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, August 26, 2010

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

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-EIGHT: When establishing risks to health from ionizing radiation, ignore scientifically validated low-dose effects that inconveniently intrude on the reigning scientific paradigm.

The mainstream radiation protection community does not acknowledge that low-level radiation delivered at a slow rate poses a hazard to public health. They are only able to sustain this position by sacrificing objectivity and ignoring scientifically validated low-level effects. Their position is aptly summarized by Rosalie Bertell:

In the official approach to radiobiology, only direct damage to DNA has been recognized as “of concern,” and only high-dose/fast-dose rate experiments or observations have been accepted for use in estimating the dose-response rate. As was noted, it is the “common wisdom” that effects of low doses/slow-dose rates cannot be studied, but must be extrapolated from the officially accepted high dose/fast-dose rate studies. Basing one's theory on claims that it is impossible to study the phenomenon is certainly a peculiar way to do science!” [1].

Actually, important low-dose effects involving other than DNA damage have been confirmed by repeated experimentation. One such biological mechanism that has received a great deal of attention is the Petkau Effect. This phenomenon was first discovered by Dr. Abram Petkau, a Canadian physician and biophysicist, who at one time managed the Medical Biophysics Branch of the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment in Pinawa, Manitoba. In 1971, Dr. Petkau was studying the effects of radiation on model lipid membranes extracted from fresh beef brain. In an early series of experiments, he determined that when delivering an x-ray dose of 26 rads per minute, a total dose of 3,500 rads was required to destroy a cell membrane in an aqueous solution. Altering his procedure, he added to the water a small quantity of sodium-22, a commonly found radionuclide in fallout and releases from nuclear reactors. Under these new conditions, the cell membranes were receiving the minuscule dose of 0.001 rads per minute. Quite unexpectedly, the cell membrane was destroyed by a total dose of only 0.7 rad. Dr. Petkau had unveiled some biological phenomenon that occurred when cell membranes were exposed to low doses of radiation delivered at a slow rate that was absent when the membranes were exposed to high doses delivered at a fast rate. Further experimentation explained what was happening. When exposed to x-rays or radioactive decay of sodium-22, electrons were liberated into the aqueous solution and captured by dissolved oxygen. The result was that free radicals were formed. These negatively charged free-radical molecules were then attracted to the electrically polarized cell membrane. On encountering the cell membrane, these molecules would initiate a chemical chain reaction that dissolved the lipid molecules of which the membrane was principally composed. The leaking, compromised cell membrane, if not repaired, would initiate cell death. What made the low numbers of free radicals created by the radioactive sodium so much more efficient in producing this effect than the large numbers created by the x-ray exposure was their unimpeded access to the cell membrane. They tended not to interfere with one another, and so had a much higher probability of reaching and interacting with the cell membrane. It had been discovered that the slight electrical charge of the cell membrane attracts free radicals when they are present in low concentrations. With more free radicals present, the attraction weakens. With the high dose x-ray exposure, the massive numbers of free radicals became so concentrated that they tended instead to interact with one another forming ordinary oxygen. Their abundance actually reduced their ability to reach the cell membrane. A simple analogy suffices to explain the phenomenon:

Think of the free radicals as individuals in a crowded room. A fire starts and everyone tries to get out at the same time. As a result, everyone bumps into each other and very few escape. If only a few people are in the room when the fire occurs, however, everyone leaves easily through the door. The rate of escape is very high, and therefore, efficient” [2].

The Petkau Effect cannot just be swept under the table and ignored by those assessing the risks of radiation exposure. It is a verified phenomenon which may explain the hazards posed by low doses of internal emitters. Further, it provides evidence that DNA damage and cancer are not the only endpoints of concern from radiation exposure, that cell membrane damage may affect every cell line in the body. This drastically alters the current picture of how radiation exposure can compromise health:

“Chronic exposure to low-level radiation produces only a few free radicals at a time. These can reach and penetrate the membranes of blood cells with great efficiency, thus damaging the integrity of the entire immune system although very little radiation has been absorbed.

The correlations of health effects with low-level radiation may thus be caused indirectly by chronic low-level exposures to ingested radiation through hormonal and immune system damage from free-radicals. Low levels of strontium-90 and iodine-131 ingested in food, milk, and water, and breathed in air, may damage the ability of the body to detect and destroy infected or malignant cells. Such damage may occur even if radiation is present at concentrations far below existing standards. These standards were set on the basis of a quite different biological mechanism: cancer cell production caused by the direct impact on genes of high doses of external radiation” [2].

In her writings, Rosalie Bertell has mentioned two other unexpected effects to low-dose/slow-dose rate exposure to ionizing radiation that can be attributed to other biological mechanisms than direct damage to DNA. These involved monocyte depletion and deformed red blood cells. According to Bertell (Gulf War Syndrome, 1999):

Monocyte depletion: Nuclear fission produces radionuclides which tend to be stored by humans and animals in the bone tissue. In particular, strontium-90, plutonium and the transuranics have this property. Stored in bone, near the stem cells which produce the white blood cells, these radionuclides deliver a chronic low/slow dose of radiation which can interfere with normal blood-cell production. A few less neutrophils or lymphocytes (the white blood cells which are most numerous, and are usually “counted” by the radiophysicist) are not noticeable. In the normal adult, there are about 7,780 white cells per microlitre of blood. Of these, about 4,300 are neutrophils and 2,710 are lymphocytes. Only 500 are monocytes.

If, for example, stem cells in the bone marrow are destroyed so as to reduce total white blood count by 400 cells per microlitre due to the slow irradiation by radionuclides stored in the bone, this would represent a depletion of only five percent in total white cells, an insignificant amount. If all of the depletion was of neutrophils, this would mean a reduction of only 9.3 percent, still leaving the blood count well in the normal range. The lymphocytes would also be still in the normal range, even though they were depleted by 400 cells per microlitre, or 14.8 percent. However, there would be a dramatic depletion of the monocytes by 80 percent. Therefore, at low doses of radiation, it is more important to observe the monocytes, than to wait for an effect on the lymphocytes or neutrophils (as is now usually done). The effects of serious reduction in monocytes are:

- Iron deficient anemia, since it is the monocytes which recycle about 37-40 percent of the iron in the red blood cells when they die;

- Depressed cellular immune system, since the monocyte secretes the substance which activates the lymphocyte immune system (Bertell 1993).

Deformed red-blood cells: Dr. Les Simpson, of New Zealand, has identified deformed red-blood cells, as observed under an electron microscope, as causing symptoms ranging from severe fatigue to brain dysfunction leading to short-term memory loss. He has identified such cells in elevated number in chronic fatigue patients, and speculated that because of their bloated or swollen shape, they are obstructed from easily passing into the tiny capillaries, thus depriving muscles and the brain of adequate oxygen and nutrients. The chronic fatigue syndrome has been observed both at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, called bura bura disease, and at Chernobyl” [3].


[1]Bertell R. Gulf War Syndrome, Depleted Uranium, and the Dangers of Low-Level Radiation. 1999.

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

[3] Bertell R. Gulf War Syndrome, Depleted Uranium, and the Dangers of Low-Level Radiation. 1999.