Inhaling 5 hot particles per day in Seattle can hardly be called a low radiation dose, …
… if you understand internal emitters.
- Should We Hide Low-Dose Radiation Exposures From The Public? (Forbes, May 29, 2012):
When fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster began appearing last Spring in U.S. air, rainwater, drinking water, and milk, many U.S. media outlets ignored the story.
It was a difficult story to cover. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was releasing raw data erratically, sometimes late on Friday afternoons, and reporters either had to possess radiation expertise or take a crash course in picocuries, millisieverts, MCLs and DILs.
It was much easier for reporters to accept reassurances from government officials that the fallout drifting across the U.S. was “well below levels of public concern.” And it was much easier to heed pleas from government and industry that we not alarm the public.
But experts in low-dose radiation will tell you scientists know too little about the effects of low-dose radiation for public officials to make such sweeping statements, and most scientists believe that across large populations, more exposure means more cancer:
“There is scientific consensus on a prevailing hypothesis that, down to near-zero levels, the occurrence of future cancer is proportional to the dose of radiation received,” writes Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, in the May/June issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
This hypothesis is called the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Hypothesis. It implies that no additional dose of radiation, however small, can be described as absolutely safe.
Government and Industry officials downplay that implication, and reporters have been complicit in hiding it from the public. Thompson suggests this policy approach may be patronizing, obsolete, and a threat to public faith in science:
Public fear does not provide a reason to hide the logical implications of the LNT hypothesis. An attempt by experts to hide these implications is likely to be counterproductive. The truth would probably be revealed eventually, leading to diminished public faith in the relevant experts and in science in general. Ultimately, public fear could be exacerbated. Also, when experts consider public fear, they should account for contemporary views on individual agency. In past years, well-meaning doctors would often withhold a diagnosis of cancer to avoid alarming a patient. Now, such behavior is generally regarded as patronizing and obsolete.
via “Unmasking the Truth,” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
If this is true for public officials, it’s at least as true for reporters, who should act as watchdogs, scrutinizing the actions and statements of public officials.
When fallout from Fukushima reached the U.S. last year, few reporters did so.
When radioactive strontium appeared in Hilo, Hawaii milk, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser stated matter-of-factly in a headline that the radiation was “no cause for concern.” That statement is at odds with scientific consensus.
Reporter William Cole relied on assurances from his expert, Lynne Nakasone, administrator of Hawaii’s Environmental Health Services Division, who told him, “There’s no question the milk is safe.”
Of course, there is a question whether the milk was safe.
Why would public officials downplay risk to the public? Because radioactive strontium can put a damper on milk sales.
In The Bulletin, Gordon writes that political pressure from economic interests too often influences policy approaches to low-dose radiation:
A question for professional bodies is whether, in a politically pressurized environment, they will not only speak about the uncertainties of the LNT hypothesis, but will also acknowledge its logical implication: Even very low-dose radiation can be expected to sicken and kill a number of people over time.
That’s a good question for professional bodies of reporters, too. If even very low-dose radiation can sicken and kill people, should we hide exposures from the public?
– (Complete English Translation) Dr. Dörte Siedentopf, MD: ‘The Worst Thing Is That Authorities Haven’t Learned Anything From Chernobyl’ – ‘I Am Speechless About The Handling Of The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster’ – ‘The People Have Been Systematically Lied To’ – ‘One Can Only Feel Helpless Rage’
– Prof. Chris Busby: ‘There’s No Doubt Fukushima Dwarfs Chernobyl’ – ‘There Has Been A Massive Cover-Up And That Cover-Up Is Still Going On (The Negative Health Effects Of Low-Dose Radiation From Fukushima!!!)
– Are There Safe Levels of Radiation? How Much Radiation Is Safe? (Must-read!!!!!)
Radiation exposure is increased by a factor of a trillion. Inhaling even the tiniest particle, that’s the danger.
Yo: So making comparisons with X-rays and CT scans has no meaning. Because you can breathe in radioactive material.
Hirose: That’s right. When it enters your body, there’s no telling where it will go. The biggest danger is women, especially pregnant women, and little children. Now they’re talking about iodine and cesium, but that’s only part of it, they’re not using the proper detection instruments. What they call monitoring means only measuring the amount of radiation in the air. Their instruments don’t eat. What they measure has no connection with the amount of radioactive material.
Dr. Helen Caldicott (Co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility):
You’ve bought the propaganda from the nuclear industry. They say it’s low-level radiation. That’s absolute rubbish. If you inhale a millionth of a gram of plutonium, the surrounding cells receive a very, very high dose. Most die within that area, because it’s an alpha emitter. The cells on the periphery remain viable. They mutate, and the regulatory genes are damaged. Years later, that person develops cancer. Now, that’s true for radioactive iodine, that goes to the thyroid; cesium-137, that goes to the brain and muscles; strontium-90 goes to bone, causing bone cancer and leukemia. It’s imperative … that you understand internal emitters and radiation, and it’s not low level to the cells that are exposed. Radiobiology is imperative to understand these days.”