Congratulations! Thanks to the publication of the latest NucLiar “strategic information” piece, the Guardian is now the front-runner for the “Flat Earth News Media Award”, (category: Daft Science & Environment Editor) founded by the Edward Bernays Society for contributions to “moulding public opinon” as part of a hidden economic agenda.
In the middle of the “climate change” dilemma, wouldn’t it be a great PR-idea to sponsor an Oxford professor (pay for the publication of his ludicrous book) who claims that “nuclear dangers are overstated” in order to generate support for the “nuclear renaissance”? Worried about the easily detectable, systemic distortions of an incompetent “expert” and the dangerous “dumbing down” of science? No Fear! “They report what they are given” [cited in “Flat Earth News”]
Excuse the irony & candour, but this is so obviously a piece of propaganda for the nuclear industry that the editor who approved it, ought to be fired at the spot: either for lack of journalistic integrity or for sheer stupidity. Here are some basic reasons why the whole story is a PR-scam:
1) Lack of Expertise:
Allison is a particle physicist, not an expert in molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics & genetics (the combined, overlapping knowledge necessary for radiation biology). The focus of all big questions about the effects of low doses of ionizing radiation is the cellular, molecular level not the primitive concepts of “body dose” or “organ dose” which are based on crude physical models developed by – you guessed it – physicists.
2) Comparing apples to oranges
Allison, as echoed in the article, makes no distinctions between different types of radiation exposure but the effects of acute, external, low LET ionizing radiation (gamma-rays from nuclear explosions or x-rays) cannot be simply extrapolated to estimate the health risks from nuclear installations because they result from chronic, internal, high LET ionizing radiation, especially from inhaled or ingested alpha-particles.
Also, not all radioisotopes have the same biological impact if internalized: e.g. whether from “ hot particles”, “warm particles”, Plutonium or Uranium, the effects are different. If particles are “stuck” in tissue or sequentially decaying radionuclides like Strontium 90 (from weapons fallout) bind to DNA, the radiological and chemical toxicity cannot just be lumped together under the heading of “same dose, same risk”. Auger emitters for example, widely used for radiotherapy, create much greater damage at the cellular level than other radionuklides, i.e. x-rays:
“Even in the case of uniform distribution, some of those Auger emitters are highly radiotoxic compared to hard gamma rays. For Auger emitters to bond to radiosensitive sites in cell nucleus, much higher radiation effectiveness could be expected.”
This is another reason why the simple comparison of risk between radiotherapy exposure, X-rays, CT-scans, Sellafield and “natural background” exposure is not valid since Allison’s arguments are based on the premise that ionizing energy is always evenly distributed in the body, which is demonstrably false. (More on the subject see under 4 below)
Instead of inflicting on the public yet another endless debate between disagreeing scientists, it ought to be the job of journalists to investigate who is telling the truth and who is lying or serving a hidden agenda. We need an independent press to establish trust and authenticity in order to get real insight.
As Nick Davies rightly points out, the concept of “neutrality” or “balance” must be reassessed to stop “the packaging of conflicting claims which is precisely the opposite of truth-telling”. Jha and Bosley are a perfect example of this problem: The assertions of Allison are “balanced” by reporting what other scientists have to say, but all statements are dubious and not illuminative as long as the bigger political context is missing and even more so, if the “background” is also a showcase for “churnalism”: “Nuclear radiation risk: The current consensus” which brings us to
4) Who the hell is the ICRP? How is “dose” calculated and what does it mean?
How is the public supposed to make an informed judgement if journalists do not bother to get a deeper understanding of a controversial subject BEFORE they write about it (or publish relevant “material”)? The aforementioned “current consensus” background by Alok Jha is another showcase for ignorant “science reporting”:
“How is radiation harmful?” ( One size fits all – Oversimplifications)
“Ionising radiation … can damage the DNA in the nucleus of a cell. Unless the cell’s repair machinery can fix the breaks, or else the cell itself is killed, it has a higher chance of becoming cancerous.”
If the “editor” had bothered to do even a quick research on the subject, he would have discovered, that this is no longer a valid assessment of risk because hundreds of studies have challenged the outdated view, that relevant biological damage occurs only if the cell nucleus is hit:
“To be sure, new mechanistic possibilities must now be considered in interpreting the results of both in vitro and in vivo studies inasmuch as nuclear DNA alone no longer can be viewed as the only relevant target for the actions of IR, or even necessarily the most important target for eliciting at least some detrimental effects of IR under some exposure conditions.”
“What is a safe dose?”
This is an even greater insult to any intelligent reader (and to painstaking journalism) because Jha has obviously just copied the “industry friendly information” (lacking any scientific credibility) he received from Allison. Besides, the first thing he should have done is explain what “dose” realls means, that it is not based on scientific measurement but just a theoretical, mathematical construct: to give an estimate based on a physical “ model”, multiplied with another factor to give “RBE”, which is supposed to enable the quantification of risk (the likelihood and extent of biological damage). A great source of information for all these questions is the 2004 CERRIE Report (and the surrounding controversy of political influence) which the guardian reported – why did Jha not use these sources instead of recycling the rubbish from Allison?
It is not so hard to understand that, whether a tiny alpha-particle is stuck in lung tissue or in the lymph nodes, etc. makes a huge difference in determining the detrimental health effects, not only because different organs have a different radiation sensitivity. Besides, it is plainly ridiculous to calculate / extrapolate linearly from the “equivalent” (organ) dose which is in turn derived from “effective” (body) dose when effects on microscopic (incredibly tiny, i.e. millionths of a milimeter) volumes at the molecular and cellular level need to be examined and understood.
In addition, we also need to understand if and how different radionuclides move in the body (biokinetics). It is pretty obvious that the risk assessement for complex cellular systems cannot be adopted from studies on external exposure to x-rays or gamma-rays, with a relatively uniform distribution of energy in the tissue. A reliable model to estimate the combined effects of different types of radiation has not yet been found.
But all the evidence strongly points to the conclusion that it is the concentration of ionization (its density) in a small group of cells, or even a single cell that defines “risk” at the molecular level, not the bodily dose (more a political consensus than a scientific one) as Paul Brown correctly reported in 2004:
The National Radiological Protection Board has always measured a tiny dose received by an individual as if it affected the entire body evenly – so the result was a dilution that appeared to do little harm. The possibility that the dose would lodge near a bone or in the brain and emit radiation inflicting localised damage leading to cancer had not been not accepted.”
So all the talks about “background dose” or “safe dose” is meaningless and the absurd claims that below 100 mSv, there is no problem whatsoever and below 200 mSv DNA repair can fix everything (and other absurdities) prove that Allison is a charlatan and I bet 10.000 EUR, that if investigated properly, some connection to the nuclear industry will be found. If Jha had bothered to look at the sources Allison frequently uses, the penny would already have dropped: the US DoE, the NEI, the NEA, the “Radiation, Science & Health Inc.” (a front group, if there ever was one) and obscure and refuted studies like “Is Chronic Radiation an effective prophylaxis against cancer?” The man even champions the routine irradiation of food! (see his website) Allison’s attempt, to bring the “hormesis” myth back to life is obvious, but futile.
The “lack of understanding” of how the body deals with LDIR is the result of ostracizing independent scientists who represent a danger to the nuclear industry and its unhealthy ties to the military, the great protector of the nuclear holy grail. So any “article” dealing with risks of IR can only make sense if accompanied by “background” about the political agenda behind the “peaceful use of nuclear energy”. The Orwellian character of this charade ought to have been clear from the beginning, with the ludicrous slogan “atoms for peace” which demonstrates that exactly the opposite of Allison’s claim is true: not the “anti-nuclear” lobby created “irrational fear” but the very rational fear of ionizing radiation (a life-preserving instinct since we have no sensory receptor) was ridiculed and the immense risks and uncertainties downplayed, to foster acceptance of an insane technology that threatens all life on earth and has caused a global cancer epidemic (among other diseases).
“Since the second world war, scientists have worked on the basis that there is no dose of radiation so low that it’s not dangerous.”
This is complete BS. A quick look at the historical development of the ICRP model shows that for decades the converse view was taken: Based on the extrapolations from Hiroshima, the accepted wisdom was that below a certain threshold, health risks were negligible. The “acceptable” or “permissible” (maximum) dose had to be adjusted downward again and again as increasing scientific evidence showed that the risks were much higher than originally assumed.
Your reports about genetic engineering are also very uncritical … Political / economic pressure?
The ethical responsibility of the press to inform the public about these controversial scientific issues (affecting many generations to come) is enormous …
Are you up to it with these “reporters” ?
( ….This comment was sent as reply to the guardian’s “coverage” of the dangers of ionizing radiation….)
<<<<to watch the BT video click on the image
P.S. Send Simon Jenkins to Iraq and let him see the deformed babies, the exploding cancer incidence in children, the immense suffering, for himself. The man is a small-minded idiot: the incredibly stupid assertion that “Nobody makes money from downplaying risk” (how about the nuclear industry, eh? – the evidence of a cover-up (just look at the “official” Chernobyl figures) is staring in your face) – while at the same time accusing the “anti-nuclear lobby” of exaggerating risk for personal gain must go down in the history of print as one of the darkest moments of human bias and ignorance …. because people are suffering and dying while Jenkins gets paid for his high bollocks turnout … (remember Asbestos, DDT, PCBs, – wasn’t it all “safe” ..???!!!)
Tell that to her parents… (Fatima has died in the meantime, she was born with two heads ….) What can one say to express the feelings of outrage and grief?
Remember, this is the result of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” …..
 IFJ: “Respect for Truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist” Is it in reality?