Hormesis is a rare phenomenon where a plant or animal responds favorably to low exposures to toxins or other stressors. So, a pollutant that would do harm in large doses would have the opposite effect in small doses. Now… the nuclear lobby, with their army of a few ‘experts’ and handful of sympathizing mainstream-media-entrenched ‘journalists’, is currently on a major offensive: to re-write radiation protection guidelines so that ‘radiation hormesis’, reportedly observed in a couple instances, would become the prime directive, rather than the long-standing and far-better evidence-supported Linear No-Treshold model.
The Linear No-Treshold (LNT) model is a risk model that claims that an increased risk, however tiny, of developing a future cancer exists as soon as a dose is above zero and increases linearly with the increasing dose. By implication, to reduce one’s cancer risks, one should keep one’e exposure to radioactivity as low as possible. There is evidence that this is not per se the case for low-level radioactivity of the kind that has been found in our environment and our bodies pre-nuclear era (examples: Eating high-potassium foods (and thus including more of the trace of its inherent radioactive Potassium-40), more cosmic rays at higher altitude in the mountains, etc. are not linked to higher cancer rates whatsoever).
A Radiation Hormesis model, on the other hand, would be a risk model that claims that an increased risk, however tiny, of developing a future cancer does not exists until the dose exceeds a certain level, and, more so, that before that level has been reached, exposure would actually reduce one’s risk. By implication, to reduce one’s cancer risks, one should welcome all kinds of low level radioactivity (even from fallout, since the model is purely dose-based and doesn’t differentiate much beyond that), and only avoid extreme doses. In other words, if these pro-nuclear wordsmiths succeed in their well-disguised wicked deregulation spiel, then ‘dillution’ might become THE solution for ALL the world nuclear waste. This is how insane the proposal’s implications could turn into: As long as the dose rate of a batch of contaminted air / water / soil / food / product is brought down to a level they’d consider “health enhancing”, then it could probably be legally discharged (or sold as a health food perhaps!) if such a reckless radiation “protection” guideline were accepted. It has the potential to intensionally legalize mixing irradiated (Cobalt-60, etc -containing) reactor steel from decommissioned reactors into building materials, tools and furniture, among many other possibilities. Barrels of nuclear waste could be mixed in jet fuel if they felt like it, to be spread across the planet; they could even put it in the drinking water (like industrial fluoridation, an IQ-lowering neurotoxin still forced upon most of the US population…) and also claim it’s “good for you”.
The scientific evidence for ‘radiation hormesis’ is scant, but it does exist and is quite interesting, for sure. This field of study is complex and full of seemingly contradictory findings. I’ll pick a couple studies further down in this blog post to illustrate some aspects of the debate. (If you can call the current propaganda war a ‘debate’, that is…)
Next I’ll dissect just one of the dozens of recent pro-nuclear op-eds and “reports”: a disgusting pro-nuclear hit piece by George Johnson, that appeared in The New York Times this Sept. 21, 2015: When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk. See further down, below the screenshot excerpt.
There have been lots of these shameless disinformation vomit sessions recently, including from notoriously deceptive nuclear shills like James Conca, a la his latest (Sept 23, 2015), “Is Radiation Necessary For Life?“, which brings up some of the same interesting experimental data, yet deceives through leaping assumptions, not mentioning various other variables that could be at play in the observed results, and ignoring far vaster amounts of evidence that contradict his ridiculous extrapolations. Could be a blog post in itself too.
The last time I combed through such propaganda was in spring 2014, in Reality Check: Debunking The Wall Street Journal’s “Radiation Reality Check” (Not sure if there’s a connection, but The Wall Street Journal actually pulled that story from their online edition shortly after I sent the blog post link to the author…).
Anyhow, possibly more informative, check the following first if you haven’t yet: Some of the nuclear industry’s awful consequences are illustrated in the documentaries:
- ‘Knocking on the Devil’s Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy’ – Documentary movie directed by Gary Null
- Documentary: Chernobyl Heart (2003) – Must See! + Implication Fukushima…
And documented in studies such as:
- Health Effects of Chernobyl 25 years after the reactor catastrophe, by German Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) @ http://www.chernobylcongress.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pdfs/chernob_report_2011_en_web.pdf
- Chernobyl Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, which was published in Issue 1181 of ‘Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences’, and can be found @ http://www.tucradio.org/Yablokov_Chernobylbook.pdf.
I have more questions than answers but some things are actually already very well documented. Some of my questions regarding the documented cases of ‘radiation hormesis’ include: Is this hormesis phenomenon only the case for radiation from non-inhaled/non-digested external sources of radioactivity, and not per se the case for radioactive particles that could be inhaled/ingested? Or has it been observed accross the board, for all radioisotopes, and both when an organism was subjected to only the radiation (externally) as well as when an organism was injected with the radiation-emitting particles as well? (No, it hasn’t!)
If you were to inject a guinea pig with “merely a trace” of alpha-emitting Plutonium-239, does it REALLY make the animal healthier? Show me thát research! I mean, come on, what the hell are these people smoking?
Just because some significantly elevated external dose (as high as 2 to 5 µSv/hr over 9 to 20 years, similar to living permanently on an airplane) received due to living in buildings in Taiwan made with (gamma-emitting Cobalt-60-containing) radioactive steel interestingly correlated with occupants showing a significantly lower cancer rate, and only a handful of other cases, doesn’t mean it’s dandy to simply turn a blind eye to decades of well-documented health-hazardous effects of fallout.
Does the observed ‘radiation hormesis’ vary from isotope to isotope, internal versus external, with perhaps only some isotopes, frequencies or decay energy levels showing signs of inducing ‘hormesis’, while other, perhaps most? radioisotopes / frequencies / decay energy levels wouldn’t fit the model, or only when the added low-level radiation source remains outside the body? The LNT model may be too simplistic for some cases, but a hormesis-based model would certainly be far worse more often.
See, when I check on some of the claims in which proponents of lowering protection standards wrap their industrial grade drivel in, it’s crystal clear they’re aligned with the notoriously deceptive nuclear industry. I’ll comb through just one article: I’ll take a look at award-winning George Johnson‘s latest tour-de-force to lead the public astray about the very real long-term health dangers of man-made radioactive fallout, such as unleashed in unprecedented quantities by TEPCO’s ongoing nuclear Fukushima-Daiichi Catastrophe…
Either an illustration of the Editor-in-Chief’s utter ignorance on the subject, or a sign of malevolent co-conspiratorial intent, this piece of blatant pro-nuclear propaganda wasn’t even published in the OPINION section, but in the NYT’s SCIENCE section. Freaky the lies that pass for ‘news’ in these Orwellian times…
I was going to comb through it line by line, but I simply can’t stomach it… Such drivel…
Just for the record, the New York Times actually printed this…:
“When Radiation Isn’t The Real Risk.
This spring, four years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, a small group of scientists met in Tokyo to evaluate the deadly aftermath.
No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming years is expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise.
But about 1,600 people died from the stress of the evacuation — one that some scientists believe was not justified by the relatively moderate radiation levels at the Japanese nuclear plant.
Epidemiologists speak of “stochastic deaths,” those they predict will happen in the future because of radiation or some other risk. With no names attached to the numbers, they remain an abstraction.
But these other deaths were immediate and unequivocally real. “The government basically panicked,” said Dr. Mohan Doss, a medical physicist who spoke at the Tokyo meeting, when I called him at his office at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “When you evacuate a hospital intensive care unit, you cannot take patients to a high school and expect them to survive.”
Among other victims were residents of nursing homes. And there were the suicides. “It was the fear of radiation that ended up killing people,” he said.
Most of the fallout was swept out to sea by easterly winds, and the rest was dispersed and diluted over the land. Had the evacuees stayed home, their cumulative exposure over four years, in the most intensely radioactive locations, would have been about 70 millisieverts — roughly comparable to receiving a high-resolution whole-body diagnostic scan each year. But those hot spots were anomalies.
By Dr. Doss’s calculations, most residents would have received much less, about 4 millisieverts a year. The average annual exposure from the natural background radiation of the earth is 2.4 millisieverts.
How the added effect of the fallout would have compared with that of the evacuation depends on the validity of the “linear no-threshold model,” which assumes that any amount of radiation, no matter how small, causes some harm.
Dr. Doss is among scientists who question that supposition, one built into the world’s radiation standards. Below a certain threshold, they argue, low doses are harmless and possibly even beneficial — a long-debated phenomenon called radiation hormesis.
Recently he and two other researchers, Carol S. Marcus of Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles and Mark L. Miller of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revise its rules to avoid overreactions to what may be nonexistent threats.
The period for public comments is still open, and when it is over, there will be a mass of conflicting evidence to puzzle through.
A full sievert of radiation is believed to eventually cause fatal cancers in about 5 percent of the people exposed. Under the linear no-threshold model, a millisievert would impose one-one thousandth of the risk: 0.005 percent, or five deadly cancers in a population of 100,000.
About twice that many people were evacuated from a 20-kilometer area near the Fukushima reactors. By avoiding what would have been an average cumulative exposure of 16 millisieverts, the number of cancer deaths prevented was perhaps 160, or 10 percent of the total who died in the evacuation itself.
But that estimate assumes the validity of the current standards. If low levels of radiation are less harmful, then the fallout might not have caused any increase in the cancer rate.
The idea of hormesis goes further, proposing that weak radiation can actually reduce a person’s risk. Life evolved in a mildly radioactive environment, and some laboratory experiments and animal studies indicate that low exposures unleash protective antioxidants and stimulate the immune system, conceivably protecting against cancers of all kinds.
Epidemiological studies of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been interpreted both ways — as demonstrating and refuting hormesis. But because radiation regulations assume there is no safe level, clinical trials testing low-dose therapy have been impossible to conduct.
One experiment, however, occurred inadvertently three decades ago in Taiwan after about 200 buildings housing 10,000 people were constructed from steel contaminated with radioactive cobalt. Over the years, residents were exposed to an average dose of about 10.5 millisieverts a year, more than double the estimated average for Fukushima.
Yet a study in 2006 found fewer cancer cases compared with the general public: 95, when 115 were expected.
Neither the abstract of the paper nor of a second one published two years later mention the overall decrease. (The authors speculated that the apartment dwellers may have been healthier than the population at large.) The focus instead was on weaker results suggesting a few excess leukemia and breast cancer cases — and on a parsing of the data showing an overall increased cancer risk for residents exposed before age 30.
More recently, a study of radon by a Johns Hopkins scientist suggested that people living with higher concentrations of the radioactive gas had correspondingly lower rates of lung cancer. If so, then homeowners investing in radon mitigation to meet federal safety standards may be slightly increasing their cancer risk. These and similar findings have also been disputed.
All research like this is bedeviled by “confounders” — differences between populations that must be accounted for. Some are fairly easy (older people and smokers naturally get more cancer), but there is always some statistical wiggle room. As with so many issues, what should be a scientific argument becomes rhetorical, with opposing interest groups looking at the data with just the right squint to resolve it according to their needs.
There is more here at stake than agonizing over irreversible acts, like the evacuation of Fukushima. Fear of radiation, even when diluted to homeopathic portions, compels people to forgo lifesaving diagnostic tests and radiotherapies.
We’re bad at balancing risks, we humans, and we live in a world of continual uncertainty. Trying to avoid the horrors we imagine, we risk creating ones that are real.”
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