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

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER TWENTY-FIVE

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 TWENTY-FIVE: Deny that low doses of radiation pose a risk to health by ignoring studies that provide clear evidence that such a risk exists.

The ICRP and other agencies involved in assessing radiation risk conduct annual reviews of scientific papers published throughout the world on the biological effects of ionizing radiation. They then select from this body of work whatever data they judge as relevant to the setting of safety standards. By this means, the radiation protection agencies control the knowledge base upon which permissible levels of exposure are derived and the perception of the risks that accompany these levels. From this selective filtering, it would appear that no evidence exists for harmful effects to health caused by low levels of radiation released into the environment. But this is simply not true. The fact of the matter is that those who control the current paradigm just don’t acknowledge research that intrudes into the worldview they are attempting to promulgate.

On the basis of accepted standards of safety, there was no risk to the health of the population of the United States from the fallout of Chernobyl. Similarly, releases from the accident at Three Mile Island presented no threat to the downwind population. The two previously cited accidents at the Savannah River Plant that resulted in melted fuel rods was covered up for 18 years but was no cause for alarm because, according to the Du Pont operators, “no one, on or off site, was ever harmed.” Although the two reactors at the Peach Bottom nuclear power stations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania emitted fallout between the mid-1960s through 1987, these emissions were never reported as significant enough that people were warned to stop consuming dairy products from farms downwind of the facility. Similarly, the two reactors at Millstone near New London, Connecticut, were spewing inordinately large amounts of radiation into the surrounding countryside, yet the downwind population was never warned to take precautions. It is these five cases that are examined in depth by Gould and Goldman in Deadly Deceit [1]. In spite of the mischief uncovered in Scam Number Nineteen, the authors found sufficient statistical data to confirm elevated incidences of infant mortality and total mortality in the exposed populations in the aftermath of these releases. The inexcusable tragedy is that a timely and forthright disclosure could have reduced mortality and cancer incidence among the unsuspecting populace. People could have taken precautions. But if these hazards had been admitted, the admission would have amounted to a confession of the danger of the technology and the inadequacy of current radiation standards to protect the public from low-level radiation-induced illness.

Gould and Goldman make an important observation in the conclusion of their book.

"Any individual case that passes a significance test may still reflect a random variation. But the cumulative significance of the five sets of correlations between low-level radiation and increased mortality, considered in Chapters Two, Four, Five, Eight, and Nine, means that the likelihood that they are all chance occurrences is remote."

This is a rebuttal to those nuclear apologists who insist that insufficient data exist to demonstrate low-level radiation effects in populations. Although individual studies may be inconclusive, the cumulative significance of observed correlations across a number of studies strengthens statistical probability. Gould and Goldman provide an excellent example in data they collected in the aftermath of Chernobyl. The accident occurred on April 26, 1986. Starting on May 5, radiation-monitoring stations in Washington State began recording elevated levels in rainfall of iodine-131, a product of nuclear fission. Peak values were recorded between May 12 and May 19. This provided evidence that Chernobyl fallout had reached the United States. Starting on May 16, 50 EPA milk-monitoring stations in states that received rain mixed with fallout began recording elevated levels of iodine-131 in milk. “No warnings against drinking the milk were issued by public health authorities because the reported levels were regarded as safe” (Gould and Goldman). These elevated radiation readings correlated with government data of increased mortality throughout the United States for the month of May: “The higher the level of radioactive iodine found in milk in a region, the higher the percent increase in total deaths.” Elaborating on these facts, Gould and Goldman offer this observation:

"These statistics showed a surprising 5.3 percent increase in the total number of deaths in the US in May 1986 over the same month in the previous year. This was not only statistically significant (with a probability of less than one in a thousand of being a chance event); it was, in fact, the highest annual increase in May deaths recorded in the US in 50 years. There were also high percentage increases in deaths in the three succeeding months."

A graph comparing levels of iodine-131 in milk with increases in mortality yield evidence for the Supralinear Hypothesis, namely, that increased risk occurs at low doses and the rate of mortality diminishes as doses increase. The graph “indicates that deaths increase rapidly with iodine-131 levels below 100 picocuries per liter, but the percentage increase flattens out at higher radiation levels.” According to Gould and Goldman:

"If the Chernobyl fallout is responsible for these steep and highly unlikely mortality increases, then this is the first evidence using large populations that suggests the dose-response curve at very low dose rates of fallout radiation exposure is logarithmic and not linear, contrary to generally accepted assumptions. The medical and scientific community has long believed, on the basis of linear extrapolations from high doses, that low-level radiation from fallout and nuclear plant releases can be dismissed as posing a negligibly small danger. The Chernobyl experience indicates that this assumption may underestimate the effect of low radiation doses for the most sensitive members of the population by a factor of about one thousand."

To strengthen their conclusion that Chernobyl fallout caused an increase in mortality, Gould and Goldman provide evidence of unprecedented levels of bird deaths reported by Dr. David DeSante, a researcher at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory in California. In a letter by Dr. DeSante, the following observation was made:

"We documented a massive and unprecedented reproductive failure of most species of landbirds at our Palomarian Field Station [located 25 miles north of San Francisco] during the summer of 1986. The number of young [newly hatched] birds captured in our standardized mist-netting program was only 37.7 percent of the previous ten-year mean. Interestingly, the reproductive failure did not begin at the start of the breeding season but only after about one month of the season had passed, that is, for birds hatched about mid-May. Furthermore, there seemed to be a slight recovery of reproductivity very late in the season. Might this implicate iodine-131?"

To further strengthen apparent correlations between Chernobyl fallout and increased mortality, Deadly Deceit provides evidence of increased levels of infant mortality in West Germany during the same period in areas contaminated by fallout. The authors then conclude that “the probability that the simultaneous mortality peaks in the US, West Germany, and among birds are unrelated random events can be expressed mathematically as one out of 1030”

Again, the reader must ponder why the radiation protection community continues to rely on the politically corrupted Hiroshima data to establish the risks of radiation exposure when other data is available. Gould and Goldman argue that the worldwide data from Chernobyl can provide accurate risk assessments for low-level radiation exposure for the following reasons:

1) It involves a much larger exposed population than any other study.

2) It involves a normal population, not hospital patients, workers of a limited age range of 18-65, or war survivors of a traumatic bombing.

3) It involves extremely low doses, cancelling the need for uncertain extrapolations from higher doses.

4) It involves accurately measured amounts of radioactivity in the diet over a wide range of concentrations made by monitoring stations throughout the world. “No such accurate measures of dose were available in any earlier studies of environmental radiation exposures or direct radiation exposure at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

5) It involves internal radiation exposure.

Gould and Goldman summarize their argument concisely: “Thus, the statistics emerging from the Chernobyl disaster permit, for the first time ever, the establishment of a dose-response relationship at extremely low doses in a normal human population.” Those people who endorse programs that result in the liberation of radioactivity into the environment will violently argue against this conclusion. It flies in the face of their efforts to marginalize the disastrous public health consequences of Chernobyl. It intrudes on their claim that low-level radiation is without effect. It etches away at their prejudiced assumption that Hiroshima is the disaster of choice for understanding radiation effects in man.


Gould J.M., Goldman B.A. Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-Up. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows; 1990.