, that radiation is harmful all the way down to zero dose.
But this argument is phony. There is no “non-existence of evidence.” The evidence that low-dose radiation is harmless or beneficial is all around us. James Muckerheide wrote a report with the self-explanatory title: “There Has Never Been a Time That the Beneficial Effects of Low-Dose Radiation Were Not Known.” He documents that over a century ago, during the first decades after the discovery of x-rays, radium, and radioactivity, the beneficial effects were explicitly understood and reported. The phenomenon of a substance or a process being harmful at high levels and beneficial at low levels is nearly universal and is called “hormesis.” We see it with sunshine, vaccination, exercise, and other forms of challenging our bodies. So we were taught “Moderation in all things” and we avoid extremes.
In 1980 and in 1991, T.D, Luckey published two landmark volumes: “Hormesis with Ionizing Radiation,” and “Radiation Hormesis,” CRC Press. With over a thousand references each, these books struck a chord with several Japanese scientists, and they began doing experiments with mice, and then clinical work with humans, demonstrating the beneficial effects of full-body and half-body irradiation for curing cancer.
Decrying the fear-mongers, Rosalyn Yalow, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, asserted:
No reproducible evidence exists of harmful effects from increases in background radiation three to ten times the usual levels. There is no increase in leukemia or other cancers among American participants in nuclear testing, no increase in leukemia or thyroid cancer among medical patients receiving I-131 for diagnosis or treatment of hyperthyroidism, and no increase in lung cancer among non-smokers exposed to increased radon in the home. The association of radiation with the atomic bomb and with excessive regulatory and health physics ALARA practices has created a climate of fear about the dangers of radiation at any level. However there is no evidence that radiation exposures at the levels equivalent to medical usage are harmful. The unjustified excessive concern with radiation at any level, however, precludes beneficial uses of radiation and radioactivity in medicine, science and industry. (Mayo Clinic Proc 69:436-440, 1994)
Hugh F. Henry at Oak Ridge summarized the low dose data in the Journal of the American Medical Association: (JAMA176, 27 May 1961)
A significant and growing amount of experimental information indicates that the overall effects of chronic exposure (at low levels) are not harmful…The preponderance of data better supports the hypothesis that low chronic exposures result in an increased longevity… Increased vitality at low exposures to materials that are markedly toxic at high exposures is a well-recognized phenomenon.
The legendary Lauriston S. Taylor, chair of the first radiation protection societies, stated:
“Today, we know about all we need to know to adequately protect ourselves from ionizing radiation… No one has been identifiably injured by radiation while working within the first numerical standards set first by the NCRP and then the ICRP in 1934 [about 35-fold higher radiation level than the present recommendations]. Let us stop arguing about the people who are being injured by exposures to radiation at the levels far below those where any effects can be found. The fact is, the effects are not found despite over  years of trying to find them. The theories about people being injured have still not led to the demonstration of injury and, if considered as facts by some, must only be looked upon as figments of the imagination.” Taylor, L.S. “Some Non-Scientific Influences on Radiation Protection Standards and Practice,” Health Physics, 39 851-874 (1980)
The Strange Story of Radon
In the environmental movement of the early 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed to stop technological Man from bulldozing the Garden of Eden. As the 1980s dawned, some scientists began to point out that in its zeal to eliminate all traces of radioactivity, EPA was now requiring nuclear power plants, nuclear medical facilities and industries using radiation, to monitor, control, and reduce radiation levels below the natural background radiation people were exposed to in their own homes from radon, a natural decay product of uranium. When forced to face this inconsistency, EPA performed a remarkable turnabout: Instead of admitting that its radiation protection standards were unrealistic, EPA announced it would regulate Nature. The environment, so poignantly portrayed as the innocent victim, was now to be seen as a merciless, silent killer.
Thousands of radon detectors were issued to school-children, who were told to measure the threat and to pressure their parents to do something about it. On February 19,1998, the National Research Council announced in report BEIR-VI that radon in homes causes 15,400 to 21,800 deaths each year in America, despite the fact that no evidence has ever directly demonstrated that radon in homes is harmful. The report noted that about 90% of the deaths attributed to radon occurred in smokers, and “most of the radon-related deaths among smokers would not have occurred if the victims had not smoked.” One reporter noted, “Only an EPA analyst would assume smokers begin smoking at birth.”
In the mid 1980s EPA began issuing pamphlets warning against the “colorless, odorless killer,” and running TV ads showing a typical American family sitting happily in their living-room while a dire warning is intoned against funereal background music. The skit ends as the parents, then the children, and finally the dog, turn to skeletons. The predicted annual death rate from radon was said to equal the death rate from automobile accidents.
There is actually a great deal of good data on radium and radon in homes. The most extensive and the most thoroughly analyzed is a series of measurements and calculations by the late Dr. Bernard L. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Pittsburgh. Prof. Cohen supervised the measurement of radon levels in about 350,000 American homes and compared the radon levels, county by county, with the lung cancer mortality in each county (since lung cancer is the only potential health effect that radon might cause). Cohen surveyed nearly 2000 counties housing more than 90% of the U.S. population and therefore has excellent statistical precision. He found exactly the opposite of what he and the EPA expected. He found that the counties with the highest radon levels had the lowest lung cancer mortality and those with the lowest radon had the highest lung cancer. He then turned off his radon-removal system.
The first figure below shows EPA’s basis for its conclusions. The tall vertical lines show the uncertainty of each of the data points. The second graph shows Cohen’s data, with much less uncertainty because of the large amount of data he amassed. Which data do you find most convincing?
Here is a brief summary of the DNA damage caused by radiation:
Here is a very brief summary of DNA damage caused by radiation:
The risk estimates over the decades have continued to increase as we learn more and more.
The Cohen study suffered from the ecological fallacy, it was erroneous:
Start thinking and stop believing.
The ecological refutation AFAIU assumes it’s still reasonable to suppose there exist a 0.95 ratio of correlation between living in a radon affected area and being a non- or low-smoker.
The one reasonable aspect of the refutation was that all smoking-related cancer were reduced in the radon affected areas, and non-smoking-related cancer were not.
But as the mechanisms by which both smoking and radon may have an effect is in both case airborne, it’s not necessarily totally unexpected.
I also didn’t read Cohen’s counter refutation yet, there was a long and vehement back and forth.
There seem to exist some large cohort studies that support the radon effect at low dose (will post pubmed references), but I didn’t read them yet (also IIRC their full-text is behind a pay-wall)
As several studies also report doses in Bq/m3, I also have difficulties seeing what level of irradiation that is, haven’t found the conversion ratio to apply yet.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs291/en/index.html References the ‘big 3’ research papers that studied radon on homes. While the data at low doses gets fuzzy, there does appear to be no hormesis for radon what so ever. Much more other research is available. Hormesis might be true, but not for Radon.
Thanks. The links to those three studies are :
– http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15850419 Adjusting lung cancer risks for temporal and spatial variations in radon concentration in dwellings in Gansu Province, China.
– http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15613366 Radon in homes and risk of lung cancer: collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 European case-control studies.
– http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15703527 Residential radon and risk of lung cancer: a combined analysis of 7 North American case-control studies.
It seems that as far as Radon is concerned, the position of the OMS based on known science *is* that the LNT does stay true down to very low dose.
This study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16608827 “Residential radon and lung cancer: end of the story?” seems to sump up (full text behing paywall) the big 3 and the abstract concludes that BEIR VI was right to assume LNT for Radon.
I did find a study that counters the analysis of those results http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22461755 “Residential radon appears to prevent lung cancer”, but one lone searcher in a private institute (even if the biggest one in the US researching lung cancer) doesn’t really match a large number of associated teams in major universities and the seal of approval of the OMS. I mean in scientific terms he could be right against all of them, but none of us has the level of skill and knowledge required to assess that.
I of course have doubts about how those results could be correct given what is known today about cell’s DNA repair abilities, but to say I know what’s correct, the OMS has got it wrong, is extremely presumptuous.
I’ll see your DNA study:
and raise you,
The foundations of your belief in LNT are based on information that was promoted to serve an ideology of making nuclear weapons worse than they actually are. This was done knowingly by Stern and Muller as they did an end run on the NCRP by including “genetic effects” in BEAR I. Muller and Stern both knew that there was no evidence of low dose genetic effects based on the work of Caspari. It was convenient to use high dose studies and fit a linear model to show that there was no safe level for the use of nuclear weapons part of this was to ban atmospheric testing, and more generally to ban the bomb outright. Much good that did eh?
I did think. I checked historical documents. I didn’t even take Calabrese’s word for it. I went back and studied this and found that you are full of crap.
I declare today Hormesis Fallacy Day!
Intelligent Designers (IDiots) look out…you’re being challenged here!
First, we have Mr. Rockwell’s fallacious arguments from authority (about 6 times). Names and quotations from the 20th Century (going back to 1961!). Zero physical evidence.
Second, we have Cohen’s (offered by Rockwell) ecological fallacy.
Third, we have Able’s jumbled bunch of fallacies (I couldn’t open first link, so this is only in reference to #2):
i. You have no idea what the foundations of my “belief” is. But I’ll tell you, it’s based on objective observations and descriptions of physical phenomena. It’s not based on what someone says they believe, or what they believe others thought.
ii. No one knows what “Muller and Stern” thought. No one is inside their heads. Calabrese has a multi-decade, failed agenda to discredit LNT. He found some documents where Muller learned of Caspari’s work. But we have no idea what Muller thought of it relative to everything else in his head.
Imagine if I said Rockwell was lying based on this post. That would be fallacious. I don’t know if he’s lying, senile, mistaken, deluded, or what.
But since Calabrese is heavily biased and some media attention gives him a little adrenaline, he went with “lying”. You share a similar agenda, the media caught your attention, and you’re repeating the fallacy.
iii. The LNT we’ve been discussing lately is about human cancer, not mutations in fruit flies.
iv. Even if Muller was lying it has no impact on today’s science, anymore than if Newton lied about something. Newton engaged in alchemy, so what? It’s his physics which have held up. This is the 21st century, but as a cultist, your’s (& Calabrese’s & Rockwell’s) agenda takes you back in time. There is no physical evidence you can produce for hormesis, just as the IDiots haven’t produced any physical Designer evidence as time progresses. So now Calabrese has taken us back to the mid-1940’s, he beat Rockwell! Your cult is based on bad studies, old quotations, and imagining what people’s intentions were decades ago.
This tactic has already been employed by the IDiot cult, based on some erroneous embryo sketches from the 1800’s:
Maybe you can find something from that time period.
I am not arguing for hormesis, but rather that of a threshold dose response instead of a linear dose response.
Here is the link:
Prior to BEAR I the law of the land was the tolerance dose idea.
By your reasoning Antone Brooks is also a cultist:
The presentation is for the 36th Lauriston S. Taylor speaker series at the NCRP. He lays out a case against LNT and even declares on Slide 57 “The Dinosaur of LNTH remains useful for regulations but is scientifically dead for low-dose risk assessment.”
I took Calabrese tip off on Muller to look back and investigate why he would suppress information on evidence of a genetic threshold (Caspari’s study) and claim that there was no evidence when he said that Caspari did excellent research and was very methodical. Is your judgement on fruit fly studies better than the guy who got the nobel for doing fruit fly studies. I’m sorry if I missed that in your qualifications.
The only reason I could come up with why Muller would actively seek to promote the concept of LNT was to limit the use or even outright eliminate nuclear weapons. This was a major goal for him as he was also a signatory on the Russel-Einstein Manifesto. I think his actions were very reasoned and well thought out. This idea also has another facet consistency in Muller’s actions and beliefs, which after reading his biography he maintained until his death. It is also an extension of the politics and ideas of his eugenic theories in the 1930’s.
You erect straw men for arguments and try to make us who question the status quo (which you have made a career out of maintaining) are either the tobacco lobby or a bunch of ______ deniers. (Fill in the black for the appropriate pejorative). You also conduct ad hominem attacks for good measure to attempt to discredit the person.
You rely on things that “cannot be measured” to base your arguments. Science is the study of reproducible events. It is the study of counting things, which is why mathematics is the language of science. If I can’t count something, or measure something, how can I use the immeasurable to measure quantities. The act of basing decisions on the immeasurable is called belief. It is not science.
Cal, Applebaum cannot do anything else except argue that anyone that doesn’t agree with him is delusional because he cannot mount any real arguments to support his position. He has accepted LNT as a matter of faith thus he believes that anyone believing anything else is doing so by the same mechanism. For him the argument is one of dogma, even though he claims the support of science.
We should also be careful trying to sort through the politics driving decisions in in this area in the Fifties and Sixties. Researchers were put in an untenable position due to demands from Cold Wars strategists, themselves under extreme pressure to provide some structure for decision-makers of the time. “We haven’t got enough data” was not an acceptable excuse and in several instances people were driven to create what amounted to rule-of-thumb answers to keep everyone satisfied. LNT was one of those cases and at lest permitted calculations that would err on the side of caution when they were doing the megatons to megadeaths calculus that was part of war planning at the time.
Rod – thanks or this guest post and for allowing Bob Applebaum’s comments to remain in the thread. I was tempted to weigh in with my observations on his links, but Cal Abel is doing a fine job on the rebuttal. I’ll just note that the definition of the ecological fallacy is:
So far as I can see this fallacy can’t apply to Dr. Cohen’s work, since his graphs are of statistics, not individual case histories.
Ted – thanks for this post. The Muckerheide paper is available at http://www.radscihealth.org/rsh/docs/MuckerheideRPSD2002.pdf and is extremely interesting. Bob – if you can post a link to an equivalent, well researched and documented journal paper that shows the existence of LNT effects, please do so. I didn’t find any citations of primary research in the links you posted earlier.
Feel free to question the status quo, but fixation is different than questioning. Hormies have been questioning since the 1980’s (as have the IDiots). Most reasonable people would call that fixation.
LNT is about excess risk of cancer vs dose. It is an epidemiological study of disease in humans. We know there are millions of non-linearities on the cellular, molecular and atomic level, but that’s not the point. The point is, what model best describes the overall interaction of all these non-linearities within a human being in regards to observance of excess cancer?
So to fixate on studies that seem to point in one direction is bias. Here’s a study that shows a positive feedback loop in prostate cancer (medicalxpress.com/news/2012-05-scientists-unravel-role-fusion-gene.html). Whoopie.
Anything about Antoine Brooks (I couldn’t open link) is irrelevant. Provide physical evidence for a lack of threshold, discussing people is a distraction. You ain’t got no..da,da,da….physical evidence!…da,da,da…you ain’t go no….
The physical evidence for no threshold is that in the ionization energy range, DNA damage occurs (>0% chance), and though DNA can repair itself, it also misrepairs (>0%). Therefore there is a >0% chance of accumulating DNA damage (no threshold). Cancer is a product of accumulated DNA damage (and other things), so its risk of manifestation increases.
The RIF study substantiates LNT because it predicts that the amount of DNA damage will be lower at lower doses and dose rates This study provides some physical insight into how. The mathematical model didn’t match the observed results, that just means the mathematical model needs tweaking. In LNT we essentially call this factor the DDREF and we may conclude it needs tweaking. Overall this dose response is still linear (as any line between 2 points has to be) with DOWNWARD slope, 30 RIF @ 2 Gy and 6.4 RIF @ 0.1 Gy. The slope is just somewhat different than expected. That’s not evidence of a threshold.
Notice that biology is based on the same thing, DNA damage in sex cells, leads to mutations, and evolution. Cancer is cell evolution within the micro-environment of one’s body. So Hormies and IDiots really have a fundamental connection.
Bob, I will with no argument grant you that DNA damage would be greater than 0% and that misrepair is greater than 0%, and I would imagine that Mr. Rockwell would do the same. There is a question that is not answered by those two greater than 0% things and that is whether DNA repair mechanisms are either more or less effective depending on dose rates. I don’t know that anyone on the Earth truly knows the answer to that question as of right now, but you declare with absolute certainty that it is preposterous that the human body may have evolved to the point that a small amount of additional radiation exposure could “give the body’s repair mechanisms a bit of practice/training”. That is the question here.
How exactly have you gone about determining that every human being’s DNA repair mechanisms are completely decoupled from the radiation dose rate that that being’s body is being exposed to? Has that been proven in a study somewhere? Would exploring such a question be so absurd as to be considered heresy to all good and true champions of the scientific process?
Keep in mind that this from the same idiot who spent several comments on multiple blogs discussing how the outgoing President of the ANS is a climate “denier,” until I pointed out that his time working in Washington was spent getting climate-related language into US energy legislation.
I guess that I have to remind you, Bob, that calling people tobacco lobbyists, climate “deniers,” etc., is a “distraction” that you specialize in.
You only have two points, so you naturally assert that the relationship has to be linear?! Bob, you’re an embarrassment to Georgia Tech.
In some weird way this reminds me of the story of “Stone Soup” where people are so hot and focused on adding all kinds of delicacies and hefty stock to the pot that their “contributions” are going to totally overwhelm whatever “flavor” the thing at issue might have! Are we going to pour to death investigating what the heck is the minimum safe dose of radiation iwhile the health effect levels of other (“accepted”/shrugged) pollution and carcinogens elements are looming far above that hard sought “safe rad minimum’ — like it REALLY matters then?
Unfortunately it does matter. One paper extrapolates LNT beyond any plausibility to conclude to a level of 130 “worldwide excess mortalities” and people stop to take notes, even if this value is already minuscule when compared to global worldwide mortality.
the early post war era is something I have little conception of, other than through anecdotal accounts of my parents (beatniks) and watching old news stories. There was a tremendous amount of flux at the time mainly dealing in response to the bomb. I think Muller was separated from the key decision makers due to his exile in IU due to his politics in Texas and the Soviet Union. He was ostracized from the academic community in the 1940’s and until his Nobel was on the fringe.
He used the nobel to say that there was no evidence supporting a threshold of the genetic effect when in fact he had evidence that he knew existed and was experimentally sound. That did not disuade his comments at his acceptance speech latter in 1947. This was also shortly after the very large testing series of Operation Cross Roads. As Muller saw himself as an elder, from multiple biographies. I think it is a reasonable conclusion to reach that he saw an opportunity with the Nobel platform to attempt to contain nuclear weapons. He had no voice before and here was his chance to contain something that was truly frightening. I have a hard time faulting him for his decision other than he could have exercised some more integrity.
I am still relatively young, but have had enough experience and bad decisions to at some extent be able to place myself in someone else’s place to try and understand their motivations. I regret the fallout (pardon the pun) that Muller’s approach has done with artificially limiting something as what James Greenridge cites should not even be a discussion, but is because of this fear of the low dose region.
I think in part the argument is maintained to act as some form of non proliferation control (even against DU for bullets) or in Bob’s case to preserve some livelihood in its exact form much like Luddites at the turn of the 19th century, where they did not understand the benefit of the technology being presented and the opportunities it would open. In short Bob as you have already stated is a statist, and is constructing his arguments as such to preserve his livelihood as he understands it.
I’m not saying that there wasn’t dissemination being practiced; there was, but I am pointing out that the geopolitical situation at the time was such that scientists had to be very careful what they said because decision-makers were pressing them for conclusions far earlier in the research cycle than anyone was comfortable with. This led to an err on the side of caution approach in several areas, and LNT was one of them.
Now that it has been hardened into policy it is going to be difficult to dislodge, but vilifying those that were involved at the time this happened is IMO unfair.
I don’t think vilification is necessarily correct either. I did some reflecting on your earlier comment about the situation and the change that occurred with the introduction of nuclear weapons and the fundamental shift that it had on society.
I ran a thought experiment and put myself in Muller’s shoes, a scientist on the fringe of society with an an opportunity to speak to a global audience and be taken seriously. Muller I do not think was very confident in the ability of a democracy to act responsibly, especially with the post war militarization of this country. I also do not think because of his experiences in Soviet Russia that he felt they were able to uphold the ideals of socialism as he saw them. I think he saw Stalinist Russia for what it was, a dictatorship.
Here he had this opportunity to use his science that he pioneered to use as a case to urge responsibility in international discourse and avoid massive destruction from nuclear attacks. He had a chance to constrain what he felt as unconstrained policy makers and force a measure of global accountability on them.
A few nights ago my son, 5-years, copying from a children’s science encyclopedia, wrote, “people always want to make life better and that’s what puts us on the road to scientific discovery the wheel or sending rockets into space science drives us onward changing the world we live in.” I told him that was why I am an engineer, to make peoples lives better. I think Muller would express the sum of his life’s actions and his research into the effects of radiation on fruit flies as the pursuit of making peoples lives better.
This is the common ground that I needed to be able to complete the thought experiment. I saw that if I had similar knowledge at that time and at this stage in my life I would have likely acted similarly. I think the lingering fear of radiation that this induced was part of the reason why the Cold War did not go hot. I think Muller was successful in protecting what he valued.
The good news is that times change, and we find ourselves in a different situation where we are facing demonstrable harm by enacting unnecessary constraints on radiation limiting its usefulness to mankind. I went back to that time to try and understand why things transpired the way that they did. Thank you for making me answer the tough question and look inward.
Hi Bob, It’s entertaining that you label so many arguments as fallacies without identifying what is really fallacious of the argument. It seems the monster fallacy is yours; You’re drawing a universal conclusion that there is no hormesis from finite set of instance of caused harm. But then, that’s what LNT is all about.
To show that hormesis exists, we need only one example. The most obvious single example is unfortunately illustrated in the uptick of a devastating condition caused by inordinate fear of radiation of a type that is far beyond innocuous in small doses, but shows a clear beneficial effect.
A bit ‘O sunshine helps minimize or even prevent Rickets.
The article points out that 20-30 minutes of sunshine a day, 5 days a week is beneficial for healthy levels of Vitimin D . It also mentions that parents tend to slather on the SPF 50 in the advoidance of Cancer, which is also partially to blame in the uptick of Rickets.
So Bob, even after you accept that the ideal dose of UV is greater than zero, your argument is still fallacious if you conclude that there is no hormetic effect, excepting sunshine, for all other forms of Radiation, because you're still forming a universal conclusion from a finite set of examples of where radiation is dangerous or even deadly.
Do you see now where LNT fails, at least logically?
Even after you admit
I can play football and build cardiovascular health, bone density, and muscle mass AND increase my risk of concussion, broken bones, and bruises.
Just because solar radiation produces Vitamin D, doesn’t mean it doesn’t also increase the risk of skin cancer.
So no, I don’t see where LNT fails…unless I pretend I’m an idiot. But I can’t do that.
Most of us would put playing football into the category of high dose rate athletics with occasional very high peak energy collisions. It is far more analogous to atomic bomb victim doses than to low level radiation exposure at a chronic rate that is a little above average background.
On the other hand, if you engaged in my favorite sport – swimming – your chances of injury would be essentially zero and you would receive the benefits of increased cardiovascular health, weight control and muscular strength.
There is a good reason why my mom refused to allow me to play football, but strongly encouraged my swimming habit.
I was able to open the link in Chrom, Firefox and, and Safari on Mac OS and in IE9 on Windows7. I don’t know what OS or browser you use, but it must be something other than 90% of the global online users. Once you open the link, try a direct copy paste, Brooks does an excellent job citing with numerous references the conclusions he came to in his career in radiation protection. As for your arguments about the lack of cellular repair mechanisms, the link I sent you from the PNAS in Dec 2011 quantifies and actually observed such mechanisms in vivio. Yes error’s do happen, but the rate of errors is surprisingly small. DNA to use a computer analogy operates like a RAID 2. Damage occurs and provided the rate of damage does not exceed the repair rate faults get fixed with a very high level of accuracy, as I recall the cited paper talks about that too. Thus the probability of a fault after repair is greater than 0. For the damage to then be passed between generations the surviving faulty DNA spermatozoa have to compete with the healthy, given an even chance (assume DNA damage does not impair mobility) one such cell has a 1 in roughly 300 million chance of competing with the other sperm cells. This is why low dose radiation (dose rate less than the rate of cellular repair) has had no observable transmission of mutations. Observed deformaties form in utero exposure are a result of somatic damage to highly replicating cells of the fetus where one cell death impacts the creation of thousands to millions of daughter cells. William Schull wrote a book talking about such effects based on studies he did of the children of atomic bomb survivors:
So bottom line take the events as being independent this allows you to multiply the probabilities and come up with a very very small number, something less than around 10^-10 per act of intercourse with appreciable levels of exposure (~5rem/yr). Caspari’s work did not find any evidence of transmission of genetic effects in relatively low dose exposure to fruit flies, ~2.5 R/day (this would induce observable somatic effects in people like burns).
The quote in the NAS study that worried me the most was this, “The magnitude of the ecologic bias is not measurable; therefor conclusions need to be stated carefully and results interpreted with caution.” What worried me is that if the magnitude of something cannot be measured then it does not fall under the understanding that we have for science. Science demands reproducibility and quantification. We have the national society for science in a rigorous peer review process say that basing rational scientific decisions on things that cannot be quantified is preaching a new religion. The statement of prudence with observed results is redundant and misleading. After going to the National Research Council and talking with several staff members, when it comes to the results of a NAS study, you get what you pay for. The group that pays selects the members and influences who does the peer review. To say the NAS is unbiased is a statement of naivety that even I do not poses.
This is indeed a circus.
I thought I’d provide the following reference, which summarizes just 192 published scientific articles in refereed journals. These articles provide evidence in support of beneficial effects of low doses of radiation. There are many, many more scientific articles that support this.
United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). 1994.
Adaptive Responses to Radiation in Cells and Organisms. Sources and Effects of Ionizing
Radiation. Report to the United Nations General Assembly, with Scientific Annexes. Annex B. It is available at:
Am I the only reader that has observed that the logic of this post is completely 100% incongruous with the previous post, “Analogy – Steroids & Home Runs vs CO2 & Extreme Weather?”
It has been proven that plant life will DIE with less than about 100-200 ppm CO2 (I am not sure of the exact number and you can look it up as well as I can), and that at 1000 ppm the plant health is significantly enhanced. Crop yeild is greatly increased and maturation speeded. Where are the scientific studies on optimum CO2 level for optimum health of all forms of life? Where are the studies showing the true cost to reduced CO2 vs the benefits to increased CO2 (or vice-versa)? What happens to plant health with higher CO2 levels? Does higher CO2 decrease diseases in trees, feed crops and other plants? And it sure does not look like the “global” temperature is following any of the CO2 models. Oh, and just because the US is having a warm summer does not mean the rest of the globe is warmer – the term is “Global Warming” not “US Warming.” Alaska is having a COLD summer as is England and many other areas.
I have never liked the term “global warming” because the real issue is, and always has been, the unpredictable results of the continuing experiment that human society is playing with its only atmosphere. We are dumping 20 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every single year, and the rate is increasing. For many people who are guilty of ignoring that fact, “warming” sounds kind of pleasant (think about Russia, Northern Europe, the Northern US and Canada.)
Sure, CO2 is natural and may enhance plant growth, but so are water, nitrogen and potassium. All can be overdone and become dangerous poisons. Heck, even steroids are natural and beneficial treatment for many ailments; it is routine overdose that that causes “roid rage” and tissue damange.
Even if plants grow better in higher concentrations of CO2, that does not mean it is a good thing for humans. We have this idea that some plants are weeds; people who grow things for a living want to fertilize specific types of plants and retard the growth of other types. A uniform concentration increase in the air is a terrible method of fertilization because it helps the weeds as much as it does the beneficial plants.
The globe was a very friendly place for plants when CO2 levels were far higher, but there were not any humans around back then. We kind of like dry land, temperate climates, and reasonably predictable weather that stays within certain boundaries so that structures can be reliably engineered without requirements that only get tested on rare occasions.
I don’t live in the long term, I live in this century, a mere blink of the eye. Any long term ‘optimum’ is irrelevant.
Most of the food we eat is cereal grains. Grasses are optimized for low CO2. If you increase the CO2 level, weeds will love it but it does not do much good for wheat, corn, rice etc.
The wheat growing zone, in my life time, will move clean into Canada. The canadian shield gets its name because the ice age scrapped off most of the fertile soil and now nothing much grows in the thin, infertile soil except for pine trees.
And then there’s drought. If you change the rain fall patterns, a lot of major farming regions will become very unproductive. More CO2 is not helpful at all when water and nutrients are insufficient. That’s hundreds of millions of people sloshing about. That’s the sort of thing wars are started over.
Getting back to LNT…
If I google** scholarly articles about LNT, at least half are articles that dispute the LNT hypothesis in some way. Why is this the case if LNT is scientifically proven? If I google evolution, I don’t get a bunch of articles from the discovery institute or answers-in-genesis!
So really, who is cherry-picking?
**I’m not saying google is the best way to research, just strange to me that articles affirming LNT aren’t represented more.
Since it is known than DNA repair mechanisms do exists and they even have been observed directly to be much more effective at low doses (or dose rates) than at higher ones (http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2011/12/20/low-dose-radiation/), linear accumulation of radiation damage is simply not possible. It makes no sense to talk about LNT, since it’s very foundations are known to be wrong.
This site, which I presume is anti-nuclear, posts a translation of a report from Japan about a high prevalence of thyroid nodules among Fukushima-area children.
Anyone here know Japanese?
Comments would be of interest.
Research has shown that the Japanese population has a high incidence of occult thyroid tumors — i.e., asymptomatic tumors that are normally only discovered during postmortem examinations, but which will be detected if a screening program is instituted. There are a couple of places in the world that have higher rates (Finland is one, if I recall correctly), but Japan definitely ranks up there at the top.
This appears to be a case of genetic predisposition, rather than, say, caused by exposure to radiation from atomic bombs, since the Japanese population living in Hawaii has rates that are similar to the population living in Japan. Thus, it’s not surprising to find a high incidence of thyroid problems in the Japanese population, once you go looking for it. The important question that should be answered before jumping to conclusions is whether this so-called “high prevalence” is any higher than it is in any other population in Japan that is being as carefully screened and monitored.
I make no claims to the veracity and applicability of the following, but I believe they are pertinent to the thyroid nodule issue. I apologize for including long quotes from Azby Brown from a Facebook discussion group, but I am not a member there and somehow cannot figure out how to link to the original comments.
1) From http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0201/p559.html
“Palpable thyroid nodules occur in 4 to 7 percent of the population, but nodules found incidentally on ultrasonography suggest a prevalence of 19 to 67 percent. ”
2) From Azby Brown, posting on the Facebook group Tokyo.Radiation.Levels:
[start] “I hate to keep repeating the same analysis, which I’ve also posted elsewhere recently, but back in Feb. 2012 I sent all the data Antonio and I could find on iodine and thyroid exposures to Ian Fairlie, who passed it on to Sir Dillwyn Williams, Professor of Histopathology at the University of Cambridge who, along with Keith Baverstock, discovered the thyroid problems in children after Chernobyl (which the medical establishment refused to believe at first). His reply was very long and I posted it in full back then. I’m quoting a few relevant parts here. I’m sending the new data we have on thyroid exposures as well, and hopefully he’ll have more to say about the implications soon. As you read this, keep in mind that it’s from a leading histopathologist, one who specializes in finding overlooked radiation-induced thyroid problems and who had to fight to get his Chernobyl findings accepted:
“I can understand the concern of your contacts who are living in Japan, but the chances that these findings of an increase in thyroid tumours are due to radiation exposure are very low, as are the chances that they pose any significant threat to health.”
“Yes exposure to radioiodines in fallout does lead to an increased incidence of both benign and malignant tumours of the thyroid: the risk is related to the level of exposure, to the age at exposure, and to iodine deficiency in the diet. Only a minority of those exposed go on to develop a cancer, perhaps one in fifty of those who were infants living in the most exposed areas at the time of Chernobyl.
“The one certain way of increasing the apparent incidence of thyroid tumours is to go looking for it with modern screening techniques. This will uncover nodules that had not previously been noticed, were not due to radiation and mostly will be of no threat to health, as well as finding tumours that were due to radiation, if any
“If my children had been exposed to fallout from Fukushima I would see no point in screening for tumours until 4 years after the accident.” [end]
3) Also from Azby Brown, as above:
[start] “A big symposium was held at NIRS (National Institute Radiological Sciences) in Chiba on July 10, at which several papers were presented in which thyroid doses were estimated, based on measurements taken last March and April. I wasn’t able to attend, and am waiting for the papers to become available, but some data has already been released.
A team led by Toshikazu Suzuki released estimates based on measurements of 1080 children 16 and under in Fukushima shortly after the accident; they estimate average thyroid doses of 12mSv, and maximum doses of 42mSv. These numbers were widely reported last week in the Asahi and elsewhere, all of whom pointed out that the government had issued misleading statements about the measurements last year, suggesting that the doses were “zero,” etc, which they definitely weren’t.
I found a paper online a couple of days ago by Masahiro Hosoda et al, which appears to be the one he presented on July 10 as well:
Thyroid doses for evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear accident
They measured 62 people aged 0 to 83, and estimated a median thyroid equivalent dose of 4.2mSv for children and 3.5mSv for adults, and maximums of 23mSv for children and 33mSv for adults. They contrast this with the mean thyroid dose for Chernobyl evacuees of 490mSv. Although these are lower estimates that Suzuki’s, I think they fit fairly well.
In Belarus, according to this OECD report (which is backed up by most of the independent studies I’ve seen), “…children in the Gomel region of Belarus appear to have received the highest thyroid doses with a range from negligible levels up to 40 Gy and an average close to 1 Gy for children aged 0 to 7. ”
In other words, doses in Gomel were 0 to 40 sieverts (40,000 mSv) range and 1000 mSv average. So the maximum thyroid dose for Fukushima children as indicated by Suzuki’s study is about 1/100th of those in Gomel, and the average is about 1/80th.
Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impact 2002 Update of Chernobyl: Ten Years On
I want to read Suzuki’s paper, as well as the others. But assuming this data is reliable, and taking into account the stoppage of Fukushima milk sales from March 21-June 8 and the iodine-rich diet of people in Japan generally (in Belarus in particular children were extremely iodine-deficient, which made their doses much higher), it’s reasonable to conclude that we will see far fewer thyroid diseases than we did after Chernobyl. It would be a miracle if there were none at all, of course, and it’s important to continue monitoring these children for thyroid issues. But I think this gives us a realistic indication of the scale of the problem.
Some other helpful Chernobyl thyroid studies for comparison:
Chernobyl Accident: Revision of individual thyroid dose estimates for the children included in the cohort of the
Chernobyl Accident: Assessment of the collective thyroid dose for the Belarusian population
The report in your link is about a program that screens for thyroid problems in children in Fukushima prefecture after the meltdowns. It found that about 35 % of children have thyroid nodules or cysts.
Anti-nukes claim that the nodules and cysts are mostly caused by the Fukushima Daiichi accident, and that they presage a spike in thyroid cancer. But that conclusion is unwarranted unless we know what the normal baseline prevalence of thyroid nodules and cysts is in that population, which the report doesn’t tell us. It could be that it’s normal for 35% of Fukushima children to have nodules or cysts.
Establishing the normal baseline prevalence of nodules and cysts is a tricky proposition, because that figure is influenced by many factors, including:
1) the age and demographics of the population (kids have fewer than adults)
2) diet (a deficiency or excess of iodine can cause nodules and cysts)
3) the methodology used to find nodules and cysts—external palpitation of the throat typically finds them in 4-7% of the population, while ultrasound exams, which were used in the Fukushima screening, can detect them in up to 60% of the population.
4) the ultrasound equipment used—higher frequency ultrasound will detect many more nodules and cysts than will lower-frequency ultrasound.
5) diagnostic criteria—what type and size of nodule or cyst will be counted as an abnormality. The Fukushima study, somewhat idiosyncratically, divides the results into four categories: nodules with a diameter either less than or greater than 5 mm, and cysts with diameter greater or less than 2 cm. It’s not clear how these categories match up with the literature on thyroid nodules and cysts, or whether they are all even counted as abnormalities by other studies. (From what I can gather, cysts apparently are membrane-enclosed fluid cavities while nodules denote detached semi-solid lumps). That’s important, because virtually all of the Fukushima abnormalities belong to the category of cysts less than 2 cm in diameter, a category that I have found no mention of in the rest of the literature, which does not follow the Fukushima study’s meticulous distinction between cysts and nodules. So it’s possible that virtually all of the Fukushima abnormalities belong to a category that the medical literature as a whole doesn’t consider a medical disorder.
So we can’t take the Fukushima report as a sign of elevated thyroid problems in kids without a rigorous controlled study of the baseline prevalence of thyroid nodules and cysts, one that’s carried out using a demographically similar population with a similar diet, using the same methodology, equipment and diagnostic criteria.
But there are a few indications in the report that the prevalence of thyroid abnormalities in Fukushima is actually pretty “normal”:
1) If we exclude the mysterious “cysts” and look just at the category of thyroid “nodules,” the Fukushima screening found them in 1.0% of the children examined. The baseline prevalence in the literature for thyroid nodules in children is between 0.22% and 1.35%, (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/924550-overview) so the Fukushima prevalence seems to be well within the normal range.
2) The Fukushima study is a clinical screening program to identify children with worrisome thyroid abnormalities so they can be treated, but only 186, or 0.5%, of the children were sent on for follow-up evaluation and treatment. That indicates that almost all of the 35% of children with nodules or cysts actually had ultrasounds that looked normal to the doctors reading them.
3) The doctor in charge has said that the findings of the study were not out of the ordinary. (Anti-nukes smelled a cover-up there.)
My guess is that the report is nothing to be alarmed over, and is not evidence of a thyroid effect from the Fukushima meltdowns.
I saw a reference some time ago to the fact this study aims to set a reference for the *initial* state of the child’s thyroid so that anomalies can be detected later, because it’s too soon after the Fukushima disaster for the radioactive iodine to have had any effect *yet*.
The trouble is that the doctors started the examination only in September, continuing it in November (reading the report it seems they worked very hard to finish this as fast as possible, but it did start a bit late), so that it raises hard to calm down suspicions about whether the cysts were already there initially.
Even Caldicott does admit it’s not normal to see consequences of the irradiation so soon, but she concludes that it must be because the kids suffered a *very* *high* level of thyroid irradiation 8-(
I think this is probably what is going on there:
“Endemic goiter in children has been described in coastal Japan, where iodine intake from seaweed was >10 000 μg/d (5). Lower intakes, in the range of 400–1300 μg/d, from iodine-rich drinking water, were associated with increased serum thyrotropin (TSH) and thyroid volume (Tvol) in a small sample of Chinese children
Several studies have reported that excess iodine has a goitrogenic effect in adults. In Peace Corps volunteers, ingestion for up to 32 mo of ≥ 50 mg iodine/d from iodine-resin water filters increased mean (±SD) UI concentrations to 11.1 ± 19.1 mg/L (28). Goiter by palpation was found in 44% of the subjects; 30 ± 11 wk after removal of excess iodine, the goiter prevalence decreased to 30%
In a report of what the authors called “endemic coastal goiter” in Hokkaido, Japan (5), the traditional local diet was high in iodine-rich seaweed. UI excretion in children consuming the local diet was ≈23 000 μg/d. The overall prevalence of visible goiter in children was 3–9%, but, in several villages, ≈25% of the children had visible goiter.” ( http://www.ajcn.org/content/81/4/840.full )
Mechanism of non-linearity:
Instead of relying on statistical analysis we have a detailed mechanistic understanding of radiation response. The more data and theory we obtain, the more dead LNT will become.
Unfortunately this quote by Max Planck is as true now as it was in the 1920’s (Bob):
‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’
There are many examples of old, incorrect theories that stubbornly persisted, sustained only by the prestige of foolish but well-connected scientists. … Many of these theories have been killed off only when some decisive experiment exposed their incorrectness. .. Thus the yeoman work in any science, and especially physics, is done by the experimentalist, who must keep the theoreticians honest.
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