Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Plutonium

January 9, 2019

TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR PLUTONIUM , Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine/Applied Toxicology Branch,  Atlanta, Georgia TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR PLUTONIUM   WHAT IS PLUTONIUM?  Radioactive metal Plutonium is a radioactive element. Pure plutonium is a silvery-white metal. Most plutonium is found combined with other substances, for example, plutonium dioxide (plutonium with oxygen) or plutonium nitrate (plutonium with nitrogen and oxygen). Plutonium is usually measured in terms of its radioactivity (curies or becquerels). Both the curie (Ci) and the becquerel (Bq) tell us how much a radioactive material decays every second. Exists in various forms called isotopes The most common plutonium isotope is plutonium-239. Plutonium is not stable Each radioactive isotope of an element constantly gives off radiation, which changes it into an isotope of a different element or a different isotope of the same element. This process is called radioactive decay. Plutonium-238 and plutonium-239 give off alpha particles (sometimes referred to as alpha radiation) and transform into uranium-234 and uranium-235, respectively. The half-life is the time it takes for half of the atoms of a radionuclide to undergo radioactive decay and change it into a different isotope. The halflife of plutonium-238 is 87.7 years. The half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,100 years. The half-life of plutonium-240 is 6,560 years. Produced in Very small amounts of plutonium occur naturally. Plutonium-239 and nuclear power plutonium-240 are formed in nuclear power plants when uranium-238 plants and used captures neutrons. Plutonium is used to produce nuclear weapons. in nuclear weapons and Plutonium-238 is used as a heat source in nuclear batteries to produce batteries electricity in devices such as unmanned spacecraft and interplanetary probes.

WHAT HAPPENS TO PLUTONIUM WHEN IT ENTERS THE ENVIRONMENT? Released during testing of nuclear weapons Plutonium released during atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, which ended in 1980, is the source of most of the plutonium in the environment worldwide. The plutonium released during these tests was deposited on land and water. The small amount that remains in the atmosphere continues to be deposited as it slowly settles out.
 Plutonium is also released to the environment from research facilities, waste disposal, nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, nuclear weapons production facilities, and accidents at facilities where plutonium is used.
  HOW CAN PLUTONIUM ENTER AND LEAVE MY BODY? Plutonium can When you breathe air that contains plutonium, some of it will get trapped in enter your body your lungs. Some of the trapped plutonium will move to other parts of your when it is inhaled body, mainly your bones and liver. The amount of plutonium that stays in or swallowed your lungs depends on the solubility of the plutonium that is in the air you breathe. A small amount of the plutonium you swallow (much less than 1%) will enter other parts of your body (mainly your bones and liver). If plutonium gets onto your healthy skin, very little, if any, plutonium will enter your body. More plutonium will enter your body if gets onto injured skin, such as a cut or burn. Plutonium in your Plutonium leaves your body very slowly in the urine and feces. If plutonium body will remain were to enter your lungs today, much of the plutonium would still be in your there for many body 30–50 years later. years ..……https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp143.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1iffNMF8xj33aBhDW-zhtFzPejF0eNlQ5QUaIgxBhCcujUKU0XRC8NvMc
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Plutonium and environmental and health effects

January 9, 2019
 TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR PLUTONIUM , Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine/Applied Toxicology Branch,  Atlanta, Georgia“……….HOW CAN PLUTONIUM AFFECT MY HEALTH? Plutonium may remain in the lungs or move to the bones, liver, or other body organs. It generally stays in the body for decades and continues to expose the surrounding tissues to radiation. Lung, liver, and bone cancer You may develop cancer depending on how much plutonium is in your body and for how long it remains in your body. The types of cancers you would most likely develop are cancers of the lung, bones, and liver. These types of cancers have occurred in workers who were exposed to plutonium in air at much higher levels than is in the air that most people breathe. Affect ability to fight infections In laboratory animals, plutonium affected the animal’s ability to resist disease (immune system). More information on the health effects of plutonium is presented in Chapters 2 and 3………

  2.2 SUMMARY OF HEALTH EFFECTS Risks for adverse outcomes of plutonium exposures are strongly dependent on radiation doses received by specific tissues and organ systems. Most of the body burden of plutonium resides in the skeleton and liver, and following inhalation exposures, in the lung and lung-associated lymph nodes. As a result, these tissues receive relatively high radiation doses following exposures to plutonium. Radiation-induced toxicity to these tissues has been documented in human epidemiological studies and in animal models. The relatively high radiation doses received by bone, liver, and lung lend greater credibility to the epidemiological findings for these tissues than for outcomes in other tissues that receive much smaller radiation doses. All epidemiological studies that have reported adverse outcomes in these tissues have studied populations (i.e., workers in plutonium production and processing facilities) that experienced exposures and radiation doses that greatly exceed those experienced by the general public. Accordingly, risks for these outcomes in the general population are substantially lower than reported for these more highly exposed worker populations.
Death. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and mortality have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (e.g., Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). The Mayak studies provide relatively strong evidence for an association between cancer mortality (bone, liver, lung) and exposure to plutonium. Plutonium dose-response relationships for lung cancer mortality have been derived from studies of Mayak workers, who received much higher uptakes of plutonium compared to other epidemiological cohorts (i.e., mean body burdens 0.09–9.2 kBq, with much higher individual exposures [up to 470 kBq] in relatively large numbers of these workers). Excess relative risk (ERR) estimated in three studies (adjusted for smoking) were 3.9 per Gy (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.6– 5.8) in males, and 19 per Gy (95% CI: 9.5–39) in females (attained age 60 years), 4.50 per Gy (95% CI: 3.15–6.10) in males, and 0.11 per Sv (95% CI: 0.08–0.17) or 0.21 per Sv (95% CI: 0.15–0.35), depending on the smoking-radiation interaction model that was assumed (these estimates per Sv correspond to 2.2 or 4.3 per Gy, respectively, assuming a radiation weighting factor of 20 for -radiation). The ERR per Gy in Mayak workers declined strongly with attained age. In a recent cohort mortality study of the Mayak workers, significant plutonium dose-response relationships (p<0.001) were found for deaths due to lung or liver cancer, and for deaths in which bone cancer was considered a contributing cause. At attained age of 60 years, ERRs for lung cancer were 7.1 per Gy (95% CI: 4.9–10) in males and 15 per Gy (95% CI: 7.6–29) in females. Averaged-attained age ERRs for liver cancer were 2.6 per Gy (95% CI: 0.7–6.9) for males and 29 per Gy (95% CI: 9.8–95) for females, and averaged-attained age ERRs for bone cancer were 0.76 per Gy (95% CI: <0–5.2) for males and 3.4 per Gy (95% CI: 0.4–20) for females. Elevated risks for bone cancer were observed only for workers with plutonium doses exceeding 10 Gy. For lung and bone cancer, the ERR declined with attained age, and for lung cancer, the ERR declined with age at first plutonium exposure.
Decreased survival was noted in beagle dogs exposed to plutonium aerosols (238PuO2, 239PuO2, or 239Pu(NO3)4) at levels resulting in initial lung burdens in the range of ≥1 kBq/kg body weight. Early deaths were attributed to radiation pneumonitis and decreased survival late in life was typically associated  with tumor development.
 Cancer. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and cancer mortality and morbidity have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). Compared to studies of U.K. and U.S. facilities, the Mayak cohorts had relatively high uptakes of plutonium (i.e., mean body burdens as high as 9.2 kBq, with much higher individual uptakes [up to 470 kBq] in relatively large numbers of these workers). Collectively, the Mayak studies provide evidence for an association between cancer mortality (lung, liver, bone) and uptake of plutonium. Studies of U.K. and U.S. facilities have examined cohorts of workers who had substantially lower estimated plutonium uptakes and corresponding internal radiation doses than the Mayak cohorts (e.g., Sellafield: ≤1 kBq in 97% of the assessed workers; Los Alamos: mean body burden 0.970 kBq, range 0.05– 3.18 kBq). Although a significantly higher incidence of cancer mortality in certain groups of plutonium workers has been found in some studies, higher cancer incidence and/or risks for tissues that received the highest plutonium radiation doses (i.e., lung, liver, bone) have not been found, making causal connections of these outcomes to plutonium exposure more uncertain. The Sellafield study is by far the strongest of these studies and did not find associations between plutonium exposure and cancers to tissues receiving the highest radiation doses from plutonium.
  Plutonium dose-response relationships for lung cancer mortality and morbidity have been corroborated in four Mayak studies. Estimated excess relative risk in these four studies (adjusted for smoking) were as follows: (1) 3.9 per Gy (95% CI: 2.6–5.8) in males and 19 per Gy (95% CI: 9.5–39) in females; (2) 7.1 per Gy (95% CI: 4.9–10) in males and 15 per Gy (95% CI: 7.6–29) in females at attained age of 60 years; (3) 4.50 per Gy (95% CI: 3.15–6.10) in males; and (4) 0.11 per Sv (95% CI: 0.08–0.17) or 0.21 per Sv (95% CI: 0.15–0.35), depending on the smoking-radiation interaction model that was assumed (these estimates per Sv correspond to 2.2 or 4.3 per Gy, respectively, assuming a radiation weighting factor of 20 for “-radiation).
  The risks of mortality and morbidity from bone and liver cancers have also been studied in Mayak workers. Increasing estimated plutonium body burden was associated with increasing liver cancer mortality, with higher risk in females compared to males. Relative risk for liver cancer for a cohort of males and females was estimated to be 17 (95% CI: 8.0–26) in association with plutonium uptakes >7.4 kBq; however, when stratified by gender, the relative risk estimates for females was 66 (95% CI: 16–45) and higher than for males, 9.2 (95% CI: 3.3–23). Risk of bone cancer mortality in this same cohort (n=11,000) was estimated to be 7.9 (95% CI: 1.6–32) in association with plutonium uptakes >7.4 kBq (males and females combined). Risks of leukemia mortality, in the same cohort, were not associated with internal plutonium exposure. In a case control study of Mayak workers, the odds ratio for liver cancer was 11.3 (95% CI: 3.6–35.2) for subjects who received doses >2.0–5.0 Gy (relative to 0– 2.0 Gy) and the odds ratios for hemangiosarcomas were 41.7 (95% CI: 4.6–333) for the dose group >2.0– 5.0 Gy, and 62.5 (95% CI: 7.4–500) for the dose group >5.0–16.9 Gy; doses were estimated based on periodic urine sampling. A study reported averaged-attained age ERRs for liver cancer of 2.6 per Gy (95% CI: 0.7–6.9) for males and 29 per Gy (95% CI: 9.8–95) for females, and averaged-attained age ERRs for bone cancer of 0.76 per Gy (95% CI: <0–5.2) for males and 3.4 per Gy (95% CI: 0.4–20) for females. Elevated risks for bone cancer were observed only for workers with plutonium doses exceeding 10 Gy. For lung and bone cancer, the ERR declined with attained age, and for lung cancer, the ERR declined with age at first plutonium exposure. …….
Studies in Animals. Radiation pneumonitis has been observed following plutonium (primarily insoluble) aerosol exposure of dogs, nonhuman primates (monkeys and baboons), and rodents. As discussed in Section 3.2.1.1, radiation pneumonitis was identified as primary, major contributing, or incidental cause of death in some dogs and nonhuman primates that inhaled 238PuO2, 239PuO2, or 239Pu(NO3)4 aerosols.
Muggenburg et al. (2008) studied the effect of plutonium ILB and radiation dose on radiation pneumonitis in beagles as part of a plutonium lifespan composite study. The relationship between pneumonitis induction and the cause of death was reported to be a function of the plutonium ILB, the resulting cumulative radiation dose, and the particle size to some extent. Increased ILB and plutonium dose rate were associated with the fraction of animals with radiation pneumonitis as primary, major contributing, or incidental cause of death. A trend was observed for the induction of radiation pneumonitis at lower ILBs in the 0.75 and 1.5 µm AMAD groups than in the 3 µm AMAD group. At radiation doses sufficient to produce radiation pneumonitis, the resulting inflammation was a chronic symptom due to long-term retention of 239PuO2 in the lung.
As a result, 239PuO2-induced radiation pneumonitis was always associated with pulmonary fibrosis. The radiation pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis progressively impaired lung function, including alveolar-capillary gas exchange, resulting in increases in respiratory rate, minute volume, arterial CO2 pressure, and lung stiffness, along with decreases in tidal volume and arterial O2 pressure. Symptoms in order of decreasing frequency were tachypnea, increased breath sounds, body weight loss, anorexia, dyspnea, cyanosis, bradycardia, and discharge from the nose, eyes, or mouth. Increasing radiation dose and dose rate corresponded to progressively shorter times to onset of symptoms and increased severity of effects (Muggenburg et al. 2008). …….
Exposure of Dogs to 238PuO2. In the ITRI 238PuO2 dog studies, the first symptom of radiation pneumonitis (tachypnea) was observed at approximately 600 days after initial exposure (Muggenburg et al. 1996). …… Radiation pneumonitis was the primary cause of death in eight dogs with initial lung burdens of 8.3–45 kBq/kg (Muggenburg et al. 1996).
 Similar observations were reported in the PNL studies on 238PuO2, with chronic radiation pneumonitis observed in dogs with initial lung burdens ≥0.28 kBq/kg (Park et al. 1997). Exposure of Dogs to 239PuO2. Chronic radiation pneumonitis also was observed in the ITRI and PNL dogs exposed to 239PuO2 aerosols   ……  Radiation pneumonitis was observed in dogs dying from 0.3 to 11.7 years after inhaling 239PuO2, with the time to death inversely related to initial lung burden (Hahn et al. 1999; Muggenburg et al. 1999, 2008). The lowest initial lung burden causing fatal radiation pneumonitis was 1.0 kBq/kg (Muggenburg et al. 1999, 2008). The time to death from radiation pneumonitis was not different in ITRI dogs administered a single exposure (initial lung burden of 3.9 kBq/kg) or repeated exposures (7–10 semiannual exposures for a mean total lung burden of 5.3 kBq/kg) (Diel et al. 1992). Death due to radiation pneumonitis was observed in 239PuO2-exposed PNL dogs at mean initial lung burdens ≥1 kBq/kg (DOE 1988a; Weller et al. 1995b) …..
Exposure of Other Laboratory Animal Species. Baboons ….. Higher initial lung burdens resulted in earlier death from radiation pneumonitis accompanied by pulmonary edema. Radiation pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis were also reported in Rhesus monkeys…..
  Cardiovascular Effects. Epidemiological Studies in Humans. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and cardiovascular disease have been examined in studies of workers at production and/or processing facilities in the United Kingdom (Sellafield) (McGeoghegan et al. 2003; Omar et al. 1999). These studies are summarized in Table 3-2 and study outcomes for mortality from cardiovascular disease are described in Section 3.2.1.1. Omar et al. (1999) compared mortality rates between plutonium workers and other radiation workers within a cohort of Sellafield workers and found that the mortality rate ratios were significantly elevated for cerebrovascular disease (1.27, p<0.05) in a cohort of Sellafield workers. The cumulative internal uptakes of plutonium in the cohort were estimated to range from 0 to 12 kBq, with approximately 75% of the cohort having cumulative uptakes ≤250 Bq. McGeoghegan et al. (2003) compared mortality rates between plutonium workers and other radiation workers within a cohort of Sellafield workers and found that morality rate ratios for plutonium workers were significantly elevated for deaths from circulatory disease (2.18, p<0.05) and ischemic heart disease (4.46, p<0.01). ….
Cancer.  Epidemiological Studies in Humans. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and cancer mortality and morbidity have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). The most recent findings from these studies are summarized in Table 3-2. Compared to studies of U.K. and U.S. facilities, the Mayak cohorts had relatively high PLUTONIUM 55 3. HEALTH EFFECTS exposures to plutonium (i.e., mean body burdens ranging from 0.09 to 9.2 kBq, with individual exposures as high as 470 kBq (Krahenbuhl et al. 2005). Collectively, the Mayak studies provide evidence for an association between cancer mortality and exposure to plutonium. Plutonium dose-response relationships for lung cancer mortality have been corroborated in three Mayak studies (Gilbert et al. 2004; Jacob et al. 2005; Kreisheimer et al. 2003). ……
Collectively, the Mayak studies provide evidence for increased risk of cancer mortality (bone, liver, lung) in association with increased internal plutonium-derived radiation dose and/or body burden, with approximately 4-fold higher risks in females compared to males. Four studies estimated lung cancer mortality risk among Mayak workers and yielded similar estimates of excess relative risk per Gy of internal lung dose. Gilbert et al. (2004) estimated the excess lung cancer mortality risk (per Gy attained at age 60 years) for essentially the entire cohort of Mayak workers (n=21,790) to be approximately 4.7 per Gy (95% CI: 3.3–6.7) in males, and 19 per Gy (95% CI: 9.5–39) in females. Adjustment for smoking, based on risk estimates in subgroups for which smoking data were available, decreased these estimates only slightly: males, 3.9 per Gy (95% CI: 2.6–5.8); and females, 19 (95% CI: 7.7–51). Cancer mortality risk was linearly related to plutonium radiation dose. ……
Risks of mortality and morbidity from bone and liver cancers have also been studied in Mayak workers (Gilbert et al. 2000; Koshurnikova et al. 2000; Shilnikova et al. 2003; Sokolnikov et al. 2008; Tokarskaya et al. 2006). Increasing estimated plutonium body burden was associated with increasing cancer mortality, with higher risk in females compared to males. Gilbert et al. (2000) examined liver cancer mortality in a cohort of Mayak workers (n=11,000). …….
U.K. Atomic Energy Authority and Atomic Weapons Establishment Workers. ………..The mortality rate ratio was significantly elevated for breast cancer (7.66, p<0.01) and cerebrovascular disease (1.27, p<0.05). McGeoghegan et al. (2003) examined cancer mortality in a cohort of female Sellafield workers (n=6,376), from which a subset (n=837) of women who had been monitored for plutonium exposure was identified as plutonium workers. This cohort overlapped considerably with that studied by Omar et al. 1999). Effective dose equivalents to the lung from plutonium were estimated to have ranged up to 178 mSv (mean: 3.45 mSv, 5th–95th percentile range: 0.36–8.89 mSv). Comparisons of mortality rates between plutonium workers and other radiation workers yielded significantly elevated mortality rate ratios for all deaths (2.20, p<0.01), all cancers (3.30, p<0.01), breast cancer (3.77, p<0.05), circulatory disease (2.18, p<0.05), and ischemic heart disease (4.46, p<0.01).
……p. 66   3.3 GENOTOXICITY Abundant information is available regarding the genotoxicity of ionizing radiation (refer to the Toxicological Profile for Ionizing Radiation for a detailed discussion of the genotoxic effects of various forms of ionizing radiation). The genotoxicity of alpha radiation from plutonium sources has been investigated in various groups of plutonium workers, as well as in vivo animal studies and a variety of in vitro test systems. Tables 3-4 and 3-5 present the results of in vivo and in vitro genotoxicity studies, respectively. Although epidemiological studies do not provide conclusive evidence that plutonium produces genetic damage in humans, results of some studies provide suggestive evidence of dose-related increases in chromosomal aberrations in plutonium workers with measurable internalized plutonium. For example, Livingston et al. (2006) examined relationships between external radiation dose, internal radiation dose, and frequencies of chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei in peripheral blood lymphocytes of a group of 30 retired plutonium workers with dosimetrically-estimated internal and external radiation doses >0.5 Sv, another 17 workers with predominantly external radiation doses <0.1 Sv, and 21 control subjects with no history of occupational radiation exposure. Frequency of chromosomal aberrations was positively correlated with the bone marrow dose (alpha radiation from internalized plutonium; 168 mSv  median dose to the bone marrow), but not with the external radiation dose. Frequency of micronuclei did not differ significantly among the three study groups.
Significantly increased frequencies of symmetrical and asymmetrical chromosomal aberrations were reported among workers at the Sellafield (United Kingdom) plutonium facility with internalized plutonium in excess of 20% of the maximum permissible body burden (Tawn et al. 1985). Frequencies of symmetrical aberrations were significantly higher at retesting 10 years later, although no significant external radiation exposure had occurred during the 10-year interim (Whitehouse et al. 1998). This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that internally-deposited plutonium irradiates hemopoietic precursor cells (Whitehouse et al. 1998).
  Internal plutonium dose-related increased frequencies in chromosomal aberrations have also been reported in peripheral blood lymphocytes of plutonium workers with estimated plutonium body burdens as high as 15.5 kBq from exposure at the Mayak plutonium facilities in Russia (Hande et al. 2003, 2005; Mitchell et al. 2004; Okladnikova et al. 2005). The increased frequencies of chromosomal aberrations in the Mayak workers persisted many years following the cessation of exposure (Hande et al. 2003, 2005; Mitchell et al. 2004).
 Significantly increased frequencies of chromosomal aberrations were observed among Rocky Flats (Colorado) plutonium workers with internal plutonium burdens >740 Bq (Brandom et al. 1990; IAEA 1979). Conversely, among Manhattan Project plutonium workers followed for up to 32 years, no apparent correlation was found between the frequency of chromosomal aberrations and plutonium body burdens in the range of 0.185–15.4 kBq (Hempelmann et al. 1973; Voelz et al. 1979).
Open wounds represent a significant route through which plutonium workers might be exposed to plutonium alpha particles. Chromosomal aberrations were observed in lymphocytes among eight plutonium workers in the United Kingdom occupationally exposed to plutonium with the primary routes of exposure through wounds, punctures, or abrasions (estimated plutonium body burdens from 0.78 to 1.5 kBq). In exposed individuals, the number of dicentric aberrations averaged 5 per 500 cells, while the natural population background frequency of this aberration is 1 per 4,000 cells (Schofield 1980; Schofield et al. 1974).
Results of in vivo genotoxicity studies in laboratory animals consistently reveal alpha radiation-induced dose-related increases in the frequency of chromosomal aberrations following internalization of   plutonium. Chromosomal aberrations were observed in monkeys and hamsters following inhalation exposure to plutonium. Increases in chromosomal aberrations in blood lymphocytes were seen in immature Rhesus monkeys exposed to 239PuO2 at concentrations resulting in initial lung burdens of 1.9– 19 kBq 239Pu/kg body weight (LaBauve et al. 1980) and Cynomolgus monkeys exposed to 239Pu(NO3)4 at a concentration resulting in a projected initial lung burden of 40 kBq (Brooks et al. 1992), but not at lower levels. ……
  Consistently positive genotoxicity results have been reported in various test systems exposed to the alpha radiation from plutonium compounds in vitro (see Table 3-5). Chromosomal aberrations were reported in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and lymphoblasts (DOE 1980h; Purrott et al. 1980)  ……https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp143.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1iffNMF8xj33aBhDW-zhtFzPejF0eNlQ5QUaIgxBhCcujUKU0XRC8NvMc     Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine/Applied Toxicology Branch 1600 Clifton Road NE Mailstop F-62 Atlanta, Georgia 30333

The cancer toll on nuclear workers: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

December 4, 2018

Nuclear fallout: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

They built our atomic bombs; now they’re dying of cancer

Nearly 33,500 former nuclear site workers died due to radiation exposure- report

Nuclear Fallout: This story produced in partnership with ProPublica and the Santa Fe New Mexican. (Richly illustrated with photographs, videos, charts, documents interactive map) 
Wave 3, By Jamie Grey and Lee Zurik | November 12, 2018  
LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO (InvestigateTV) – Clear, plastic water bottles, with the caps all slightly twisted open, fill a small refrigerator under Gilbert Mondragon’s kitchen counter. The lids all loosened by his 4- and 6-year old daughters because, at just 38, Mondragon suffers from limited mobility and strength. He blames his conditions on years of exposure to chemicals and radiation at the facility that produced the world’s first atomic bomb: Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Gilbert Mondragon, 38, pulls the cap off a plastic water bottle that had been twisted open by his young daughters. He hasn’t the strength for those simple tasks anymore and blames his 20-year career at the Los Alamos National Lab. He quit this year because of his serious lung issues, which he suspects were caused by exposures at the nuclear facility. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller)

Mondragon is hardly alone in his thinking; there are thousands more nuclear weapons workers who are sick or dead. The government too recognizes that workers have been harmed; the Department of Labor administers programs to compensate “the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country’s national security.”

But InvestigateTV found workers with medical issues struggling to get compensated from a program that has ballooned ten times original cost estimates. More than 6,000 workers from Los Alamos alone have filed to get money for their medical problems, with around 53 percent of claims approved.

The Los Alamos lab, the top-secret site for bomb design in 1943, has had numerous safety violations and evidence of improper monitoring, federal inspection reports show.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory employs about 11,000 people and is located in the desert about 25 miles northwest of Santa Fe. The facility gained notoriety because it designed, developed and tested the country’s first nuclear weapons. After World War II, it branched out into research in areas such as chemistry, nuclear physics and life sciences. The weapons program, however, still takes up nearly two-thirds of its $2.5 billion budget. (InvestigateTV/Jamie Grey)

“A million workers with our nuclear weapons won the Cold War for us by producing the nuclear weapons, maintaining them, watching them, but they were exposed,” said Bill Richardson, the former federal energy secretary, Congressman and governor of New Mexico.

Richardson helped create the federal compensation program 18 years ago for workers at government nuclear plants.

As of October 2018, the federal government had paid more than $15 billion to 61,360 workers or their surviving family members through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP).

InvestigateTV reviewed reports that predict the compensation program will dwindle in coming decades, with accepted claims disappearing mid-way through this century.

But Richardson and others familiar with the program said they believe this compensation program will continue to cost taxpayers because the work of creating the most dangerous weapons on the planet remains dangerous.

Monitoring radiation

Nuclear weapons facilities contain plenty of materials that at certain levels health professionals consider dangerous: radioactive agents such as plutonium, toxic elements such as beryllium, and even more standard industrial hazards such as cleaners, asbestos and diesel exhaust. Those substances are associated with a variety of cancers, thyroid disease, chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD) and other health issues.

Because of the dangers, many workers in Department of Energy’s laboratories and technology centers around the country are monitored for exposure – or they are supposed to be.

Many workers at Los Alamos wear a badge like this, called a dosimeter. It measures radiation exposure and is just one part of monitoring employees. Workers also submit to other tests such as, urinalysis.

As a health physics technician at Los Alamos, Mondragon said part of his duties included radiation monitoring and looking for contamination. Despite the assignment of looking for dangers, he said he was sometimes told to tuck his badge monitoring the density of radiation into his coveralls.

“It makes sense to me now to always wear a badge, but then I was young, naïve, didn’t know better,” he said. “These people were older, been working there for years. And I trusted in them I guess and did what they said.”

Los Alamos disputes claims of employees of being told to remove their radiation monitoring badges.

A Los Alamos spokesman, Kevin Roark, would not agree to an on-camera interview with InvestigateTV but responded via email to questions about worker radiation badges, stating the “Radiation Protection Program would never allow, endorse or recommend removing dosimeters to avoid contamination.”

Federal law sets exposure limits for workers; “doses” of radiation are required to stay as low as reasonably achievable. Dosimeter or radiation badges such as the one Mondragon wore are required for a number of different employees based on the amount of exposure they are likely to encounter.

Former nuclear-plant worker Albert Mondragon, left, poses for a picture with his grandson Samuel and son Gilbert, right. The grandfather and father both share a family problem – each became sick after working at Los Alamos. The similarities, though, stop there. The elder Mondragon received federal compensation for lung fibrosis because of his work as a uranium miner. His son’s claims for lung disease have been denied.

Mondragon described going into known-contaminated areas, places workers refer to as “hot” – in a lab coat and booties. He said he would then see others there in respirators; he suspected those people were higher up in the lab’s chain of command.

After a time, he said he started to question safety measures and certain jobs at the lab, but said nothing for fear of getting in trouble or being assigned to dreaded jobs such as being put outside on cold winter days. He said he kept his head down and “rode the gravy train; it was easy.”

That “gravy train” – a well-paying job in a rugged state – is what brings many people to the expansive complex of buildings stretching into the New Mexico desert northwest of Santa Fe. Mondragon started at Los Alamos in 1999 when he was 19 years old. His father had worked there, and his job paid a starting wage of $10.25 an hour, more than double minimum wage in New Mexico at the time.

“Because where else around here are you going to make good money? And that’s what it boiled down to,” Mondragon said.

In 2014, while still working at the lab, now as an electrician, Mondragon was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He beat the disease, but he was later diagnosed with occupational asthma, sleep apnea and lung nodules, leaving him almost always tethered to an oxygen tank.

Gilbert Mondragon spends his days tethered to oxygen tank in his home. He used to enjoy hunting cow elks such as those hanging on his walls and coaching his kids’ sports team but hasn’t the stamina for those activities anymore. Now he worries about mounting medical bills and suspects that he will be paying them for the rest of his life. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller)

With medical bills mounting, Mondragon applied for federal compensation – but he was denied.

His radiation monitoring reports showed two years of scant exposure and 14 years of zero exposure, which Mondragon said he believes is wrong because he was not always wearing a badge.

But compensation case examiners determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove his medical problems were caused by his work environment.

Gilbert Mondragon’s radiation-exposure documents show his records from Los Alamos. Over a 16-year period, those reports, routinely given to workers, indicate that he registered no exposure for 14 of those years. What the report doesn’t show, however, is that Mondragon said he was oftentimes told to tuck away his monitoring badge. (Santa Fe New Mexican/Rebecca Moss).

Mondragon said the examiners determined his job as an electrician didn’t expose him to enough hazardous materials to cause cancer. But, he added, “they don’t realize … I did maintenance, and I worked in every single building.”

A history of noncompliance

While federal laboratories are allowed to operate with a great deal of secrecy, the government has stepped in at times to investigate facilities and punish weapons sites for unsafe operations.

The most significant evidence of that occurred after 1989, when the Department of Energy ordered extensive assessments of nuclear facilities by groups of inspectors known as Tiger Teams. Around the same time, Congress gave the department enforcement power, though that did not go into effect until 1996.

In the last three decades, those enforcement actions and reports paint a picture of ongoing issues at Los Alamos. For example, the department’s most recent report card in January 2018 on preventing nuclear and radiation accidents showed the lab in the “red” zone. It was the only lab out of 18 evaluated to receive a “does not meet expectations” designation.

Use the timeline below [on original] to explore examples of Los Alamos’ safety reports and violation notices.

The Government Accountability Office has mentioned Los Alamos in some of its reports, including a 1999 report stating the Energy Department’s “Nuclear Safety Enforcement Program Should Be Strengthened.” The GAO noted a significant violation at Los Alamos for “inadequate monitoring of radiological contamination. Repeated problems and inadequate corrective actions.”

As for the report card that noted issues with prevention measures, Roark, the lab’s spokesman, stated the lab routinely self-reports those infractions and said that they do not indicate an actual accident but “a condition, activity, or event that might create a potential danger for employees.”

Issues with compensation

Dr. Akshay Sood talkes about the worker compensation program. “It is a generous program but it is really heavily bureaucratized,” he said. Sood is a pulmonologist at the University of New Mexico Occupational Lung Clinic who has treated – and fought for benefits for – many workers from the Los Alamos nuclear facility. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller).

In 2006, Dr. Akshay Sood decided to move to New Mexico to treat patients with occupational lung disease. In recent years, he’s begun treating more and more patients who worked at Los Alamos. He’s helped many of them wade through the claims process for compensation – a proceeding he often characterizes as a fight.

“It’s frustrating because even though the law is meant to favor the patient, in the real world, what happens is the opposite,” Sood said. “The worker really gets screwed in the whole process.”

Workers have complained to the compensation program ombudsman, saying they don’t believe their claims are being processed with accurate information about exposure or job responsibilities related to exposure.

“Usually the most likely case is there was a particular radioactive material that people were exposed to that they were not appropriately monitored for,” said Stuart Hinnefeld, director of the division of the Department of Health and Human Services that determines which workers get to file for compensation through the easier cohort process.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Division of Compensation and Analysis Support is housed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Cincinnati. The division is in charge of determining the radiation dose workers could have received at work and maintaining a “risk model” that determines how likely it is that cancer was caused by radiation at work. (InvestigateTV/Jamie Grey).

Workers outside the cohort go through a process where the government office looks at available records from that individual worker and also other workers with similar characteristics – such as job title and the buildings they worked in.

At Los Alamos, all workers who started their jobs from the time the lab opened through 1995 are part of a special cohort group. Those who started after 1995, such as Chad Walde, are the ones who have to prove their cases to examiners.

Their cases may be sent to Hinnefeld’s office, which helps tie different exposure information, including the employees’ individual records and existing databases, together. His office looks at the data to determine if a person’s condition was “more likely than not” caused by work exposure.

The paperwork that Gilbert Mondragon received explains why he was denied compensation benefits. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports “causation” numbers. In Mondragon’s case, the agency said that there was a 21.55 percent probability that his health issues were job related. Workers need at least a 50 percent probability to receive benefits. (InvestigateTV photo illustration).

Despite questions over how well employees have been monitored in the last two decades and questions about the lab’s safety records, Hinnefeld said his office is only charged with looking at whether they have enough records and information to determine worker exposure for compensation.

“We make no judgments about the site’s operations, whether they’re doing things right, correctly, whether they should be doing them differently,” Hinnefeld said. “We just want to know: Are they generating enough evidence that we can go and find enough evidence?”

One year too late

Gilbert Ulibarri went to work at Los Alamos in 1996 after a career as a master plumber with a shop in Santa Fe. His wife, Charlene Maes, described her husband’s frustration with lab tasks he was given that he felt were unsafe.

He kept spiral-bound notebooks about incidents he saw, and Maes now feels like the lab is unsafe for workers “in the trenches,” based on the safety reports she’s seen at compensation program meetings.

Gilbert Ulibarri’s broad shoulders easily surround his wife Charlene Maes. “Guys wanted to be like him, and women wanted to know him,” Maes said. “He was genuine. He was salt of the earth. He was a tough, badass kind of guy.” (Ulibarri family photo)

“Because you don’t even have to read too much to find out how many instances of injuries and contamination and things like that that happen,” Maes said. “If it was so extremely safety-conscious, they would have zero on that side of the list, I would think.”

In 2015, her husband started getting stomach pains while remodeling their home. A rugged and tough rancher used to hard work, he knew something was wrong. Doctors found a tumor on his pancreas. Three years later and 120 pounds lighter due to cancer treatments, he died.

Gilbert Ulibarri shrunk from a burly, active man to a helpless patient. When he died from cancer just shy of his 22nd wedding anniversary, he was but a shell of his former shelf. “I watched him shrink from this guy that was like my hero to this small person,” his wife Charlene Maes said. (Family-provided photos).

During his treatment, Ulibarri and Maes attempted to get compensation through the federal program, but they were denied multiple times. Because he started working at Los Alamos just after 1995, he had to go through the rigorous documentation processes. Before he died, Maes said he had hoped his family would be left with some money to help cover expenses. Eventually, they gave up trying.

“It isn’t even about the money,” Maes said. “What I would really like is for someone in the government to understand that you can’t do this to a people. You can’t come to a state as beautiful as New Mexico and make everybody sick and then walk away and not take responsibility.”

Watch a life tribute video about Gilbert Ulibarri below, [on original]  courtesy of Leandra Romero.

Maes isn’t sure if her husband would have worked at Los Alamos given his later health issues, but she said she knows there is pride in working at these facilities.

“I understand the mission,” Maes said. “There’s safety and the world and protecting your country and the threat of terrorists. And I understand that. I understand why it’s needed. I just don’t understand why it’s a cavalier way of handling it.”

Los Alamos refutes allegations it is unsafe, even with the reports. The lab’s spokesman wrote in an email to InvestigateTV that the lab’s “nuclear operations are safe.” He also said the facility is continuing to make improvements to reach full compliance with Defense Nuclear Safety Board regulations.

The full email from Los Alamos is below. [on original]  Click “full screen” on the top left to view larger images…….

Not just New Mexico

Nuclear weapons facilities are scattered throughout the country – and workers from facilities in 43 states have filed for compensation. The majority of the claims are coming from the large labs memorialized in World War II history books. The others are coming from smaller labs or those that have been shut down over the years.

 

All told, 380 facilities may have workers eligible for compensation.

Use the map below [on original]  to learn about those facilities – clicking on individual dots will reveal information about each, from dates of operation to a description of the work. Note: Due to a lack of accurate historical addresses, some labs geolocate to the center of town. This map should be used for finding labs mapped down to a city point and not exact street address. All information is compiled from Department of Energy records.

In the panhandle of Texas, a plant called Pantex in Amarillo employs thousands of workers. Like Los Alamos, Pantex was part of the World War II construction projects. This facility was the last built during the war for bomb loading. Currently, it is the only facility responsible for dismantling old nukes and maintenance of the country’s weapons stockpile.

“The weapons plants were built in agricultural areas because they knew these were patriotic individuals and these were people who could be trusted to maintain security,” former Pantex employee Sarah Ray said.

Ray first came to work at the Amarillo plant in 1974 and completed training to work on weapons. She left for a number of years, returning to work as a training specialist. One of her main job assignments involved radiation alarm monitoring systems.

Today, at 72-years-old, she helps fellow Pantex employees file compensation claims. While she initially was working with older people who began working at the plant decades ago, she said she now sees younger, more recent workers.

“I have always said there would be another wave of workers,” Ray said. “Now I’m seeing people in their 50s and 60s. Now that wave is here.”

Like those who work on claims related to Los Alamos, Ray said the biggest problem is the burden put on workers, particularly those who aren’t approved for special cohorts.

“With workers, they are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent,” she said. “They have to fight the battle. They have to remember everything.”

That’s a battle Gilbert Mondragon, the former health physics technical at Los Alamos, is still fighting; he is still trying to prove his case to the government to help his offset his mounting medical bills.

“Sometimes I feel worthless,” said Mondragon. “I’m this big guy that should be able to lift more than five pounds. And most days I can’t even open my own bottle of water.”http://www.wave3.com/2018/11/12/nuclear-fallout-billion-compensation-counting/

 

Radioactivity induced mutations in the animals of Chernobyl

December 4, 2018

What We Know About the Chernobyl Animal Mutations https://www.thoughtco.com/chernobyl-animal-mutations-4155348?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shareurlbuttons&fbclid=IwAR0ML06KNkYYmozGbreM6e9ApQ9154nFmnYLxzZFUkK0pznLEi2X9FM-FHQ   by

The 1986 Chernobyl accident resulted in one of the highest unintentional releases of radioactivity in history. The graphite moderator of reactor 4 was exposed to air and ignited, shooting plumes of radioactive fallout across what is now Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Europe. While few people live near Chernobyl now, animals living in the vicinity of the accident allow us to study the effects of radiation and gauge recovery from the disaster.

Most domestic animals have moved away from the accident, and those deformed farm animals that were born did not reproduce. After the first few years following the accident, scientists focused on studies of wild animals and pets that had been left behind, in order to learn about Chernobyl’s impact.

Although the Chernobyl accident can’t be compared to effects from a nuclear bombbecause the isotopes released by the reactor differ from those produced by a nuclear weapon, both accidents and bombs cause mutations and cancer.

It’s crucial to study the effects of the disaster to help people understand the serious and long-lasting consequences of nuclear releases. Moreover, understanding the effects of Chernobyl may help humanity react to other nuclear power plant accidents.

The Relationship Between Radioisotopes and Mutations 

You may wonder how, exactly, radioisotopes (a radioactive isotope) and mutations are connected. The energy from radiation can damage or break DNA molecules. If the damage is severe enough, cells can’t replicate and the organism dies. Sometimes DNA can’t be repaired, producing a mutation. Mutated DNA may result in tumors and affect an animal’s ability to reproduce. If a mutation occurs in gametes, it can result in a nonviable embryo or one with birth defects.

Additionally, some radioisotopes are both toxic and radioactive. The chemical effects of the isotopes also impact the health and reproduction of affected species.

The types of isotopes around Chernobyl change over time as elements undergo radioactive decay. Cesium-137 and iodine-131 are isotopes that accumulate in the food chain and produce most of the radiation exposure to people and animals in the affected zone.

Examples of Domestic Genetic Deformities

Ranchers noticed an increase in genetic abnormalities in farm animals immediately following the Chernobyl accident. In 1989 and 1990, the number of deformities spiked again, possibly as a result of radiation released from the sarcophagus intended to isolate the nuclear core. In 1990, around 400 deformed animals were born. Most deformities were so severe the animals only lived a few hours.

Examples of defects included facial malformations, extra appendages, abnormal coloring, and reduced size. Domestic animal mutations were most common in cattle and pigs. Also, cows exposed to fallout and fed radioactive feed produced radioactive milk.

The health and reproduction of animals near Chernobyl were diminished for at least the first six months following the accident. Since that time, plants and animals have rebounded and largely reclaimed the region. Scientists collect information about the animals by sampling radioactive dung and soil and watching animals using camera traps.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone is a mostly-off-limits area covering over 1,600 square miles around the accident. The exclusion zone is a sort of radioactive wildlife refuge. The animals are radioactive because they eat radioactive food, so they may produce fewer young and bear mutated progeny. Even so, some populations have grown. Ironically, the damaging effects of radiation inside the zone may be less than the threat posed by humans outside of it. Examples of animals seen within the zone include Przewalksi’s horses, wolves, badgers, swans, moose, elk, turtles, deer, foxes, beavers, boars, bison, mink, hares, otters, lynx, eagles, rodents, storks, bats, and owls.

Not all animals fare well in the exclusion zone. Invertebrate populations (including bees, butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers, and dragonflies) in particular have diminished. This is likely because the animals lay eggs in the top layer of soil, which contains high levels of radioactivity.

Radionuclides in water have settled into the sediment in lakes. Aquatic organisms are contaminated and face ongoing genetic instability. Affected species include frogs, fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae.

While birds abound in the exclusion zone, they are examples of animals that still face problems from radiation exposure. A study of barn swallows from 1991 to 2006 indicated birds in the exclusion zone displayed more abnormalities than birds from a control sample, including deformed beaks, albinistic feathers, bent tail feathers, and deformed air sacs. Birds in the exclusion zone had less reproductive success. Chernobyl birds (and also mammals) often had smaller brains, malformed sperm, and cataracts.

The Famous Puppies of Chernobyl 

Not all of the animals living around Chernobyl are entirely wild. There are around 900 stray dogs, mostly descended from those left behind when people evacuated the area. Veterinarians, radiation experts, and volunteers from a group called The Dogs of Chernobyl capture the dogs, vaccinate them against diseases, and tag them. In addition to tags, some dogs are fitted with radiation detector collars. The dogs offer a way to map radiation across the exclusion zone and study the ongoing effects of the accident. While scientists generally can’t get a close look at individual wild animals in the exclusion zone, they can monitor the dogs closely. The dogs are, of course, radioactive. Visitors to the area are advised to avoid petting the pooches to minimize radiation exposure.

References 

  • Galván, Ismael; Bonisoli-Alquati, Andrea; Jenkinson, Shanna; Ghanem, Ghanem; Wakamatsu, Kazumasa; Mousseau, Timothy A.; Møller, Anders P. (2014-12-01). “Chronic exposure to low-dose radiation at Chernobyl favours adaptation to oxidative stress in birds”. Functional Ecology. 28 (6): 1387–1403.
  • Moeller, A. P.; Mousseau, T. A. (2009). “Reduced abundance of insects and spiders linked to radiation at Chernobyl 20 years after the accident”. Biology Letters. 5 (3): 356–9.
  • Møller, Anders Pape; Bonisoli-Alquati, Andea; Rudolfsen, Geir; Mousseau, Timothy A. (2011). Brembs, Björn, ed. “Chernobyl Birds Have Smaller Brains”. PLoS ONE. 6 (2): e16862.
  • Poiarkov, V.A.; Nazarov, A.N.; Kaletnik, N.N. (1995). “Post-Chernobyl radiomonitoring of Ukrainian forest ecosystems”. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 26 (3): 259–271. 
  • Smith, J.T. (23 February 2008). “Is Chernobyl radiation really causing negative individual and population-level effects on barn swallows?”. Biology Letters. The Royal Society Publishing. 4 (1): 63–64. 
  • Wood, Mike; Beresford, Nick (2016). “The wildlife of Chernobyl: 30 years without man”. The Biologist. London,UK: Royal Society of Biology. 63 (2): 16–19. 

Trump administration heads for the dodgy science of the radiation sceptics

December 4, 2018

Is a Little Radiation Good For You? Trump Admin Steps Into Shaky Science, Discover Magazine, By Nathaniel Scharping | October 5, 2018 

For decades, studies have shown that even low doses of radiation are harmful to humans.

This week, the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration may be reconsidering that. The Environmental Protection Agency seemed to be looking at raising the levels of radiation considered dangerous to humans based on a controversial theory rejected by mainstream scientists. The theory suggests that a little radiation might actually be good for our bodies. In April, an EPA press release announced the proposal and included supporting comments from a vocal proponent of the hypothesis, known as hormesis. It prompted critical opinion pieces and sparked worry among radiation safety advocates.

EPA’s decision to move away from the radiation dose model widely accepted by the scientific mainstream. But by Friday, the EPA backed away from Calabrese’s stance in comments to Discover.

The debate cuts to the heart of the debate over the effects of low doses of radiation and reveals how difficult it is to craft clear guidelines in an area where scientific evidence is not clear cut.

Radiation Debate

When radiation damages our DNA, the body steps in to make repairs. Hormesis suggests that hitting the body with a little more radiation should kick our defensive mechanisms into overdrive. According to proponents of the theory, this results in the production of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce our risk for cancer and heart disease, among other things. That’s why hormesis backers want the EPA to raise the level of acceptable radiation, pointing out that it would also save millions in safety costs.

It sounds convincing, and proponents have dozens of studies to point to that they say back up their claims. But, there’s never been a large-scale human study of hormesis. And while studies of low-dose radiation are very hard to do, so far, most suggest that radiation is indeed bad for us, at any dose.

“Large, epidemiological studies provide substantial scientific evidence that even low doses of radiation exposure increase cancer risk,” says Diana Miglioretti, a professor in biostatistics at the University of California, Davis in an email. “Risks associated with low-doses of radiation are small; however, if large populations are exposed, the evidence suggests it will lead to measurable numbers of radiation-induced cancers.”

Long-term studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing survivors show higher cancer risks. Marshall Islanders exposed to radiation from atomic bomb tests suffered a higher risk of thyroid disease. And patients who get CT scans, which deliver a dose of radiation equal to thousands of X-rays, saw cancer risks go up afterward. Researchers also found that radiation from childhood CT scans can triple the risk of leukemia and, at higher doses, triple the risk of brain cancers as well. Another found that low-dose radiation increased the risk of breast cancer among some some women.

And large-scale reviews of the evidence for hormesis find that it is decidedly lacking. Two studies, one in 2006 by the National Research Council, and another in 2018 by the National Council and Radiation Protection and Measurements looking at 29 studies of radiation exposure find no evidence for hormesis, and reiterate that the evidence points toward radiation being bad for us even at low doses.

Scientific Uncertainty

It’s difficult to study low doses of radiation, though, and that’s where much of the controversy comes from. At doses below a few hundred millisieverts (mSv), a radiation unit that accounts for its effects on the body, it becomes extraordinarily hard to separate out the effects of radiation from other things like lifestyle or genetics. Research on the effects of these small radiation doses often use data sets involving thousands of people to compensate for the minimal effect sizes, but even then it’s often not enough to be certain what’s happening.

“Data collected at low doses (defined by the scientific community [as] exposures less than 100 mSv) suffers from a ‘signal to noise’ problem which limits our ability to conclusively state effects one way or another,” says Kathryn Higley, head of the school of nuclear science and engineering at Oregon State University in an email.

A single CT scan delivers anywhere from 1 to 15 mSv, but some patients need many scans during the course of their treatment, increasing the total dose. Workers cleaning up after the Fukushima meltdown received radiation doses above 100 mSv in some cases. And current U.S. standards limit radiation workers to no more than 50 mSv of exposure per year.

Many studies indicate that there are dangers at that level, but it’s often an assumption. Those studies base their suppositions on what’s called the linear no-threshold model, which extrapolates more reliable data from studies of higher doses of radiation to lower doses. Though it may be an educated guess, for decades large-scale studies have indicated this is true.

……….. The EPA in recent days appeared to back away from the suggestion that it supported hormesis. The agency released a statement in response to the APstory affirming that it intends to continue using the linear no-threshold model when constructing radiation guidelines, something that contradicts Calabrese’s comments in the April press release.

“The proposed regulation doesn’t talk about radiation or any particular chemicals. EPA’s policy is to continue to use the linear-no-threshold model for population-level radiation protection purposes which would not – under the proposed regulation that has not been finalized – trigger any change in that policy,” said an EPA spokesman in response to a request for comment.

Radiologist Rebecca Smith-Bindman says the vast bulk of the evidence suggests even small amounts of radiation are harmful. We shouldn’t base our policies on an unproven theory, she adds.

“There is extensive evidence that ionizing radiation will cause cancer,” says Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco in an email exchange. “These data come from a range of different sources, including epidemiological data (such as studies of patients who have received diagnostic and therapeutic radiation and from environmental exposures and accidents), from animal studies and from basic science studies. While it is more difficult to precisely quantify the exposures — which will vary by many factors, such as age at exposure, and source of radiation, etc. — there is no uncertainty among the scientific community that radiation will cause cancer.”

She says that pointing to issues with the linear no-threshold model misses the point. Though it may not be totally accurate at very low doses, she says it’s unfair to use that uncertainty to cast doubt on data about radiation where there’s solid evidence.

…….. Miglioretti says “Based on the large body of evidence to date, I believe that revising the regulations to increase allowable radiation exposure limits will lead to an increase in the number of radiation-induced cancers in this country.”

That’s in line with what multiple experts Discover contacted believe — that radiation can harm even at low doses and raising limits would endanger the public, though the increase in risk would likely be small.

It’s not clear at the moment whether the EPA proposal to raise limits will pass, though it does follow in the footsteps of other Trump administration proposals to weaken safety standards. At the moment, it’s unclear what the effects on the public if the EPA raises radiation limits.

“Perhaps it might make nuclear power plants less expensive to build. It might lower the cost of cleanup of radioactively polluted sites,” says David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in an email. “But [it] begs the question of whether cleanup to a less rigorous standard is desirable.” http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2018/10/05/epa-trump-administation-radiation-guidelines/#.W99ZFtIzbGg

One veteran’s story of radiation effects of participating in nuclear bomb testing

November 3, 2018
Wigan veteran reveals radiation exposure horror, https://www.wigantoday.net/news/wigan-veteran-reveals-radiation-exposure-horror-1-9425139  ANDREW NOWELL  02 November 2018
  A Wigan veteran has spoken of being a “guinea pig” in nuclear tests on a remote Pacific island and the shocking chapter of British military history being forgotten. Alan Evans was one of thousands of British troops exposed to high levels of radiation while atomic weapons were being tested on Christmas Island.
He spent a year at the desolate spot half the world away when he was just 20 years old and described how the lethal work was carried out with no proper safety equipment and no information about what was happening to them. His experiences left him with life-changing health issues, as half his stomach had to be removed shortly after being demobbed and his teeth were also taken out.
Mr Evans, who is now 80, also spoke of being one of the “forgotten veterans” who went to Christmas Island and says he just wants their experiences to be recognised. Mr Evans, of Lime Street, said: “They just told us we were going to Christmas Island. At 19 years old I thought that was alright. I hadn’t a clue what was going on. “They billeted us in tents all the time we were there and we were allocated these jobs. “I think they detonated five bombs while I was there. When they did everybody had to go down to what they called the port side and sit down with our backs towards the sea. We were only wearing shirts and shorts and a pair of sunglasses.
“When the explosion happened you could feel the heat and you could more or less see through your hands, right to the bones. “We would then be told to stand up and turn around to look out to sea. We could see the mushroom cloud forming. “I was given the job of monitoring people as they came back out of what they called the dirty area. I had a geiger counter if it the reading went up so far they had to have a shower. “We also monitored the pilots because their gear was full of radiation and had to scrub the planes down with brushes.
“We even had to do our laundry in the dirty area. We would clean the clothes there, hang them up to dry and then wear them again. We also buried these lead boxes of samples in a big pit we dug for them.
“We were guines pigs, purely and simply. That’s why we were put there.” Alan had joined the RAF in 1956 and ended up serving for four years, with his year-long stint on Christmas Island coming in 1958. Almost immediately after returning, though, he started to feel unwell but now suspects he encountered a wall of silence from the forces keen to keep the details of the nuclear testing quiet. His condition went downhill dramatically once he returned to civilian life.
He said: “When I got back I had about six months to do so I went to Catterick but I was unwell, I was being sick. I kept going to the medical officer but he kept fobbing me off and saying there was nothing wrong with me. “I was told while I was on home leave that I should demand an X-ray but they told me there was nothing there. “When I got demobbed I went for an X-ray and they found an ulcer in my stomach straight away. “I was in the operating theatre for several hours while they took half my stomach away. When I came round the nurse told me that if I had left it longer before seeking treatment I wouldn’t still be here because it would have burst when they opened me up. “When I came out of the forces I lost four and a half stone. The weight just fell off me. I was always a fit young man playing sport but I couldn’t do anything after I came home. “For the first 12 years of my working life after being demobbed if I did three days a week I was lucky. It takes me five or six hours to digest my food and I can’t eat a lot.” Mr Evans says he was recently heartened to see the issue of the Christmas Island veterans raised in the Wigan Observer by Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.
He feels the story is nowhere near as well known as it should be and points out that Britain has treated those who were exposed to nuclear tests uniquely poorly. He says he has asked his family to continue battling in the future to ensure this particular episode in military history is not forgotten. However, despite his ordeal and the lifelong consequences he suffered as a result he says he feels absolutely no bitterness or anger towards the military. Mr Evans said: “We are the forgotten veterans and we are also the living proof of what happened out there. I spoke to people at the new armed forces hub and even they didn’t know about it. “It wasn’t exactly a war and we didn’t fight with guns so it is forgotten about, although it was almost as bad as being in a war. “I just think there should be recognition of what we have done, those of us left and the many lads who are dead and buried. “I know there’s a push again for us to get a medal but what’s happening with that we don’t know. “Every country in the world has recognised what we went through except Britain. The Isle of Man gave people compensation, but it’s not about the money.
“I’ve nothing against the forces. I would have stayed in but I couldn’t because I was medically unfit. “I enjoyed every minute I was in the military. The only bad thing was Christmas Island.”

The personal struggle – a rare brain cancer – nothing to do with his radiation exposure at Los Alamos National Laboratory?

November 3, 2018

Half Life Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer, and the government denied that it had any responsibility , Pro Publica, by Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 26 Oct 18,“………A Gap Between Records and Recollection

CHAD WAS CLEARED TO RETURN TO HIS JOB at the lab in late January 2015, four months after his diagnosis. He’d undergone radiation and two chemotherapy treatments, and Los Alamos’ occupational medicine staff said he was fit to continue working with classified material, his medical records show. At risk for seizures, he couldn’t drive or climb stairs or ladders. Chad carpooled and had Angela drive him to the laboratory several times a week. His supervisor offered him a desk job, a step down from his managerial role — but one that kept his health insurance running. He accepted. The only real alternative was termination.

Roark says the lab’s goal is to treat all employees with debilitating conditions with “utmost respect” and says when employees are unable to perform the functions of their jobs, Los Alamos “makes reasonable efforts to accommodate them,” which can result in job reassignment.

Separately, to process his claim for cancer benefits, the Department of Labor also told Chad it would need all of his medical and radiation exposure records from the lab. The Department of Labor sends these to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, another federal agency that uses a probability equation to determine if a worker had a high enough dose of radiation to cause cancer. If the computer found a 50 percent or higher correlation, Chad would get benefits.

When the records arrived from Los Alamos, containing a single CD and a brief letter, it was the first time Chad realized that his own experience differed from what the lab had noted in its records.

The lab had found “no records” of Chad having been exposed to anything or other environmental occupational hazards, the letter said. And his dosimetry report, a spreadsheet that showed his total dose of radiation annually, was scant.

The lab had not tracked Chad’s radiation exposure in 1999, his first year on the job, the report indicated, or in 2000, when the Cerro Grande fire burned. External monitoring began in 2001 but showed a clean zero for 11 out of the next 14 years. (Only in 2008, 2013 and 2014 were there any hits on the report.)

The report said his total dose was 0.254 rems over his career, well below safety limits and slightly less than an average person gets from background radiation from the sun and environment in a single year. A rem is a unit used to measure the absorbed dose of radiation, with 1 rem equivalent to a CT scan, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Chad marveled at the document. It didn’t track with his memory — or hold any record of the time he’d been called in for going over his limit and accused of taking his badge to the airport, or when he was sent home wearing disposable clothes.

“They aren’t on here,” Chad said when he looked at the document.

It also seemed impossible there were so many years that were completely blank.

Asked about the discrepancy between Walde’s memory and the reports, Los Alamos spokesman Roark said, in general, that the lab “maintains a comprehensive archive of worker radiation dosimetry data” and that it “provides any and all records in response to requests as quickly as possible.”

When NIOSH reviewed the records, it had a simple way to fill in the gaps. For the two years when Chad was not monitored, NIOSH assumed the maximum dose he could have been exposed to was the maximum background radiation at the lab (which was 0.4 rem), adding in the possibility of a couple missed readings.

NIOSH said Chad’s records showed he had been exposed to “various sources of radiation during his employment,” but the maximum dose he could have received at the lab, based on its calculations and assumptions, was a 3.744 rem dose to the brain. The agency modeled his probability for cancer based on how this amount of radiation would affect and mutate cells of the thyroid. It does not have a model for how external radiation might impact brain tissue.

On a phone call with a NIOSH claims representative in September 2015, Chad asked why the agency used general air monitoring data to fill in his missed readings. Chad, who made a recording of the call, said this would fail to account for the radiation present at the more dangerous nuclear areas he had been assigned to.

He told the representative how his badge often took hits. Like he’d told his father-in-law, and his friends, Chad said his boss kept asking him why his readings were “above the reporting levels.”

I “wonder if we are not missing something,” Chad said on the recording. “I also worry about the Los Alamos reporting,” relaying instances in which the lab certified an area free of radiation only to discover contamination later while he was working on a maintenance job. Chad began to talk about something he witnessed at the liquid radioactive waste plant but trailed off, saying, “I don’t know if I am allowed to say any of this stuff — never mind.”

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Chad Walde’s radiation shells hang in the garage of his family’s home. The shells help keep the head still while a patient receives radiotherapy. (Adria Malcolm, special to ProPublica)

Stu Hinnefeld, director of the divis  Stu Hinnefeld, director of the division of compensation analysis and support for NIOSH, said in an interview that those exposed to radiation have a “relatively low” likelihood of developing brain cancer compared with lung and thyroid cancers. He said the institute’s risk models, as a result, require a worker to have a much higher documented exposure to radiation than many of the other cancers in order to get compensation.

The Department of Labor concluded there was just a 2.67 percent chance his cancer was related to his radiation exposure history. His claim was denied on Jan. 14, 2016.

Chad’s dates of employment made him more likely to be rejected than if he had worked at the lab in a prior era. Overall, the Department of Labor has approved nearly 60 percent of claims filed by Los Alamos workers for cancer and beryllium disease. But for workers who started working at the lab after 1996, that figure falls to 45 percent, according to data requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said, “While gaps in past records have existed at some sites, workers in the modern era have more extensive monitoring records. There are no unexplained gaps or readings in this employee’s radiation dose records.”

Still, Chad wanted to appeal. Over the next year, he would undergo another surgery and start experiencing frequent seizures, at one point spending two days in a coma in Texas, where the family had traveled for the twins’ volleyball tournament, when the spasms refused to subside. The family held “Gray Be Gone” fundraisers, referring to the color of the tumor tissue, to raise money to send Chad to MD Anderson for treatment. He also started clinical trials with a doctor in New Mexico.

During that time, Chad learned that he was not the only person at Los Alamos who thought missing records had led the Department of Labor to deny a claim.

For more than a decade, workers at Los Alamos have been telling federal officials that similar data and records problems have prevented them from getting compensation. In June 2005, at a NIOSH forum for the lab’s technical workers’ union, one worker said the lab “had lied and falsified documents right and left … the monitors were turned off, people weren’t qualified to be doing the monitoring, the equipment was never calibrated,” according to meeting minutes.

Another man, an X-ray technician, said his personal radiation badge always showed up with zero contamination.

Falsified radiation data or medical records have been documented at other labs, including in 2003 at Savannah River Site in South Carolina and Hanford Site in Washington state. Radiation records also were falsified at an Ohio nuclear facility in 2013. The Department of Energy fined lab managers in South Carolina and Ohio more than $200,000 each for “willful falsification.”

Los Alamos has not been fined for willful falsification of health records, but it has been cited within the past year for serious safety violations and for failing to check laboratory rooms for toxic chemicals before allowing workers to enter. Internal incident reports from the early 2000s, obtained by NIOSH, described how records had been removed from radiation log books, “deliberate tampering” with nasal swipe samples (used to test if a worker inhaled radioactive particles) and problems with workers not wearing their radiation badges.

Soon after Chad’s diagnosis, another electrician on his crew, Cesario Lopez, told Chad he’d recently had part of his kidney taken out after being diagnosed with cancer. Both Lopez’s mother and uncle, who worked at the lab before him, had been diagnosed with cancer, too. Lopez applied for and was denied compensation by the Department of Labor but has appealed.

Then Chad learned about his friend Gilbert Mondragon. Mondragon started working as an electrician on the fire protection crew in August 1999, three months before Chad. Mondragon was just 19 and from the beginning saw Chad as a mentor. Chad, he said, taught him how to have a good attitude at work and find value in it. That became harder after Mondragon was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the spring of 2014 at the age of 34.

Like Chad, Mondragon’s radiation report showed 14 straight years of zeroes, and only two years, 2006 and 2007, in which his badge took any hits, totaling 67 millirems of radiation over 16 years.

“It’s not like people think it is,” Mondragon said about lab safety. He, like Chad, recalled several times he’d been decontaminated and given new work clothes or boots.

Mondragon believes some of the zeroes are also the result of being told, by his supervisors, to take his badge off when he was doing work in contaminated places. “Now I know better,” he said, “but it’s too late.”

Roark, the lab spokesman, denies workers were ever told to remove their badges, saying its “Radiation Protection Program would never allow, endorse or recommend removing dosimeters to avoid contamination.”

Ken Silver, who sits on a Department of Labor advisory board and is a professor of environmental health at East Tennessee State University, testified before Congressin 2007 that instructing workers to remove their radiation badges was a common practice for “cleanup crews” at Los Alamos in the past. Silver said this practice was based on the belief that if a badge was contaminated, workers would go on to spread radiation throughout the laboratory, which he called a “flimsy assumption.”

Los Alamos officials did not testify at the hearing. But the lab says its rate of injuries has dropped significantly since 2006 and is well below the industry average. The laboratory says it does not track the cause of death for its employees.

Hinnefeld said NIOSH has looked into allegations that workers were told to remove their badges and, “We hear that on occasion.” But he said, in the past, officials have concluded that this wouldn’t affect how the agency reconstructs a worker’s radiation exposure because a single missed reading is unlikely to hold much weight in the overall career of a worker.

Diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, which his physician has linked to chemical exposure, Mondragon resigned from the lab this winter. The doctors’ visits have consumed his life. His cancer claim, like Chad’s, also was rejected by the Department of Labor, but he was told he would likely be accepted if he were to develop another cancer.

For the last six months, he has relied on the help of an oxygen tank to breathe, trailing a long, green plastic tube wherever he goes…..more https://features.propublica.org/los-alamos/chad-walde-nuclear-facility-radiation-cancer/

Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer

November 3, 2018
Half Life Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer, and the government denied that it had any responsibility. Pro Publica, by Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 26 Oct 18, “……..That unanswered question — what killed Chad Walde? — nagged at Angela.
There had been other funerals, even that month, for other people who had worked at Los Alamos, one of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons laboratories. Several, like Chad, had died of cancer. Others had thyroid diseases and breathing problems, and they suspected that some of the maladies might stem from contaminated work environments or from the large fire that burned through the vast lab property in 2000. Nobody knew for sure if the illnesses were connected to work at the lab, but they wondered.

For decades, Los Alamos had been criticized for sacrificing workers’ health and safety in the name of atomic progress. In 1999, Bill Richardson, the energy secretary, acknowledged that nuclear sites had concealed information and “sent many of our workers into harm’s way.” He said the government intended to “right the wrongs of the past.” Then, in 2000, Congress passed a compensation act, offering medical benefits and payouts for workers with radiation-related cancers and other occupational ailments. But the government, and Los Alamos in particular, has said that those lapses were in the past, and that they have put in place rules and practices to protect safety. The lab says radiation exposures have been “consistently recorded” over many decades.

Despite these pledges, Chad and his co-workers said safety problems continued. They witnessed accidents and heard the sudden, unexpected blare of radiation alarms. They watched crews come in to decontaminate buildings and run radiation detectors over their hands and feet. They had their limbs scrubbed and clothing replaced. Sometimes days would pass before anyone realized contamination had spread. Many workers say their memories of poor work conditions and high personal radiation readings don’t match the government’s scant records .
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Angela Walde poses for a portrait inside her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Adria Malcolm, special to ProPublica)

In addition to Chad, at least four others on his maintenance crew had been diagnosed with cancer in the past five years.

Before his death, Chad filed a claim for federal benefits, joining more than 1,400 people who said they became sick from radiation exposure for work done within the last 20 years at the lab, according to data obtained by the Santa Fe New Mexican under the Freedom of Information Act. An additional 335 dead workers also had claims filed on their behalf.

Angela would later discover that Chad’s personnel file contained little mention of the radiation exposures and no record of the safety scares her husband had told her about over the years.

Now, in the church, she listened to the country music playing softly and to the minister in prayer. After his treatments, Chad would laugh and tell his friends, “I get more radiation sitting in my office at Los Alamos.” Even when he was suffering and in pain, he would smile and say he was living the dream.

Looking at his closed coffin, Angela wished she could go back 18 years and tell him to find a different job, far from laboratories and nuclear weapons.b

A New Career, and the Risk of Radiation

ON HIS FIRST DAY OF WORK AT LOS ALAMOS, Chad Walde got dressed in the dark. It was the fall of 1999 and a week before his 27th birthday. The drive from Albuquerque to Los Alamos took nearly two hours, and as he got on the highway in a small, white Ford Escort, just after 5 a.m., the hulking peaks of the Sandia Mountains would have been cast in silhouette.

The town of Los Alamos was just beginning to stir around the time he arrived. Log cabins preserved from the government’s military takeover during World War II mingled with modern buildings. The roads had been named after famous scientists and atomic testing grounds. Trinity Drive. Bikini Atoll Road. Oppenheimer Drive. Gamma Ray. When he reached the white laboratory gates, lines of cars had already begun to form, each stopping at booths to present armed guards with ID.

Inside, Chad was issued a special Z number, unique to each employee at Los Alamos, which would become a proxy for his identity there. In the days to come, he underwent several medical exams and was asked to detail any prior exposure to 81 hazardous radionuclides, explosives, chemicals, gases or lab animals. He circled no to each. He wasn’t perfect: He smoked, drank intermittently and, for a man over 6 feet tall, was overweight. A doctor found no abnormalities on his head, eyes, heart, lungs, thyroid, limbs or spine. His bloodwork came back normal.

Chad was still adjusting to life as a civilian. He had left the Navy four months earlier and moved his family back to Albuquerque, where he’d been working odd jobs as an electrician. After four years on the USS Lake Champlain, sailing to ports in the Middle East and Asia, Chad still missed the sea, the way the sun turned red as it set in the middle of the ocean. Now, he’d be working at a hallowed place. And, making $22 per hour, he’d earn more than he ever had in his life.

Chad knew about the lab’s historic role in creating the first atomic bombs, but little else. He didn’t know that its nuclear mission had come with a human toll.

Employees of the complex had long complained of health problems, but quietly, often only to friends and families. Speaking ill of the lab was considered by some as anti-American, and some whistleblowers said they were often ostracized by colleagues and pushed out or fired for reporting problems. Most who’ve sought state workers’ compensation over the years for illnesses they attributed to their work at the lab have had their claims aggressively challenged in court.

Out of a fear of liability, the famed nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who served as the lab’s first director, mandated that health records be labeled top secret, according to a memo written by his colleague in 1946 and declassified in the 1990s………more https://features.propublica.org/los-alamos/chad-walde-nuclear-facility-radiation-cancer/

There’s money in denying the science about ionising radiation – it’s useful nuclear lobby spin

November 3, 2018
Recently, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) – scientists who provide guidance and recommendations on radiation protection under a mandate from Congress – supported the LNT model. NCRP analyzed 29 epidemiological studies and found that the data was “broadly supportive” of the LNT model and that “no alternative dose-response relationship appears more pragmatic or prudent for radiation protection purposes.”
In fact, the National Academies’ Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, the International Council on Radiation Protection, and other international bodies and regulators all use the LNT model for guidance and radiation protection.
Scientist-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, October 19, 2018 The Takata Corporation sold defective air bag inflators that resulted in the death of 16 people in the United States and a massive recall of cars. While it was rare for the air bags to fail, the brutal consequences of this defective device in even minor collisions was easy to recognize. But the effects of low-dose ionizing radiation – high energy waves or particles that can strip electrons from atoms and physically damage cells and the DNA within – on people’s health is much harder to see, and prove.
When the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency solicited the advice of a controversial toxicologist, Edward Calabrese, to consider changes to how it regulates radiation, it sent shock waves through the radiation protection community. Calabrese is well known for his unconventional and outlying view that low-dose radiation is not dangerous.It is important to note that the health effects of high doses of radiation are well established. We all know about the horrific effects based on studies of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped. Then there was also the recent case of Russian defector Alexander Litvenenko who quickly sickened and died 23 days after being poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in 2006.However, the effects of low doses of radiation are not well understood. Part of the reason is that these low doses are difficult to measure.

Current understanding of the health effect of radiation relies primarily on a decades-long study of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb attacks. That population was exposed to a one-time large dose of radiation, with individual exposure dependent on where they were at the time of the explosion.
In those high-dose radiation studies, researchers found that there is a proportionate relationship between dose and effect. The way the EPA gauges the effect of low doses of radiation draws from these studies as well as studies following other incidents. The current guidelines for the EPA adhere to what is called the linear no-threshold (LNT) model, which implies that even low doses of radiation have an effect across a population. Some scientists dubbed it to be a “reverse lottery,” where an unlucky few within a given population will get cancer during their lifetime due to their exposure to radiation.

There have been questions as to whether the LNT model is appropriate for measuring cancer risk from low doses of radiation. That’s because when the radiation-induced cancer rate is low, and the sample size is small, there is more statistical uncertainty in the measurement. This allows more wiggle room in putting forward alternative dose-response models such as Calabrese’s, which have little scientific backing but that promise financial benefits for regulated industries.

Overall, the general feeling in the radiation protection community is that for now until new research proves otherwise, the LNT model, because of the lack of understanding of the effect of low doses, is the prudent model to use to set protective limits.

Also, not being able to determine the effect of a low dose of radiation is a problem in measurement, not in the underlying linear threshold model. As doses of radiation decrease, fewer cases of radiation-induced cancers occur, making it more difficult to identify those specific cases.

This is especially true given that cancer is already a common occurrence, making it nearly impossible to disentangle radiation exposure from many other potential cancer risk factors. This is where the analogy with Takata air bags fails, because it is not possible to prove that a specific cancer death is due to ionizing radiation, but this does not make it any less real or significant.

Who profits if radiation guidelines change

The EPA issues guidance and sets regulations to “limit discharges of radioactive material affecting members of the public” associated with the nuclear energy industry. The EPA defines what radiation levels are acceptable for a protective cleanup of radioactive contamination at Superfund sites. It also provides guidance on the levels of radiation exposure that would trigger a mass evacuation. It is not surprising that certain stakeholders would welcome modifications in EPA assessment of low-dose radiation exposure given the high costs involved in preventing or cleaning up sites and in compensating victims of such exposure.

Recently, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) – scientists who provide guidance and recommendations on radiation protection under a mandate from Congress – supported the LNT model. NCRP analyzed 29 epidemiological studies and found that the data was “broadly supportive” of the LNT model and that “no alternative dose-response relationship appears more pragmatic or prudent for radiation protection purposes.”

In fact, the National Academies’ Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, the International Council on Radiation Protection, and other international bodies and regulators all use the LNT model for guidance and radiation protection.

From my perspective, as someone who has worked with radioactive sources, the EPA should be cognizant of the warning by the late Harvard sociologist Daniel Yankelovich that just because an effect can’t be easily quantified does not mean it is not important or does not exist.

“Transparency”- the Trump administration’s dirty trick to strangle access to reputable science on nuclear radiation  

November 3, 2018

Yes, radiation is bad for you. The EPA’s ‘transparency rule’ would be even worse.  The Trump administration wants to strangle access to reputable science.    

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/10/08/yes-radiation-is-bad-you-epas-transparency-rule-would-be-even-worse/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b7e530a79729 By Audra J. Wolfe, 8 Oct 18   Audra J. Wolfe is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, and historian. She is the author of Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science.

Last Tuesday, a headline from the Associated Press sparked outrage in the ordinarily quiet world of science policy. The Environmental Protection Agency, the story suggested, was considering relaxing guidelines for low-dose ionizing radiation, on the theory that “a bit of radiation may be good for you.” Within hours, the AP had issued a correction. As it turned out, the EPA was not, after all, endorsing hormesis, the theory that small doses of toxic chemicals might help the body, much like sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D.

Instead, the EPA was doing something much scarier: It was holding hearings on the “Transparency Rule,” which would restrict the agency to using studies that make a complete set of their underlying data and models publicly available. The rule is similar to an “Open Science” order issued by the Interior Department last month, and incorporates language from the HONEST Act, a bill that passed in the House in 2017 but later stalled in the Senate. The HONEST Act originally required that scientific studies provide enough data that an independent party could replicate the experiment — which is simply not realistic for large-scale longitudinal studies.

Although these rules cite the need to base regulatory policy on the “best available science,” make no mistake: They aim to strangle access to reputable studies.

The Transparency Rule continues the Trump administration’s pattern of anti-science policies. The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is a ghost town, with most of the major positions, including the director’s post, vacant since January 2017. Agencies and departments across the board, including the State Department and the Agriculture Department, are dropping their science advisers and bleeding scientific staff. It’s getting harder and harder for federal rulemakers to access expertise.

Understanding what’s wrong with “transparency,” at least as defined by these policies, requires a closer look at how scientists work. Let’s say you’re trying to understand the health effects of a one-time, accidental release of a toxic chemical. This incident might be epidemiologists’ only chance to investigate how this particular chemical interacts with both the air and the humans who breathe it, at varying doses, over a period of time. No matter how careful your approach, your study would fall short of the replicability standard.

You wouldn’t have baseline health information for the specific people who happened to be in the area. You might not have information on which residents had air filtration systems installed in their homes, or which residents were working outside when the incident took place. Your early results would, by definition, reflect only short-term health outcomes, rather than long-term effects. And you couldn’t replicate the study (with better controls) without endangering the health of thousands of people. In such cases, scientists have to extrapolate from existing, sometimes imperfect, data to protect the public.

Epidemiologists have community standards, including peer review, to evaluate these kinds of studies. A careful, peer-reviewed study of this hypothetical incident might well represent the “best available science” on this particular

chemical. Regulators might rely on this study to establish the permissible levels of this chemical in the air we breathe. But now, let’s also say that this study took place 30 years ago. The leading scientists involved are dead, and no one kept their files. The raw data are, effectively, lost. Should scientists at the EPA be blocked from using the study?

Despite what made last week’s headlines, the EPA’s Oct. 3 hearing went beyond radiation. In fact, its lead witness, University of Massachusetts toxicologist Edward Calabrese, barely mentioned his theory of radiation hormesis. Instead, his testimony argued that the EPA should no longer rely on linear no-threshold (LNT) models for any number of hazards, including toxic chemicals and soil pollutants. In toxicology, LNT models assume that the biological effects of a given substance are directly connected to the amount of the exposure, with no minimum dose required. Radiation protections standards are based on LNT models; so are basic regulations involving ozone, particulate pollution, and chemical exposure.

The original studies asserting a LNT model for low-dose ionizing radiation were conducted in the 1950s. Like our hypothetical epidemiologist investigating a toxic chemical release, the geneticists who tried to understand the biological effects of atomic radiation were working with imperfect data, much of which is no longer available. The concept of a “comprehensive data management policy” simply did not exist in 1955. These particular studies were primarily based on survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Japan. The scientists also extrapolated from high-dose exposure data in fruit flies and mice and from unethical high-dose experiments conducted on humans.

These studies are imperfect, but focusing on their limitations misses the broader scandal. These studies took place during the heyday of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, an era when both the United States and the Soviet Union were pumping the atmosphere full of radioactive nucleotides. Some of the areas near the testing zones received so much radiation that they are still uninhabitable today. The tests coated the entire planet with a scrim of radiation. The Atomic Energy Commission, the agency in charge of the United States’ nuclear weapons program, didn’t even attempt to investigate the potential health effects of this constant, low-dose exposure to ionizing radiation on the world’s population. Studies of low-dose radiation were expensive, inconvenient, and politically risky, potentially jeopardizing the weapons testing program and therefore the United States’ ability to fight the Soviet Union. From the government’s perspective, it was better not to know.

This week, a sensational headline distracted us from a broader crisis. Without government support for research of environmental hazards, the public’s health is left to either the whims of industry researchers, who have a strong incentive to play down their dangers, or to public advocacy groups, which are too easily smeared with charges of anti-industry bias. The “transparency” movement supposedly resolves this crisis of authority by giving the public access to the underlying data on which science is based, but it ignores the power dynamics that determine which research questions get asked, and why and how they’re answered.

In the past, Americans looked to their federal science agencies and science advisers to resolve these sorts of disputes. But a few weeks ago, the EPA announced that it, too, would be eliminating its Office of the Science Adviser. With the science offices empty, who will decide?

There is one bright spot in all of this: On Sept. 28, bipartisan legislation authorized the Energy Department to restart its low-dose radiation research program. But what about the other pollutants that the EPA supposedly regulates? Who will produce the kinds of science deemed acceptable under the “transparency” rule?

“Transparency” has become another way to cultivate institutional ignorance. Americans deserve better from the agencies that are supposed to protect them. In the case of environmental hazards, what you don’t know can hurt you.