Both the great Truths and the great Falsehoods of the twentieth century lie hidden in the arcane, widely inaccessible, and seemingly mundane domain of the radiation sciences

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER SIXTEEN

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

SCAM NUMBER SIXTEEN: Conduct spurious diagnostic tests on possible victims of internal contamination and then use the inevitable negative test results to falsely reassure the patients that their dose was nonexistent or inconsequential.

Despicable and unconscionable are adjectives too tame to adequately convey the gravity of this scam. Nevertheless, it is currently being used against ailing American veterans returning from combat duty. Due to the controversy over depleted uranium, many vets suffering from Gulf War Syndrome want to know whether DU contamination is a factor in their symptomatology. The standard diagnostic test administered by the military is to collect a 24-hour urine sample and measure the total concentration of uranium within the sample so as to ascertain whether uranium levels are elevated above normal. This sounds perfectly reasonable. A veteran, not adequately informed, will greet the inevitable negative tests results with relief, assured that internal contamination with uranium is not a factor in his illness. A casualty of misplaced trust, he will remain ignorant that he has been a victim of a medical hoax intentionally perpetrated by the Pentagon to hide from the world the consequences of uranium weaponry. Measurement of total uranium in urine is the wrong diagnostic test. When a human being assimilates soluble uranium compounds into his body, almost all of that uranium remains mobilized within the body and is rapidly eliminated through the urine in a matter of days. Thus, the total concentration of uranium in the urine will quickly return to normal levels. The tiny percentage of uranium lodged in tissues of retention, such as bone, will slowly leach into the circulation and then into the urine. This uranium will mix with the naturally present uranium in the body and is unlikely to elevate total uranium concentrations beyond the normal range. Consequently, it is evident that unless a urine sample is collected within days of exposure, this test will provide no information as to whether or not the soldier has been internally contaminated. This, however, is not the whole story. It is quite possible that a GI on active duty will inhale a medically significant quantity of insoluble uranium compounds. These may become immobilized in the lungs or trapped within the tracheobronchial lymph nodes, irradiating surrounding tissue for years or decades. Slow to leach into the general circulation, this contamination may go undetected because it does not significantly elevate uranium levels in the urine above normal. Quite obviously, a different diagnostic test is required to prove contamination with battlefield uranium. The fact that the ratio of uranium isotopes is different in depleted uranium from that in the uranium naturally found in the body, the only legitimate test is one that measures the composition of the various isotopes of uranium being excreted in the urine. (A fuller description of this procedure appears in the later chapter, A Primer in the Art of Deception.)

This author, in full cognizance of the responsibility of his words, stands before all mankind and unhesitatingly declares that the Veterans Administration is perpetrating medical fraud on ailing military personnel. Further, the Department of Defense of the United States is endorsing this medical malpractice to deceive the entire world on the health implications of battlefield DU. Military physicians, if they keep abreast of the scientific advances in their field pertinent to their profession, know with certainty that they are prescribing the wrong diagnostic test. They cannot use ignorance as an excuse.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER FIFTEEN

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

SCAM NUMBER FIFTEEN: Rely on your models to create reality.

When radiation is liberated into the environment, either from an accident at a nuclear power plant or the incineration of a uranium weapon, where does the radiation go? Given sufficient motivation, time and money, radiation monitors can be dispatched into the field and laboriously map in what direction the radiation traveled, where it was deposited, and the number of people potentially exposed. Depending on the radioisotopes involved and the level of contamination drifting through the air or settling to contaminate potable water sources and agricultural products, very fuzzy estimates can be manufactured of what the possible external and internal dosages to the members of the exposed population might be. Assembling the picture of what has occurred is arduous and the outcome is, at best, an educated guess. Until an easy and rapid method is devised and implemented for measuring external exposure history and internal contamination among large numbers of people, actual dosages of an at-risk population are not ascertainable. Because we cannot/do not measure where all those radioactive atoms go and who accumulates them and in what concentrations, and because radiation biology is still in its infancy in determining the full range of biological effects produced in those contaminated, there is tremendous uncertainty as to the outcome of a radiation release on public health. The powers that be will adamantly deny this assessment.

As an alternative to actually going out to measure and map the full consequences of an environmental release of radiation, methods have been developed to “model” what might actually be taking place. For such a model to have any validity, a number must first be derived representing the dose of radiation received by each member of the exposed population. Once again, “averaging” is the relied upon methodology. An average dose is postulated for an average individual within the exposed group. Among the factors taken into account in deriving this number are the radioisotopes involved, the type of radiation these emit, the energy transmitted by the radiation, the external hazard from gamma emitters, the organ(s) of retention of internal emitters, and the residency time of the internal emitters within the various organs of the body. The total energy the average person is thought to have received is stated in a unit of measure called the “person-rem” or “person-Sievert.” This number is then multiplied by the number of people in the exposed population to derive the “collective dose.” By multiplying this number by the appropriate risk factor(s) [to be explained later], a quick estimate can be derived of how many cancers and of what type are likely to develop in the exposed population over their lifetime as a result of the collective exposure. This methodology has great utilitarian value because it can very rapidly provide a rough guess of the possible health consequences from routine or accidental emissions.

Needless to say, the concept of collective dose, similar to that of the concept of dose, is vulnerable to a range of abuses from mild massaging to gross misrepresentation. Scams, identical to the ones previously mentioned, can be applied to the concept of collective dose to paint the desired image of the consequences of a radiation release. The assumptions made by researchers in their determination of such variables as the amount of radiation released, the average dose, or number of people exposed can sculpt the derived collective dose into any number of different guises.

The idea of collective dose is grounded in the very abstract and dubious notion that such a thing as an average dose can be derived that faithfully represents the exposure received by each member of a population. Implicit in the concept is the assumption that radiation is uniformly distributed, that no hotspots develop that enhance exposure to local groups, that dietary habits are similar throughout the population and all members ingest similar diets that contain equivalent quantities of radiocontaminants. Perhaps more importantly, the concept of collective dose assumes uniform vulnerability to radiation injury, failing to take into account the heightened vulnerability of such subgroups as women, children, fetuses, those who are genetically predisposed to above average radiosensitivity and people with compromised immune systems. This is analogous to the hot particle problem where some cells in an organ receive no hits and a few receive huge numbers of hits, for many in a population may receive no exposure while some small fraction may receive a highly significant dose. Averaging the radiation over the whole population may have the effect of understating the health impact.

To predict the number of cancers likely to be induced in the exposed population, the collective dose is multiplied by the appropriate risk factor(s) published by the radiation protection agencies. These risk factors are derived from the rates of cancer observed in epidemiological studies that have achieved consensual acceptance by the radiation protection community, such as the corrupted Hiroshima study, and from the model of dose-response favored by whoever is doing the predicting. Radiation protection agencies currently rely on the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis to develop risk factors and to predict the incidence of cancer in the aftermath of a radiation release.

The reason for the vehement clash over the shape of the dose-response curve in the low-dose range can now be readily understood. The model creates reality. The model chosen to represent the human organism’s response to radiation controls the prediction of the public health impact of a radiation release. The number of people known to develop cancer as the result of a radiation accident is largely determined by the model chosen to evaluate the event. Radiogenic cancers can take as long as decades to develop after exposure. These cancers become masked by normal incidence rates of the disease. Normal fluctuations from year to year in cancer deaths and the number of cases of new cancers can disguise the contribution played by a radiation event in sickening the population. Epidemiological studies have the potential of providing answers, but they are challenging to design and implement so as to deliver unambiguous results. To fill the knowledge void, researchers and public health officials turn to the currently accepted models to explain the health implications of an incident. Knowledge of the radioisotopes released, their quantities, and the number of people exposed are all that is necessary to do the math to determine the number of cancers likely to be produced. The answer may have little to do with what is actually but invisibly taking place in the population. But that doesn’t matter. Here and now, all that matters is what people believe is happening. The truth, if it is rigorously pursued, won’t be known for decades. The models relied upon to interpret events forge the perception.

To date, the collective dose from radiation incidents has been filtered through the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis to derive the cancer consequences of the events. The Cult of Nuclearists can no longer allow this conservative and precautionary approach to craft the public’s perception when it concerns mass exposure of populations to low doses of radiation. The LNTH produces the unwelcome prediction that cancers inevitably will be produced. This conclusion is repellent and an obstacle to the public acquiescing to the proliferation of uranium weapons, nuclear bunker-busters, small fourth-generation fusion weapons, and a resumption in nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site. What can be done to alter public opinion? The answer is obvious. Change your model. And that is exactly what is being done through the current push to discredit the LNTH and replace it with a model that postulates that low-dose exposure is without hazard.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER FOURTEEN

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

SCAM NUMBER FOURTEEN: Deviously initiate a propaganda campaign to overturn conventional wisdom on dose-response relationships in order to achieve a political objective.

Uranium weapons are being used by the US military in each new overseas conflict. The government is proposing the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons and a possible resumption of testing at the Nevada Test Site. Worldwide, articles are appearing with increasing regularity describing the next incarnation of nuclear power reactors that are destined to solve all our energy needs. Proposed deregulation of the disposal of low-level radioactive waste (see Scam Twelve) is paving the way for a flood of radioactive material to enter the marketplace. Against this backdrop, a pregnant, rhetorical question needs to be posed: Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence that, just now when these advances in the proliferation of nuclear technologies are underway and waste disposal policies are changing, a concerted attempt is afoot to demolish the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis currently embraced by the radiation protection agencies and replace it with a dose-response model that will justify increased low-dose exposure to the public?

For the Cult of Nuclearists, the Supralinear Hypothesis has always been an enemy. It predicts greater health detriment to the population from low doses of radiation than admitted by the radiation protection agencies. But the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis is falling into increasing disfavor as well. Regulatory constraints based on this model are an interference to practices that release increased levels of radiation into the environment and elevate human exposure. Looser waste disposal policies or new weapon development may be stymied if regulatory agencies don’t loosen up a little bit with regard to the amount of exposure allowed to the public. Cleanup of nuclear waste sites will eat up gargantuan amounts of money if current guidelines continue to be enforced. In addition to these inconveniences, the LNTH is undermining the nuclear establishment because it reinforces the public’s fear of radiation. Embodied within its premises is the idea that no dose of radiation is safe, that even the lowest doses are creating a health detriment to a small portion of the population. This leads in an unfortunate direction. Uranium weapons are inducing cancer in some number of those exposed. With the LNTH causing such problems, the Cult of Nuclearists has hatched a brilliant new public relations strategy within the last decade to convince the world that exposure to low levels of radiation is without risk. The public needs to be versed in this latest tactic so as to spot representatives of the Cult of Nuclearists and understand the reason for the current push not only to refute all evidence of detrimental low-level effects but to completely dismantle a century of study in radiotoxicology and radiation protection. What follows is a summary of the various arguments that are appearing with increasing frequency in the media and the scientific journals, implanted there to reassure the public that exposure to low doses of radiation should no longer be a concern.

1) In this clever public relations campaign, the Cult of Nuclearists borrows tactics from its critics and attacks the ICRP. The argument is made that the ICRP has perpetrated a fraud against humanity by basing radiation protection standards on the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis. The validity of this hypothesis for postulating the detrimental health effects of low doses of radiation, so the argument goes, has never been confirmed by experimentation. The only reason the radiation protection agencies adopted this hypothesis was that it was assumed to be overly conservative. The nuclear industry raised no objection because it could easily operate within the safety standards developed on the basis of the LNTH.

2) The LNTH is now entrenched and will be difficult to change. Beginning in the mid-1960s, the anti-nuclear movement gained tremendous momentum. Under its tutelage, the scientific hypothesis that small amounts of radiation MAY be hazardous was corrupted into the political agenda that a small amount of radiation IS hazardous. Spurred by anti-nuclear activists, the public has developed an unreasonable fear of any amount of radiation exposure. If the LNTH is scrapped for a more scientifically sound basis of radiation protection, anti-nuclear organizations will accuse regulatory agencies of jeopardizing public health. The public’s radiophobia unduly hampers the nuclear industry from providing to society the enormous benefits promised by radioactive materials.

3) Research has revealed that the human body has numerous mechanisms for repairing radiation damage or inducing cell death in damaged cells before they have the opportunity to undergo replication. Consequently, some as yet unidentified threshold dose or threshold mechanism must exist before the onset of cancer expression.

4) The DNA in each cell is subject to tens of thousands of damaging events each day from oxidative metabolism and other normal physiological processes. This damage is successfully corrected by normal repair mechanisms. Compared to this normal level of damage, the amount of DNA damage induced by low-level radiation is insignificant. Whatever damage is produced in DNA by low-level radiation will be lost amid the other assaults to DNA and will likely be effectively repaired. Further, since numerous carcinogens are attempting to assault the integrity of DNA in modern humans, there is no way to isolate radiation-induced damage and award it special significance as being more hazardous.

5) The modern understanding of the etiology of cancer testifies against the simple model of carcinogenesis embraced by the radiation protection agencies. Cancer induction is not a straightforward process following inexorably from radiation-induced DNA damage within single cells. The initiation of malignancy is a complex, multistage process requiring several key changes in different parts of the genome. Low doses of radiation cannot produce all the necessary alterations simultaneously. Thus, cells suffering genetic mutation from low-dose radiation must undergo further genetic alterations from other events and/or other sources before evolving into a malignant genotype. Further, carcinogenesis is intercellular. Innumerable iterative steps which are unpredictable in their effect to the overall process take place between the malignant transformation of a single cell and the proliferation of a cancer consisting of billions of cells. Such complexity precludes postulating a simple linear relationship between dose and response.

6) The phenomenon of hormesis testifies to the fact that exposure to low levels of radiation are beneficial to the human body. Hormesis refers to the stimulating and apparently protective effect conferred on living systems by exposure to low doses of radiation and low doses of other toxic substances. A wealth of experimental evidence exists that demonstrate that low levels of radiation can act as a stimulant to a variety of cellular functions, enhancing repair mechanisms and immunological responses.

7) Natural background radiation varies at different points on the Earth by a factor of 10 or more. Populations living in areas of high levels of natural background radiation show no evidence of increased adverse health effects when compared to populations living in areas of lower levels of natural background radiation. Quite obviously, humans possess adaptive mechanisms allowing them to handle increased amounts of radiation with no ill effects. Thus, the addition of a little more human-generated radiation above background levels cannot reasonably be deemed harmful.

8) Low levels of radiation stimulate adaptive mechanisms at both the cellular level and the level of the whole organism. A cell exposed to a high challenging dose evidences less radiation damage if it was previously exposed to a low conditioning dose. The initial dose stimulates adaptive mechanisms that enable the cell to manage greater radiation insult at a later date. Some evidence has been gathered demonstrating that the same phenomenon is manifested in people who live in areas of high natural background radiation. Having adapted to higher-than-average levels of radiation, they give signs of increased resistance to radiation exposure above familiar background levels.

9) The radiation protection agencies throughout the world need to be faulted for ignoring the beneficial effects of low doses of radiation (hormesis) or the zero (nonexistent) effects. By such a one-sided outlook, their recommendations are unbalanced and biased. They emphasize the bad potentialities of radiation exposure and ignore the good. This bias is out of sync with today’s scientific climate, and it serves to prejudice the people against the nuclear industry.

10) Enormous sums of money are being unnecessarily spent annually to assure dosages to the public are below those wrongfully hypothesized as harmful by the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis. Cleanup and decommissioning of nuclear sites worldwide are projected to cost close to $2 trillion. Due to the low levels of radiation involved in many instances, this expenditure will produce negligible public health and safety benefits. The money can be better spent elsewhere.

These 10 points summarize the new paradigm on low-level radiation effects being promulgated by the Cult of Nuclearists. The implications of this paradigm shift, in regard to uranium weaponry, are troubling. Taken to its logical extreme, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq should offer thanks to United States for bombing them with uranium and exposing them to the health-enhancing benefits of low doses of radiation. In its beneficence, US weaponry is stimulating a variety of physiological functions, improving cellular repair mechanisms, and enhancing immunological responses.

The Cult of Nuclearists ardently desires to convince all listeners that it has assembled sufficient proof to warrant a significant overhaul of radiation protection standards as they apply to low-dose exposure. Their argument rests on three major premises which they promote as being thoroughly validated by experimentation. This is a gross misrepresentation, for their conjectures are still open to a wide range of interpretations and have yet to be shown to provide a realistic basis for protecting the population from radiation injury. The first premise: the phenomenon of hormesis testifies to the fact that cellular systems can remain unharmed by low doses of radiation and actually benefit from such exposure. Repair mechanisms within cells are stimulated and immune function is enhanced, conferring a protective benefit to the organism as a whole. The second premise: due to the remarkable efficiency of DNA repair mechanisms within cells, the immune system has the capacity of perfectly repairing every type of damage capable of being produced by low-dose radiation. The third premise: below some threshold dose, radiation causes no ill effect to the organism. The new paradigm reintroduces the concept of a threshold dose for the onset of radiation-induced malignancy. Based on the concepts of hormesis and perfect repair of radiation damage, the evident conclusion is that a yet unidentified dose is required to initiate a series of events that eventually trips some threshold mechanism before radiation-induced damage can escape repair and develop into uncontrolled cell proliferation.

A large body of evidence has accumulated to substantiate the existence of hormesis. But pro-nuclear lobbyists are making unwarranted extrapolations from the phenomenon, claiming that it proves that all low-dose exposure is harmless. Is it not possible that, while some health benefits are conferred, simultaneously some subpopulation of the cells or organisms exposed suffer unrepaired or misrepaired genetic lesions which are precursors to cancer? In agreement with this line of reasoning, Dr. Rosalie Bertell offers the following observation on the subject of hormesis:

"What has been sorely neglected in this public relations battle is that low dose radiation at the cellular level must necessarily affect a large range of molecules in the cellular communication system in any particular cell type. In order to produce one “good” effect, one must endure many other unwanted “bad” effects which will in the long run claim a physiological price perhaps significant, although they evolve to a clinically observable level more slowly" [1,2].

The phenomenon of hormesis, as interesting as it is, is really irrelevant to the topic of radiation protection and is sorely abused by those who reference it when attempting to dismiss the hazards of low-dose exposure. This is made clear by Makhijani, Smith and Thorne in Science for the Vulnerable: Setting Radiation and Multiple Exposure Environmental Health Standards to Protect Those Most at Risk:

There are some who subscribe to the "hormesis" hypothesis, according to which a small amount of radiation could produce some beneficial health effects, by stimulating the immune system for instance. The main evidence put forward for this has been from experiments on mice. According to a summary of the evidence for the hormesis effect, compiled by Charles Waldren, a high dose of radiation produced fewer mutations in some circumstances if preceded by a dose in the 1 to 20 rem range. This supposed protective effect does not appear at lower or higher doses, however, and lasts only for about a day, after which it disappears (Waldren 1999). Such a hormesis effect, even if it exists in humans, has no public health significance, since the cancer risk of the exposure would be very high and any immune system stimulation would be very temporary. This issue has been extensively addressed by the BEIR VII panel and others. The conclusion of the BEIR VII panel was that ‘the assumption that any stimulatory hormetic effects from low doses of ionizing radiation will have a significant health benefit to humans that exceeds potential detrimental effects from the radiation exposure is unwarranted at this time’” [3].

The ECRR offers an interesting observation on the phenomenon of hormesis that requires further investigation. If one plots the hormesis dose-response curve, one gets the following graph:

Reading this graph from left to right, one sees a dipping of effect, initially, as dose increases, before the line turns upward and begins to exhibit the more familiar curve of increasing effect with increasing doses. The region of the dip is the region where the beneficial effects of hormesis are observed. Less cancer is observed within that interval, and the assumed conclusion is that radiation is conferring a beneficial effect. Somehow the organism is deriving benefit from the dose. Interestingly, the curve resembles part of the graph reproduced earlier illustrating the biphasic dose-response model. As stated by the ECRR:

It may be, however, that some of the hormesis evidence results from an artifact. If the dose response in the low range follows a biphasic curve, all that is needed to show an apparent hormetic effect is to leave out the zero dose/zero effect point. It may be that because deductive conclusions from high-dose experiments could not be squared with the possibility of such variation in this low dose region, either the points were interpreted as scatter or they were forced into a hormesis dip by leaving out the lowest dose responses as outliers.”

To translate: The apparent benefit of radiation in the low-dose region emerges as a result of failing to detect or account for evidence of the initial spike in the dose response curve. In this region the most sensitive cells initially undergo increased rates of mutation and cancer induction. With increasing dosage, these cells are killed off and health detriment lessens, and the graph descends vertically. The region of hormesis is misinterpreted as a region where the organism derives benefit. But this dip represents nothing more than a transition from one phase of damage to the system to the next. The same reasoning may explain certain epidemiological studies attempting to prove the beneficial nature of high background radiation because of a lower incidence of cancer. Perhaps a better explanation is that that background radiation has been responsible for selecting for radiation resistance in a population by culling out radiosensitive individuals. The apparent health benefit is nothing more than what remains when low-level radiation has eliminated the most sensitive.

In an attempt to acquit low-level radiation of doing harm, supporters of hormesis frequently cite studies which they claim show lower rates of cancer mortality in geographic areas with higher-than-average levels of natural background radiation. However, their interpretation of these studies is open to question. In the article “Altitude, Radiation, and Mortality from Cancer and Heart Disease,” a number of such studies were analyzed. Under this scrutiny, the reality for hormesis became questionable. According to the authors of this review: “When we adjust linearly for altitude, the negative correlations between mortality and background radiation all disappear or become positive. We see no support here for the claim that ionizing radiation is beneficial at low doses” [4]. After an exhaustive analysis of confirmed low-dose health effects in “Inconsistencies and Open Questions Regarding Low-Dose Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation,” authors Nussbaum and Kohnlein make the following observation:

All of the low-dose studies of radiation effects in human populations reviewed above are inconsistent with hypothesized long-term cancer-reducing effects of such exposures in excess of unavoidable natural background of human populations (hormesis). One can only speculate about the continued popularity of this conjecture among some groups of radiation experts” [5}.

The call to permit higher levels of radiation exposure only makes sense if there is unmistakable proof that a threshold dose must exist for the onset of irreversible radiation injury. This means that the damage produced by doses below this threshold are flawlessly repaired. One hidden assumption in this conjecture is that all people in the population have equivalent immune systems and that there is not a range in immune response between people. If such a range is admitted, then radiation protection standards must address the most vulnerable among the population or the value judgment must be made explicit that these people should be put at heightened risk of radiation induced illness so that the rest of the population can benefit. But there is a deeper problem with the conjecture of perfect repair. Evidence exists that the immune system makes mistakes when repairing DNA lesions. In chapter 18 of his book Radiation-Induced Cancer from Low-Dose Exposure, Gofman presents a powerful argument for why irreversible genetic damage, and thus cancer induction, can occur at even the lowest levels of exposure. His argument is based on the fact that the cellular mechanisms for repairing carcinogenic injuries do not operate flawlessly. Thus, “repair” is at the heart of the threshold issue:

The radiation-induced cancers arising from the unrepaired lesions at low doses do not wear a little flag identifying them as any different from cancers induced by higher doses of radiation, or induced by causes entirely unrelated to radiation. Therefore, threshold proponents cannot argue that the cancers arising from the lowest conceivable doses of radiation will somehow be eliminated by the immune system or any other bodily defenses against cancer. Such an argument would require the elimination of cancer in general by such defenses. Instead, we observe that cancer is a major killer (roughly 15-20% of many populations). So the proposition would lead to a non-credible consequence, and must be rejected. This means that repair is the key” {6}.

Gofman’s analysis proceeds by first reviewing nine reputable low-dose studies: the Nova Scotia Fluoroscopy Study, the Israeli Scalp-Irradiation Study, the Massachusetts Fluoroscopy study, the Canadian Fluoroscopy Study, the Stewart In-Utero Series, the MacMahon In-Utero Series, the British Luminizer Study, the Harvey Twins In-Utero Series, and the Israeli Breast-Cancer in Scalp-Irradiation Study. These studies involved a range of exposures from 9.0 rads down to 0.1 rad which Gofman translates into 12 tracks per nucleus per exposure down to 0.29 tracks per nucleus. His argument is that if flawless repair exists at some threshold dose, every carcinogenic lesion will be successfully undone below that dose and no excess cancers will be induced. However, in every study an excess of cancers was in evidence. Gofman summarizes the conclusion of this line of reasoning as follows:

“1. One primary ionization track is the least possible disturbance which can occur at the cellular level from ionizing radiation. Without a track, there is no dose at all.

2. Every primary ionization track has a chance of inducing cancer by inducing carcinogenic injuries; it needs no help from any other track.

3. This means that there is no conceivable dose or dose-rate which can be safe, unless (A) the repair system always successfully undoes every carcinogenic lesion, when the dose or dose-rate is sufficiently low, or (B) every failure of the repair system, at low doses, is always successfully eliminated by some post-repair defense system.

4. Human epidemiological evidence shows that the repair system for radiation-induced carcinogenic lesions has a failure rate even under minimal strain.

5. Observation and logic show that the post-repair defense systems (for instance, the immune system) cannot possibly be perfect with respect to providing a safe dose or dose-rate of ionizing radiation.

It follows that there is no safe dose or dose-rate of ionizing radiation, with respect to induction of human cancer. The risk is related to dose, right down to zero dose.”


[1] Calabrese E.J. (ed.). Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures to Chemicals and Radiation. London: Lewis Publishers; 1992.

[2] Bertell R. Limitations of the ICRP Recommendations for Worker and Public Protection from Ionizing Radiation. For Presentation at the STOA Workshop: Survey and Evaluation of Criticism of Basic Safety Standards for the Protection of Workers and the Public against Ionizing Radiation. Brussels: European Parliament, February 5, 1998a.

[3] Makhijani A., Smith B., Thorne M. Science for the Vulnerable: Setting Radiation and Multiple Exposure Environmental Health Standards to Protect Those Most at Risk. Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. October 2006.

[4] Weinberg C.R., Brown K.G., Hoel D.G. Altitude, Radiation, and Mortality from Cancer and Heart Disease. Radiation Research. 1987; 112:381-390.

[5] Nussbaum R.H., Kohnlein W. Inconsistencies and Open Questions Regarding Low-Dose Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1994; 102(8):656-667.

[6] Gofman J.W. Radiation-Induced Cancer from Low-Dose Exposure: An Independent Analysis. San Francisco: Committee for Nuclear Responsibility; 1990.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER THIRTEEN

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

SCAM NUMBER THIRTEEN: Promote simplistic, all-encompassing hypotheses of the relationship between dosage and physiological response to spellbind the public into believing that more is known about the effect of low doses of radiation than is actually the case.

Resolution of the debate over the hazards of low doses of radiation is hampered by the difficulty of designing and carrying out conclusive, indisputable, epidemiological studies. Dr. Alice Stewart succinctly diagnosed the problems confronting such research:

Studies of the health effects of very small doses of radiation face three design problems: how to accurately measure the radiation doses large numbers of persons have received (the dosimetry problem), how to prevent comparisons between exposed and unexposed groups from being bedeviled by other differences (the selection problem), and how to cope with the varying lengths of cancer latency (the follow-up problem). These technical problems lie at the center of the current debate about the cancer effects of low levels of radiation, and the cancer issue is central to the controversy about nuclear technology.”

The absence of firm data on population effects from low-dose exposure has forced various interest groups to field their own mutually exclusive hypotheses of what the actual hazard might be. All such attempts to date have been overly reductionistic. All rely on an oversimplification of the complex processes that biological systems undergo in response to radiation exposure. All fail to account for all the available data. The dose-response models proposed have been derived by extrapolation from known high-dose effects down into a region of heightened uncertainty. Confirmation of the accuracy of such modeling has been frustrated by a paucity of incontrovertible evidence. As noted by the ECRR: “In the case of external irradiation studies, the small populations studied result in wide confidence intervals and a number of different curves can be drawn through the data.” This arcane subject of postulating the shape of the curve on a graph is the battlefield where pro- and anti-nuclear gladiators collide. “The disagreement concerns how to extrapolate from higher dose rates to the non-measurable range. The rancorous discord among scientists concerning the low-dose cancer danger is over hypotheses — not observable fact” [1].

The central question in the field of radiation safety is this: What is the relationship between a dose of radiation and the biological effect produced by that dose? At relatively high doses, answers to this question are straightforward. Some biological effects are nonstochastic, i.e., deterministic. A threshold dose must occur for these effects to be produced and the severity of the effects are directly proportional to the size of the dose. Examples of nonstochastic effects are acute radiation syndrome, cataract formation and skin burns. As the dose of radiation decreases, apparent deterministic effects disappear. In addition to these types of effects, radiation produces stochastic effects. These effects are produced by chance. Within current orthodox thinking, the stochastic effects of concern are cancer and genetic defects. At relatively high doses, as the dose increases the probability of stochastic effects likewise increases. Similarly, a decrease in dosage is accompanied by a reduced probability of a stochastic effect occurring.

Because of such problems as those mentioned by Alice Stewart for conducting epidemiological studies that will produce unequivocal results, various models have been proposed to capture the true relationship, as dosages decrease, between the dose received and the probability of a stochastic effect occurring. Since at relatively high dosages, the likelihood of stochastic effects is directly proportional to the dose, one model proposes that this proportional relationship exists down to the lowest possible dose. Another model postulates that at low doses more health detriment per unit dose is produced than that predicted by the linear relationship. A third prominent model proposes the opposite, that less health detriment per unit dose occurs. The Holy Grail in radiation research is to determine which model successfully captures the reality of what is actually going on.

Radiation protection agencies throughout the world have embraced the premise that biological damage from radiation exposure is directly proportional to the dose. This is called the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis (LNTH). According to this model, the probability of an individual developing cancer is linearly related to the amount of radiation he/she receives. Applied to populations, the LNTH posits that as the radiation dose to members of the population increases, the number of cancers induced in that populations increases at the same rate. This hypothesis is supported by a great deal of empirical data based on relatively high levels of exposure to external irradiation. The problem is that sufficient data is not available to determine definitively that this relationship continues to hold as doses become smaller and smaller. For regulatory purposes, radiation protection agencies have adopted the LNTH “as if” it were true. They believe that this stance is overly conservative in estimating the hazard of low doses and offers the greatest measure of safety to radiation workers and the general public. Embedded in this model is the idea that the incidence of cancer is the same whether the radiation is delivered as a high dose in a short period of time or as a low dose over an extended period of time. Small doses are cumulative and each exposure increases the risk to the individual. According to the LNTH, there is no such thing as a threshold dose below which there are no adverse effects to health. Regardless of how small the dose, some probability always exists that a cancer will be induced.

The Supralinear Hypothesis represents a direct attack to the status quo of the nuclear establishment. According to a small number of dissenters, the LNTH dangerously underestimates the hazards to health of low doses of radiation. In their view, the existing data provides ample evidence that in the low dose range, 10 rem (0.1 Sievert) or less, more damage is created per unit dose than that predicted by a simple linear relationship. This counterintuitive conclusion is supported by a number of observations. For instance, the genetic instability and bystander effects induced in cell cultures by very low doses demonstrate a supralinear response. In vitro studies also provide evidence that free radicals, produced from the ionization of water molecules, have a tumor-promoting effect that enhances the hazard of low-dose radiation and alters the shape of the dose-response curve to one of supralinearity. Increased health detriment at low doses has also been attributed to the Petkau effect, described later in this chapter, whereby sparse free radical production can promote cell death through cell-membrane destruction. This phenomenon has been postulated as having a debilitating effect on the immune system, causing an elevated rate of cancer in the low-dose range. The hypothesis that the risk of cancer death per rad increases as the dose decreases was demonstrated by Gofman in his reanalysis of the Hiroshima Life Span Study. He showed that this data exhibited a supralinear relationship for breast cancer, leukemia, and overall deaths. The ECRR has concluded that sufficient evidence exists to reject the LNTH as inaccurate in the low dose range and favors relationships which show much greater effects per unit dose.

A third competing model for low-dose effects is the Linear Quadratic Hypothesis. According to this viewpoint, hazard at low doses is even less than that postulated by the LNTH, the risk of cancer death per rad decreases as the dose decreases. This conclusion is supported by data that shows that the body has numerous mechanisms for mitigating the effects of radiation damage. These mechanisms kick in at different dosages, and thus, simple extrapolation from high doses down to low doses cannot be made accurately.

The ECRR have postulated an explanation for effects manifesting a linear quadratic dose response:

"There are sound theoretical reasons for interpreting this [a Linear Quadratic response] as due to independent track action in the linear range with a much increased effect when the dose is so great that two tracks impinge on a cell at the same time. These two tracks (or correlated tracks) are thought by most to have a high probability of inducing a mutation because they can cause damage to both DNA strands in such a way that there is a ‘double-strand break,’ an event which is difficult for the cell to repair. This may not be the true reason for the increased mutation efficiency but the observation that two hits have a very much larger chance of causing mutation is now well accepted. Recent work with alpha particles and cell cultures has confirmed this empirically" [2].

What this means is that at the lowest possible dosages, not all cells within a population are hit, and those that are hit are extremely unlikely to be sufficiently damaged by a single hit to cause irreparable mutation or to be hit twice to produce a double-strand break. As the dose increases, the percentage of cells in the population that are hit increases as well as those receiving two or more hits. Finally, when a sufficient percentage of the cells receives two or more hits, the likelihood of irreparable mutation becomes directly related to the dosage. The dose-response curve then becomes linear.

The ECRR has drawn attention to research which displays a fourth dose-response curve. This curve displays a biphasic relationship. In some cell culture experiments, as the dose increases from zero, the effect increases to a maximum point. With further increase in dose, the effect falls back to a minimum. As the dose increases still further, a second rise in effect is witnessed. Busby has proposed an interesting explanation for this phenomenon. Within the body, different types of cells have different sensitivity to radiation. Further, at any one moment in time, a percentage of cells throughout the organism is undergoing replication. During this time, they are in a heightened state of sensitivity to radiation damage. As the dose increases from zero, the first cells to sustain damage are among those that are the most sensitive. They will be exposed to a greater likelihood of irreparable mutation and cancer induction. As the dose increases still further, these most sensitive cells will be killed rather than survive in a mutated form. This cell death cancels out the potential deleterious effects to the organism from the oncogenic events at lower doses. Thus, potential detriment to the organism decreases. At still greater doses, the less sensitive cells will begin to respond and the effect will once again increase and continue to do so with increasing doses until expression of a cancer or death to the organism from radiation illness.

The quest for a universal hypothesis to encompass and explain all responses of the organism from all doses harkens back to the time when physicists dominated the discussion on the health effects of radiation. What was sought was a tidy, all-inclusive model of how radiation affects the human organism, from the tiniest of exposures up through to a lethal dose. However, no evidence has ever been presented that biology is amenable to such oversimplification. As far as we know, it is nothing more than wishful thinking to hope that a single, universal dose-response relationship can be found to account for all types of exposure to all types of cells in all individuals and for all possible effects. It is conceivable that each of the dose-response models that have been proposed hold true under various circumstances or for different medical endpoints under consideration.

The health of humanity is being jeopardized by the reductionistic thinking embodied in the dose-response models embraced by the radiation protection agencies. Often, epidemiological evidence is rejected as being invalid because it fails to conform to what the models predict should be observable. A case in point is the cancer clusters found in proximity to nuclear installations. Another is the debilitated health of those exposed to uranium weaponry. Rather than calling the models into question, such evidence is rejected by those in authority as being invalid and unscientific because it is at odds with the accepted models. Once again this is a distortion of the scientific method. As noted by the ECRR:

There is not sufficient evidence to show that there is a universal dose-response relation for all types of exposure and all endpoints, and to assume such a function is an example of a fatal reductionism. However, there are good reasons for assuming that effects in the low dose range from zero dose to about 10 mSv are likely to follow some kind of supralinear or fractional exponent function. Since there is good theoretical and empirical evidence for the existence of biphasic dose response relationships, the committee strongly recommends that no epidemiological findings should be dismissed on the basis that it does not conform to a continuously increasing dose response relation of any form.”

The reader is cautioned not to get sucked into the vortex of confusion created by the academic debate over how to extrapolate known high-dose effects to low levels of exposure. The Cult of Nuclearists profits from the irresolution of this controversy and has a vested interest in keeping it alive. While academicians argue over the shape of the dose-response curve, the United States military is saturating other peoples’ homelands with just those levels of radiation that are being argued over. As long as consensus among the experts remains unachieved, the United States can disguise itself in pristine innocence and escape accountability for its crimes.


[1] Ball H. Justice Downwind: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s. New York: Oxford University Press; 1986. Citing R.S. Yalow: Reappraisal of Potential Risks Associated with Low-Level Radiation. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. November 1981; 49.

[2] European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR). Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk: the Health Effects of Ionising Radiation Exposure at Low Doses for Radiation Protection Purposes. Regulators' Edition. Brussels; 2003.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER TWELVE

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

SCAM NUMBER TWELVE: Mislead the public into believing that science has definitively established that low doses of radiation present no risk to health.

In the article “Radiation Protection — Science in Crisis: Flaws in NRPB Modeling” on the website of the Low Level Radiation Campaign, the following quotation from UNSCEAR 2000 is reproduced:

“Risk estimates for the induction of human disease are obtained primarily from epidemiological studies. These studies can clearly distinguish radiation effects only at relatively high doses and dose rates. To gain information at low doses and dose rates, which are more relevant to typical human radiation exposures, it is necessary to extrapolate the results of these studies. To be valid, this extrapolation requires a detailed understanding of the mechanisms by which radiation induces cancer and genetic disorders” [emphasis added].

The punch line of the article is sobering: “Nobody knows the mechanisms by which radiation induces cancer and genetic disorders. What more do we need to say?”

Their point, although simply stated, carries profound implications. As long as science remains ignorant of the mechanisms by which radiation induces carcinogenesis, the conclusion that low doses of radiation pose no hazard to health is crackbrained and indefensible. In vitro studies clearly demonstrate that the lowest conceivable dose of radiation, a single particle track through a cell, can produce irreparable genetic damage. Until the intermediary steps between this event and the onset of cancer are fully understood, it is reckless to discount the carcinogenic potential of low doses of radiation. Consequently, the assertion that uranium weapons pose no radiological hazard to health is groundless and without merit.

The dumping of DU on the homeland of our enemies is just part of a much larger campaign to economically dispose of radioactive waste by dispersing it haphazardly over the surface of the Earth. Rationalizing their deeds by their flawed theory of radiation effects, representatives of the US government are currently crafting policies of reckless lunacy. If these regulators and lawmakers have their way, disposal of significant portions of the low-level radioactive waste stream will be deregulated, allowing this material to be legally dumped into unlicensed sites such as local municipal garbage dumps, landfills and hazardous waste sites. Such disposal will create long-lived contamination of soils and groundwater, creating yet another channel for the internal contamination of unwitting citizens. To vastly compound the threat, provisions are being enacted to allow recyclers to acquire castoff radioactive material and convert it into construction materials and consumer goods. Deregulation will pave the way for 1,250,000,000 pounds of depleted uranium to be dumped into the marketplace. To compound the nightmare, radioactive scrap metal salvaged from nuclear weapons fuel-chain facilities and decommissioned power plants will be freely available for mixing and smelting with regular scrap metal and then distributed to industry. This practice is already permitted in Europe. Consumers will be oblivious to the fact that the ornaments of daily life will be the repository of radioactive waste. Cars, pots and pans, buckles, wristbands, jewelry, bicycles, playground equipment, and potentially everything else made from recycled metal, will ferry radiation into human proximity.

In addition to metals, other materials that have acquired radioactivity are planned for release into the general environment. These include concrete, plastics, asphalt and soils. Once incorporated into the general recycling stream, this material will become invisible and ubiquitous. Consumers will be clueless as to which items they purchase contain radionuclides. Will this create a hazardous situation? The experts will spout the tired lies that the increased dose to the population will be minuscule, yet again trying to befuddle everyone into thinking that external radiation is the only avenue of harm. But bring to mind the workers and the do-it-yourselfers who will be unaware that some of the materials they use are contaminated. All operations which include milling, cutting, sanding, sawing, and burning will release radioactive particles into the air, making them available for internal contamination via ingestion and inhalation. Consider the following scenarios: a road worker sawing into concrete contaminated with radionuclides, a construction worker breathing in the dust of a demolished building built with contaminated materials, a fireman breathing in the smoke of a burning vehicle made from recycled scrap metal. Internal contamination by a wide variety of radioisotopes is being readied for large sections of unsuspecting humanity. The inevitable radiation-induced illnesses will again cause an invisible plague of untraceable origins.

The initiative to contaminate the Earth with increased levels of background radiation is broad-based and international. In the United States, its is supported by the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the California Department of Health Services. Internationally, it is supported by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Commission, Euratom (the European atomic energy agency), and the governments of nations that possess nuclear weapons and reactors. The same people responsible for initiating the globalization of trade, finance and government have included the universal contamination of the biosphere in their agenda. The IAEA, through its affiliation with the United Nations and its transport organizations, the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aeronautics Organization, is actively advocating to get all member countries of the UN to adopt the transport recommendations it developed with both industry and Euratom. Adoption of these measures will permit free, unregulated international commerce in contaminated materials and consumer goods.

A relatively recent event testifies to the type of mayhem these policies will lead to and the negative health consequences that will assuredly follow. In late May 1998, a steel mill in Spain unknowingly vented a plume of cesium-137 into the atmosphere. The windblown contamination set off alarms in France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Greece. The radioactivity was released during the smelting of scrapped metal equipment. According to Spain’s Nuclear Security Council, the metal had been screened for radioactivity, but the specialized equipment had been lined with an absorbent material that prevented detection.

Depleted uranium munitions are a harbinger of a new world order, one characterized by ongoing radioactive contamination of the Earth. They are a forerunner, and they forewarn, of future devil-may-care practices of dispersing radioactive waste amidst populations and detonating nuclear/radiological weapons. The clarion call has sounded, and we have been warned.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER ELEVEN

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

SCAM NUMBER ELEVEN: Rely on the concept of “dose” to mislead the layman about the biological impact of low levels of radiation.

In Exhibit A, a pivotal issue was raised that requires reiteration. In Radiation Protection Dosimetry, Simmons and Watt make the following point: “The amount of kinetic energy transferred in each collision plays no role in the production of radiation effects in mammalian cells.” To clarify this point by way of example, to irreparably disrupt the structural integrity of a DNA molecule in the nucleus of a cell nothing more is required than the addition of sufficient energy to produce simultaneous, or near-simultaneous, ionizing events on each strand of the double helix, i.e., a double-strand break. The amount of energy needed to accomplish this may amount to no more than a few tens of electron-volts. Any additional energy to that required to break the two chemical bonds is irrelevant to the lesions produced. This simple idealization pinpoints the deceptiveness of the concept of dosage. The amount of energy absorbed by a mass of cells, the dose, is not what determines biological effect. Rather, biological effect is determined by the spatial concentration of ionizing events in relation to critical molecular components within each cell that is hit. From this point of view, the essential characteristic is “passage of particles per unit volume” or “hits per unit mass.”

It is not difficult to see the importance of this shift in perspective when addressing the hazard posed by radiation exposure to the developing fetus. While in the womb, a catastrophic effect on the future health of the human being can potentially be induced by a single alteration to a DNA molecule. This modification is independent of the dose. Thus, extremely minute quantities of radiocontaminants in the vicinity of germ cells prior to conception or in the womb after conception can devastate a human life. (Thus, the discovery of depleted uranium in the semen of Gulf War Veterans is an alarming discovery!) The genetic mutation induced by radiation need not manifest itself after birth as a visibly deformed child or a child plagued by debilitating illness. (This is the criteria for genetic defects produced by radiation used by the Hiroshima Life Span Study.) The altered cell, and all of its descendants, may be transformed into precursor cells of cancer, more vulnerable than unaffected cells to being tripped into uncontrolled cell replication by other random events at some future time in the person’s life. As observed by the ECRR:

In the event that an irradiated cell is altered rather than killed, the outcome is very different. Despite the existence of cell repair mechanisms and, in the whole organism, further surveillance systems for the elimination of such cells, the clone of cells which carry the modification induced by the radiation will have a higher probability than the original cell of acquiring the set of genetic changes necessary to cause uncontrolled replication. This may result in the manifestation of a malignant condition, a cancer. It may also result in a detrimental effect on the efficiency of the organ or system which the cell is a part of, with resultant ill health in the individual” [1].

[Thus, cancer need not be the only health detriment produced by radiation!]

If “dose” is to have any meaning at low levels of exposure, the inaccurate concept of a quantity of energy averaged over a large volume of cells must be discarded. In its place, the concept of dose must come to be seen as representing a probability of the number of particle tracks passing through cells within a specified volume and the likelihood that these will produce significant, irreparable lesions such as double-strand breaks. This shift in perspective, of conceptualizing dosage as discrete events rather than energy averaged over a mass, will be vehemently resisted by the regulatory bodies fronting for the Cult of Nuclearists. To acknowledge that the fluence of charged particles through a cell is the critical phenomenon for determining biological effect would necessitate admitting that internal emitters represent an enhanced hazard over external radiation and that the chemical form of the internal emitter must be taken into account when evaluating risk. The European Committee on Radiation Risk acknowledges the importance of these variables for biological effect and has added weighting factors to traditional dose calculations to take them into account. Why is this important? Take depleted uranium as an example. As we have seen, when the energy emitted by uranium is averaged over a large volume of tissue, the dose of energy it delivers appears insignificant, and DU weapons are made to appear harmless. However, when account is taken of the fact that uranium is an internal emitter of alpha particles, that each alpha emission violently disturbs only a small volume of cells in its immediate vicinity (increasing the probability of genetic damage to those cells actually hit or to bystander cells) and that certain compounds of uranium have an affinity for binding to DNA, the purported harmlessness of DU is unmasked as barefaced treachery.

Recent research confirms the enhanced hazard posed by the alpha emissions of depleted uranium. Scientists at the Radiation and Genome Stability Unit at Harwell in Oxfordshire, UK, working in conjunction with Mount Vernon Hospital in London, produced direct evidence that a single alpha particle emitted from DU can produce unrepaired genetic alterations in cells that are passed on to daughter cells during cell division. Groups of human blood cells were exposed to a single alpha particle and left to divide a dozen times or more. Study of this cell population revealed that 25% of the daughter cells had distinctive patterns of bent and broken chromosomes. Such damage can be a precursor to cancer expression. According to Professor Dudley Goodhead, the Harwell unit’s director: “This work shows for the first time that even a single alpha particle can induce genomic instability in a cell” [2].


[1] European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR). Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk: the Health Effects of Ionising Radiation Exposure at Low Doses for Radiation Protection Purposes. Regulators' Edition. Brussels; 2003.

Edwards R. How Just One Single Atom of DU Can Cause Cancer. Sunday Herald (Scotland), Jan 21., 2001.