There is a growing understanding among people who specialize in understanding how ionizing radiation affects human beings that the prevailing “no safe dose” model that was adopted as the result of a major political struggle during the mid to late 1950s is false and does not represent reality. Responsible people that continue to accept and promote the model despite evidence that it is wrong often justify their actions with a phrase like “at least we are erring in the conservative direction,” but that is a false reassurance.
Continued use of the model as the basis for both regulations and public communication is causing harm in a number of ways. It is time to follow one of the most frequently repeated dictums of the most successful of the nuclear energy pioneers and “do what is right.”
An organization full of skilled and caring professionals that calls itself SARI (Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information) has decided that it is time to push the officially appointed scientific and regulatory bodies to reevaluate their stubborn acceptance of an old model that has been proven to be both false and damaging to human health.
The following letter, dated January 21, 2015, is their latest salvo in what will be a sustained effort to encourage change.
No reason to fear low-dose radiation
The LNT Model – why it is a problem, why it was adopted, why it persists, and how it can be overcome
A group of professionals from Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI)
(Please see the end of the article for the list of authors)
January 21, 2015
Discussion of the LNT Model: The linear no-threshold (LNT) model was adopted in the 1950s for radiation safety. It assumes an excess risk of cancers from even the smallest amount of radiation exposure due to DNA damage. Though the model seems logical, it is not correct because it ignores the fact that our bodies have very powerful defenses against all damages that occur. In fact, there is considerable naturally-occurring DNA damage in our bodies even without any radiation exposure. Although a small amount of radiation produces a small amount of damage, it stimulates the activities of our defenses, including production of antioxidants, DNA repair, damage removal, and improved immune responses. As a result, there is less naturally-occurring damage, and therefore fewer diseases including fewer cancers.
Why the LNT model should not be used: Much of the evidence claimed as support for the LNT model has collapsed due to updates to the data and discovery of faults in the data or analysis. For example, the most recent atomic bomb survivor data, historically quoted as the main evidence for the LNT model, no longer agrees with the model. This has been recognized in the latest published debate on the health effects of low-dose radiation where these data were not used to support the LNT model, unlike in previous such debates. Moreover, there has been considerable additional evidence showing that the LNT model is not valid and even that a small amount of radiation has beneficial health effects.
Why the use of the LNT model is a major problem: The use of the LNT model has resulted in tremendous public harm because of actions taken by governments, professionals, political activists, and the public based on unfounded fears and concerns regarding low-dose radiation. Some examples of public harm are as follows:
- Casualties in Fukushima: Urgent evacuation of the Fukushima area and its prolongation following the 2011 nuclear power plant accidents caused more than 1000 deaths with no recognizable benefit. More than 100,000 people remain displaced, either by government mandate or by fear of low-level radiation exposure. There were no casualties due to radiation from these major accidents in the Fukushima nuclear power plants demonstrating the safety of nuclear power.
- Suppression of nuclear energy: The use of nuclear energy to produce electricity, though it has proven to be the safest in terms of number of fatalities per amount of energy produced, has been suppressed due to trumped up low-dose radiation-induced cancer concerns. This has resulted in real casualties from other non-nuclear energy sources. For example, a recent natural gas explosion in local supply lines in Harlem, NY killed 8 people and injured 70. If the neighborhood had utilized energy from nuclear power plants for heating and cooking rather than from natural gas, these casualties would have been avoided.
- Suppression of research on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.: There is considerable evidence supporting the use of low-dose radiation to prevent cancers and other major diseases like Alzheimer’s. The use of the LNT model unnecessarily inhibits testing such ideas. According to a conservative estimate, about 10% of the current deaths from cancer can be prevented using low-dose radiation. Thus, considering the annual worldwide cancer death toll of 7.6 million, the LNT model is probably responsible for causing over 2,000 preventable cancer deaths every day worldwide.
- Missed diagnoses: Many patients are refusing to have CT scans and doctors are not prescribing them due to radiation dose concerns, resulting in missed diagnoses and potentially harming patient health. Also, CT scans are being performed with poorer image quality to reduce radiation dose, making it harder to diagnose diseases.
- High costs: Ratcheting up of regulations for the various uses of radiation (medical, industrial, nuclear energy, etc.) has resulted in tremendously increased costs but no benefit.
Why the LNT model was adopted: The LNT model was initially adopted by the Genetics Panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) I Committee in 1956. Its summary report made statements such as: “Even very small amounts of radiation unquestionably have the power to injure the hereditary materials” and “there is no such figure other than zero” (for amount of radiation that is genetically harmless). The full report was published in the New York Times and received huge publicity initiating the fear of low-dose radiation.
A year later, letters exchanged among the committee members included statements such as:
“I, myself, have a hard time keeping a straight face when there is talk about genetic deaths and the tremendous dangers of irradiation”, “Let us be honest with ourselves—we are both interested in genetics research, and for the sake of it, we are willing to stretch a point when necessary”, and “Now, the business of genetic effects of atomic energy has produced a public scare, and a consequent interest in and recognition of importance of genetics. This is to the good, since it will make some people read up on genetics who would not have done so otherwise, and it may lead to the powers-that-be giving money for genetic research which they would not give otherwise.”
These exchanges are highly informative, as they indicate the true reason for the adoption of the LNT model was not that the smallest amount of radiation is dangerous according to the committee members, but their own self-interest.
Why the LNT model persists: The fear and concerns due to the LNT model have resulted in considerable financial support for the advisory committees and other individuals and organizations that cater to the concerns. Considering the dubious reason for the initial adoption of the LNT model (i.e., self-interest of committee members), similar motivation for its continuation cannot be ruled out. As evidence, the advisory committees have failed to allay concerns about low-dose radiation even after observing the above-mentioned negative impacts (and no benefit) from the use of the LNT model, and in spite of the evidence for the cancer-preventive effect of low-dose radiation, which they continue to ignore. The LNT model is a cash cow for the vested interests. They will not voluntarily discontinue its use.
One might ask: if there is compelling evidence against the LNT model and the advisory bodies have ignored it, why don’t scientists point this out, and push the advisory bodies to do the right thing? In fact, many scientists have done this, but their writings get ignored or dismissed by the advisory committees. Such writings also receive little coverage by popular media as they are not sensational, in contrast to the advisory committee reports and articles that claim cancers from the smallest amounts of radiation.
How the LNT Model can be overcome: Though previous attempts to dislodge the LNT model have failed, the time is ripe for overthrowing it by launching a coordinated effort, in view of the evidence that has recently been published showing the dubious origin of the LNT model and the body of data now existent. Of course, it is not going to be easy, considering the tremendous vested interests that are at work to maintain the status quo.
If the public comes to know the origin of the LNT model as described above, they would support the overthrow of the model, since they would be incensed that the LNT model was proposed by misguided committee members who did not act only in the interest of public health.
Among the steps to be considered for overthrowing the LNT model:
- Legal challenge to the use of the LNT model, since published evidence has shown use of the LNT model has not protected public health but has caused casualties.
- Advertisements that explain the origin of the LNT model partly as a consequence of self-interest of committee members and not to protect public health, and the casualties it has caused.
- Public service messages showing evidence for reduction of cancer from low-dose radiation and how many cancer deaths can be prevented if the LNT model is overthrown.
- Public debates with LNT model supporters.
Many of these and similar steps would require considerable resources and manpower in order to be successful. Therefore a large amount of support needs to be marshalled prior to launching the effort to overthrow the LNT model.
Why it is important to overthrow the LNT model: Overthrow of the LNT model would:
- Enable study of low-dose radiation for prevention of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. for which there are presently few methods of prevention, but for which evidence indicates low-dose radiation could be effective.
- Reduce pollution and casualties from the use of fossil fuels as living standards improve worldwide by encouraging the development and use of safer, less-polluting nuclear energy.
- Reduce or eliminate unjustified large-scale, prolonged evacuations, and their associated casualties and disastrous consequences in case of radiation-related accidents.
- Reduce the side effects of cancer treatments by enabling study of low-dose radiation to treat cancer, since there is evidence indicating such treatments are effective with minimal adverse side effects.
- Reduce misdiagnoses due to radiation dose concerns regarding CT scans.
- Reduce costs for various uses of radiation: medical and industrial uses, nuclear energy, etc.
One or more of these would be of interest to every member of the public.
How you can help:
(i) Share this article with your contacts in the various social media so that more of them become aware of the need for change and join the campaign to overthrow the LNT model,
(ii) Answer the survey and indicate your support for the overthrow of the LNT model, offer your help for the campaign, give your suggestions, etc.
Based on the responses to the survey, after sufficient support has been marshalled, the campaign to overthrow the LNT model would be planned and launched.
Epilogue: The LNT model is probably the most egregious error ever made in the name of science, considering the long period over which it has been used worldwide in spite of there being no valid evidence for it and in spite of the casualties and calamities its use has caused. In view of the dubious origin of the LNT model and its prevalent use, the powerful vested interests that benefit from its use would not voluntarily discontinue its use. A strong and large public opposition based on the best of science against the LNT model would be necessary to enable its overthrow. We hope you will join this effort and express your support for the overthrow of the LNT model by spreading the message and answering the survey. The whole world would benefit in multiple ways because of your actions.
Mohan Doss, Fox Chase Cancer Center, USA
Mervyn Cohen, Indiana University, USA
Leslie Corrice, Publisher: The Hiroshima Syndrome, USA
Jerry Cuttler, Cuttler & Associates, Canada
Christopher Davey, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia
Ludwik Dobrzynski, National Centre for Nuclear Research, Poland
Vincent J. Esposito, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Ludwig E. Feinendegen, Heinrich-Heine University, Germany
Krzysztof W. Fornalski, Polish Nuclear Society, Poland
Alan Fellman, Dade Moeller & Associates, Inc., USA
Leo S. Gomez, Leo S. Gomez Consulting, USA
Robert Hargraves, Author of “THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal”, USA
Marek K. Janiak, Military Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Poland
Patricia Lewis, Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine, USA
Jeffrey Mahn, Sandia National Laboratories (Retired), USA
Mark Miller, Sandia National Laboratories, USA
Charles W. Pennington, Executive Nuclear Energy Consultant, USA
Jeffrey S. Philbin, Nuclear Safety Associates, USA
Chary Rangacharyulu, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Bill Sacks, FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (Retired), USA
Andrzej Strupczewski, National Centre for Nuclear Research, Poland
Shizuyo Sutou, Shujitsu University, Japan
DISCLAIMER: This article represents the professional opinions of the above authors, and does not necessarily represent the views of their affiliated institutions.
This article in its entirety may be freely copied and distributed.
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