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Scientific Jigsaw Puzzle: Fitting the Pieces of the Low-Level Radiation Debate

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the is-that-your-watch-or-my-geiger-counter? dept.

Medicine 140

New submitter Lasrick writes "Skip past the dry abstract to Jan Beyea's main article for a thorough exploration of what's wrong with current 'safe' levels of low-level radiation exposure. The Bulletin is just releasing its 'Radiation Issue,' which is available for free for two weeks. It explores how the NRC may be changing recommended safe dosages, and how the studies for prolonged exposure have, until recently, been based on one-time exposures (Hiroshima, etc.). New epidemiological studies on prolonged exposure (medical exposures, worker exposures, etc.) are more accurate and tell a different tale. This is a long article, but reads well." Here's the free, downloadable PDF version, too.

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Short summary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858185)

Ionizing radiation causes cancer. More ionizing radiation causes more cancer. There is no "safe dose", though there is a certain unavoidable dose. So we're all at risk of cancer if we live long enough.

Re:Short summary (4, Interesting)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858255)

Precisely - "low-level" at Sellafield in the UK used to mean "lower than the background level", and people still got hysterical about it. We need to stop with the wooly-language descriptions and simply use the established units, or units-above-background where applicable. Is low level gamma worse than high level alpha? Is holding a piece of uranium for 5 minutes more or less dangerous than sleeping 10ft away from it for a week? People have no idea, including most of the media, we need to throw out the "levels" model and actually educate people so they can understand the risks properly.

Re:Short summary (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858387)

We need to stop with the wooly-language descriptions and simply use the established units, or units-above-background where applicable.

So what are the established units for radiation? Godzillas per century?

Re:Short summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858535)

How about the sievert?

Or sieverts/unit-time, with several time units to account for the fact that different durations have different threat levels.

Re:Short summary (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859295)

The problem with sieverts is that its never used to a large enough degree that people can recognize its size.
A example of a almost universally known unit: Seconds. 3600 is a hour, 7200 is 2 as some might spot, and anything over that people have no idea about the amount of time it amounts to. If i say 22 680 seconds, people have no idea about what amount of time that is, beyond that its a lot of time.

Re:Short summary (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861539)

The problem with sieverts is that its never used to a large enough degree that people can recognize its size.
A example of a almost universally known unit: Seconds. 3600 is a hour, 7200 is 2 as some might spot, and anything over that people have no idea about the amount of time it amounts to. If i say 22 680 seconds, people have no idea about what amount of time that is, beyond that its a lot of time.

Ok, so your problem with sieverts is also a problem with seconds, and seconds are in every day usage.

By your estimation then, we are screwed, and can't possibly talk about levels of radiation, because people's eyes gloss over when we talk about long periods of time using an inappropriate unit of time measurement. You apparently see no way out of this problem, and you throw up your hands in despair, and walk off in resignation.

Here's a novel idea:

How about prefixing Seiverts with milli, micro, or mega as the case may be? We all figured out that a milliliter was a lot smaller than a liter, and a millimeter was far shorter than a meter, and and kilometer was way longer. Do you suppose the average house wife or 5th grader could make the mental leap to millisieverts? Could it possibly work? [wikipedia.org]

Na, that's crazy talk, it could never work.

Re:Short summary (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858555)

Hiroshima discharges per fortnight.

Re:Short summary (4, Insightful)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858769)

Bananas.

Re:Short summary (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858997)

Libraries of Congress per car analogy.

Re:Short summary (1)

dcherryholmes (1322535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860243)

I prefer the REM, but in academia and health physics it seems the Sievert is more prevalent. They are both units that express not just energy, but biological damage.

Re:Short summary (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861591)

One sievert is equal to 100 rem.

It seems that the principal reason to move away from rem was that it was too large a unit. I suspect a certain amount of Not Invented Here was also involved.

Re:Short summary (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858821)

Exposure is always expressed in amounts over the background rate. So "Lower than background level" effectively means exposure to up to 2x the background level (background level + artificial); there's nothing illogical about being worried about it (though I wouldn't personally be concerned about a ~.0025 Sv per year exposure rate).

As for the rest of your comment, if you read the paper the summary links to, you'll see that all the evidence is pointing toward all exposure (presumably below radiation poisoning levels) carrying approximately the same relative risk. It doesn't matter high or low energy, it doesn't matter if you're exposed in 10 minutes or 10 years. Your total exposure level linearly maps to your risk of cancer (and, new information to me at least, heart attack and stroke).

Re:Short summary (1)

John Da' Baddest (1686670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860531)

So, what's the answer to your which-is-worse questions? Or are you also one of those people who have idea... I'm happy to understand the risks better, educate away.

Re:Short summary (4, Informative)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861535)

Your best bet is to read a high-school level introduction. Concisely, there are three types of radiation from radioactive atoms, alpha, beta and gamma. Alpha is a He nucleus, two protons and two neutrons - it can do a huge amount of damage to living cells, but is easily stopped by, eg, a sheet of paper. Beta is a high speed electron, less damaging but will penetrate clothing etc. Gamma is nasty - it can travel through a reasonable thickness of lead and still do harm.

If we look at the Uranium example, it gives off alpha, so you'd probably be quite safe with it on the other side of the room. Handling it, on the other hand, is an easy way to accidentally ingest some, which would probably be more harmful because it's then inside the body (this goes for any ionizing radiation source). When you see people being showered off after radiation exposure it doesn't stop any harm thats already been done, just reduces the chances that they are still in contact with a source.

This all ignores the fact that Uranium decays into several other isotopes which give off their own idiosyncratic radiation in turn, and a bunch of other things.

Re:Short summary (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861643)

This actually makes no sense though, well it does and doesn't. It does in the sense that the model is flawed as in the average lei person may not now that holding uranium for 5 minutes is less harmful than sleeping 10 ft away from it for a week. It doesn't in the sense that the average lei person doesn't really care. When in their lifetime are they going to be picking up uranium for 5 seconds much less 5 minutes, and if they are sleeping 10 ft away from it, I'd wager they don't know it.

Re:Short summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858411)

Maybe, maybe not.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis

Re:Short summary (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858593)

Ionizing radiation causes cancer... There is no "safe dose"

You seem to have not read the abstract, the whole point of which is at ultra unrealistically low levels, practically homeopathic low levels, the mechanism, the cause/effect seems to not make much sense or is under debate, both real scientific debate and crackpot astroturfing debate. But the article points out that at any realistic dosage level there is not much debate by anybody. So the article pragmatically suggests to only apply real world numbers to real world exposures and ignore the whole topic of unattainably asymptotic low levels. The article argument is the opposite of yours in some ways.

An example of a realistic question at the ultra-low end is, looking at how naturally radioactive some of our high potassium food is, you'd think we'd evolve a way to pee the bad stuff away. Presumably people evolved in granitic-source / volcanic-source soil would be better at it than people evolved in sedimentary-source soil. Another realistic area of cancer research is proving the presence or absence of two-step or catalysts of cancer. Your body is pretty good at dealing with mutant cells, except when it fails and then you die of cancer, whoops. So figuring out why your body fails to kill cancer cells is in many ways more important than trying to figure out how to reduce the number of cells caused by radiation because even if you zero that, you're still going to have random biochemical accidents. Its an interesting theoretical area of research but the article points out for normal human beings its at a level that doesn't matter.

Re:Short summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858791)

"evolve" is a key here. We evolved because of the same stuff that causes cancer. Cancer is just a bad evolution path. Well for us at least, the cancer seems quite fruitful usually.

Re:Short summary (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858943)

Ah I'm not talking about cancer being like evolution, talking about evolution if you live in a niche of really high radioactive potassium consumption from eating bananas all the time, after a bazillion generations you'd expect the survivors to be better than the average human about excreting radioactive or otherwise K and/or getting by with as little of that nasty stuff inside them as possible, despite it being a big part of their diet.

Re:Short summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39859315)

Ah I'm not talking about cancer being like evolution, talking about evolution if you live in a niche of really high radioactive potassium consumption from eating bananas all the time, after a bazillion generations you'd expect the survivors to be better than the average human about excreting radioactive or otherwise K and/or getting by with as little of that nasty stuff inside them as possible, despite it being a big part of their diet.

I was not sure how much a bazillion so I decided to google it and found this [google.com]
It seems like a bazillion is about 125000.

Re:Short summary (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859327)

Then again, most of humanity never "evolved" to live long enough to experience cancer. We can't evolve a measure against it before it starts killing 90% of the population before breeding age.

Re:Short summary (1)

Tyndmyr (811713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860763)

Irradiating babies for science? Sounds like it'd work.

Re:Short summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858981)

"An example of a realistic question at the ultra-low end is, looking at how naturally radioactive some of our high potassium food is, you'd think we'd evolve a way to pee the bad stuff away. "

We do excrete potassium. Some other artificial isotopes and their decay products tend to accumulate. See the difference between 'biological half life' and 'radiological half life'.

Re:Short summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39860449)

at ultra unrealistically low levels, practically homeopathic low levels

Surely these would be healthy? Possibly even curing cancer?

Re:Short summary (1, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859219)

There is no "safe dose"

Citation, please.

Bad article, little information [Re:Short summary] (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859265)

Ionizing radiation causes cancer. More ionizing radiation causes more cancer.

Of course. The question is, how much more cancer is caused by a given dose of radiation?

Unfortunately, this is a question that the paper in question does not answer, because it completely neglects to mention actual numbers. (The pretty colored graphs have units of "excess relative risk." How do you convert that to deaths? You can't. What are the units-- per year? Per lifetime? they don't say. Relative to what? They don't say.) I'd like to see a number, like "excess cancers per year per sievert of exposure," but they don't give one. They compare different studies, but never discuss whether the differences are statistically significant.

There is no "safe dose", though there is a certain unavoidable dose.

That is a question. That is what is known as the "linear no threshold" model-- but although these authors assert the validity of that model, you can't tell it from the data they show. Figure 1 shows too much scatter below 0.3 Sv to give much information about thresholds, and Figure 2 sure looks like it would be well fit by a threshold model.

In short, I'd like to have seen an article with real information.

Re:Bad article, little information [Re:Short summa (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859931)

If the linear no threshold model was true then cancer rates would correlate with altitude (as background radiation does).

Altitude [Re:Bad article, little information] (3, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861129)

Well, it would correlate with latitude as well.

That is, if cosmic radiation were in fact the main location-dependent factor that caused cancer.

But since cosmic radiation dose is something on the order of 0.5 millisievert per year, it's probably not significant enough to see the signal over the noise, assuming that there are other sources of cancer.

Re:Bad article, little information [Re:Short summa (3, Informative)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860327)

Of course. The question is, how much more cancer is caused by a given dose of radiation?

Unfortunately, this is a question that the paper in question does not answer, because it completely neglects to mention actual numbers. (The pretty colored graphs have units of "excess relative risk." How do you convert that to deaths? You can't. What are the units-- per year? Per lifetime? they don't say. Relative to what? They don't say.) I'd like to see a number, like "excess cancers per year per sievert of exposure," but they don't give one. They compare different studies, but never discuss whether the differences are statistically significant.

As the article states, the graph is taken from another study, Preston et al (2007) Solid Cancer Incidence in Atomic Bomb Survivors: 1958–1998 [webnode.com.br] . You can find many tables with actual numbers there. The caption on the graph also answers some of your questions:

FIG. 3. Solid cancer dose–response function. The thick solid line is
the fitted linear gender-averaged excess relative risk (ERR) dose response
at age 70 after exposure at age 30 based on data in the 0- to 2-Gy dose
range. The points are non-parametric estimates of the ERR in dose categories.
The thick dashed line is a nonparametric smooth of the categoryspecific
estimates and the thin dashed lines are one standard error above
and below this smooth.

Even more so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39860973)

So death is one thing surely to worry about, but what I really want to know is how much more of a mutant will I become, or what kind of mutant, or how powerful?
These questions are important also.

Read it later - direct link for just PDF (1)

chuckfirment (197857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859777)

The 'free, downloadable PDF' link in the article goes to an HTML page wrapping the PDF. Saving this page won't get you the PDF.

Here is the direct link to download just the PDF. [sagepub.com]

I'm looking forward to reading the entire article when I have time.

Re:Short summary (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861123)

Or in other words: "Oxygen causes seizures. More oxygen causes more seizures. There is no "safe dose", though there is a certain unavoidable dose. So we're all at risk of seizures if we live long enough."

Makes perfect sense to me. After all, all biological systems respond to all environmental effects not just monotonically, but linearly! For example, if you put a person in a pneumatic press you will crush them to death. It follows from this that you should never, ever give a person a hug. After all, there is no safe pressure!

The BAS is a purely political anti-nuclear lobbying organization that has nothing to say on the science of radiation safety.

Re:Short summary (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861783)

So we're all at risk of cancer if we live long enough.

Well... I hope and pray for mankind that the damn cure for cancer is profitable... or we may never find one.

Extended exposure is riskier, and no superpowers (2)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858203)

So a one time event that you can walk away from your body will eventually recover from, but protected exposure to low dosages is a constant battle for your immune system.

And again they lied to us, no superpowers.

Re:Extended exposure is riskier, and no superpower (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858341)

The way my science teacher explained it to the class was that you will not get an engine to work better by shooting it.

Or to simplify it even further, doing bad things to something rarely has positive results.

Re:Extended exposure is riskier, and no superpower (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858657)

The standard /. car analogy breaks down in that running my car engine up to 80% of redline RPM for a half hour a day is a pretty stupid idea that will only wear it out faster. Yet daily aerobic exercise seems to be a brilliant idea for long term cardiovascular health.

You can also have hilarious fun making vaccine analogies. "You mean, you'd intentionally inject small amounts of possibly fatal microbes into a healthy body? Madness I tell you! Madness!" Sadly there are highly educated actresses and pr0n models who pretty much use this argument when providing their valuable medical advice, along with the usual folks doing the FUD-for-profit thing.

Re:Extended exposure is riskier, and no superpower (1)

doublebackslash (702979) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858501)

I've not read the paper yet, but it makes sense from a certain standpoint.

A single high dose causes massive widespread damge. Cells die, immune system ramps up, and rapairs get underway. A cell that might have become cancer dies in a scab, or fall off, or is cleaned up in some way amoung the countless others. Low level raditon damages just a tiny bit. Not enough to cause a reaction or massive cell death. This gives each cell that could become cancerous a better chance to live and become a problem.

Not sure if that is the mechanism (or if they een identified a mechanism yet) but it smacks of truth.

Re:Extended exposure is riskier, and no superpower (0)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858595)

So a one time event that you can walk away from your body will eventually recover from, but protected exposure to low dosages is a constant battle for your immune system.

And again they lied to us, no superpowers.

That's not true:

Several friends were too close to a uranium spill, and they all got super powers!

Dr. Sterile can never again father children!

Mr. Pustule sickens all he comes near with his hairless tumour-covered body.

Coughing Girl gets sickened by the slightest cold.

Changed inside and out by the radiation, The Corpse is DEAD!

(These aren't mine, I read them on some comedy site years ago.)

Low level radiation (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858205)

There is no threshold below which radiation is 'safe'. There is a threshold below which is become statistically indistinguishable from random events, but that is not the same thing. We've known even "low" levels of radiation can be dangerous -- look at the cancer clusters showing up in TSA screeners. The scanners were declared 'absolutely safe' and had a 'low' level of radiation. There is a long history in the medical field of radiology where equipment, engineering, or our understanding of underlying principles failed and led to death or serious injury. The fact is, there is no such thing as "safe". That doesn't mean don't use the equipment -- it's often the only way to get the information needed (note: full body scanners NOT included, there are alternatives which provide the same information). But it does mean use the least amount of radiation necessary, only use it when necessary, and carefully track a person's exposure -- time, dosage, etc., to identify trends.

Radiation is a daily reality in our lives. Go outside, look up. There it is; the biggest source of radiation in your life (most likely). We can't avoid it... but we can limit it.

Re:Low level radiation (2)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858253)

We can't avoid it... but we can limit it.

Some of us limit it better than others!

Re:Low level radiation (4, Informative)

InterGuru (50986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858417)

There might be a level at which radiation is beneficial. This is called hormesis [wikipedia.org]

From Wikipedia

Hormesis (from Greek hórmsis ...) is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. A pollutant or toxin showing hormesis thus has the opposite effect in small doses as in large doses

The concept is vigorously debated, but has been shown to work in some animal experiments. In humans, small doses of alcohol, a toxin, seems to improve heart health.

Humans, as all life, have evolved under low level background radiation. We may be adapted to it.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858801)

TFA pretty much discredited that hypothesis. At least at rates we can discern in a heterogeneous human population.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858845)

In humans, small doses of alcohol, a toxin, seems to improve heart health.

alcohol is a liver toxin, just like fructose (insert std flamewar about fructose being a toxin, complete with youtube links).

You can do the pubmed thing but as a crude first approximation alcohol only screws up muscle (like heart) as a secondary effect by first screwing up your digestive system and blood chemistry and nervous system. Muscle itself doesn't met messed up by alcohol until its practically pickled. Notice the ratio in alcoholic deaths of liver vs stomach/intestine cancer (stomach is muscle, more or less)

I'm interested in this stuff, but I'm not a MD, get professional opinion about balancing liver damage vs muscle/heart damage, etc.

Re:Low level radiation (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860629)

Actually there are a number of studies out that quite clearly demonstrate that alcohol in moderate doses is good for you, in the specific sense that moderate drinkers experience less morbidity and mortality from all causes than either teetotalers or full-blown alcoholics. The "moderate" range appears to be 1-3 drinks a day, depending on your body mass and personal chemistry, but curiously, the Mediterranean study showed that at least elderly drinkers outlive nondrinkers (on average) completely blind to the amount they consume.

My wife is an MD and I have read the studies myself (although I'm too lazy to look up non-paywalled versions of them to repost here). Naturally, YMMV, and people with hemachromatosis or who have or have had hepatitis or who have other problems with alcohol (e.g. social problems, alcoholism) should probably not drink, but for most people a couple of beers or glasses of wine a day is, as has been known since the middle ages if not before, generally beneficial to health, not detrimental.

There really is an interesting question about whether or not radiation is a "no safe exposure" sort of thing, along with chlorinated hydrocarbons and all of the other things that can cause oxidative or other damage to DNA. There is substantial evidence that your best defense against most cancers is a strong immune system, and (like many biological systems in the body) your immune system is a use it or lose it sort of proposition. Even unrelated stresses like contracting a cold may exercise the immune system to have some cancer preventing benefit in the long run compared to somebody that is never exposed to the cold virus or other common viruses or diseases. And yet there is equally strong evidence that too much of a bad thing is really bad.

So is there an optimum between the body never experiencing enough oxidative damage to build up an immunological anticancer defense and experiencing so much that you overwhelm it and get cancer anyway? A very tough experiment to perform in a world where there is no such thing as no exposure to radiation -- the galaxy, the sun, the earth, our very bones are radioactive.

rgb

Re:Low level radiation (2, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858863)

Linked paper talks about hormesis, specifically about how it's a largely debunked theory that isn't taken seriously by anyone in the field any more. In fact, there's research that shows low level radiation being more harmful (in a relative, risk vs Sv exposed way) than less.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859401)

Humans, as all life, have evolved under low level background radiation. We may be adapted to it.

Actually radiation and resulting mutation is considered the driving force of evolution.
Molecular Evolution [wikipedia.org] - read the mutations section.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

Physics Dude (549061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860665)

Yes, hormesis has been shown in many many low level radiation studies. When you get to higher levels, things look pretty linear but at lower levels you generally see a standard dose-response type of curve.

I haven't had time to read the article fully yet, but the research I have seen seems to contradict the summary of the article. The regulatory agencies have been trying to suppress studies and research on radiation hormesis for quite some time, and have misrepresented scientific findings in many ways. I guess they're apposed to losing out on the multi-billion dollar industry of managing harmless levels of radiation.

Re:Low level radiation (4, Insightful)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858455)

There is no threshold below which radiation is 'safe'. There is a threshold below which is become statistically indistinguishable from random events, but that is not the same thing. We've known even "low" levels of radiation can be dangerous -- look at the cancer clusters showing up in TSA screeners.

Unfortunately, what you say is at best inconclusive, but at worst wrong. Google "hormesis".
Studies "including for example the respected "Iowa Radon Lung Cancer Study" of Field et al. (2000), which also used sophisticated radon exposure dosimetry....argue that radon exposure is negatively correlated with the tendency to smoke and environmental studies need to accurately control for this; people living in urban areas where smoking rates are higher usually have lower levels of radon exposure due the increased prevalence of multi-story dwellings".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis [wikipedia.org]

I know that hormesis sounds like a crackpot theory along with holistic super-diluted medicinal honey therapy, but some of the greatest minds in Medical Physics believe it exists. It is basically the hypothesis that low levels of additional radiation can actually make you healthier than no additional radiation at all (including daily dosage of cosmic rays). Hence the quote about high background radon studies and inverse correlations with health outcomes.

One of the main mechanisms that is thought to possibly explain it is that while the additional radiation exposure is not enough to cause significant DNA damage, it still activates certain dormant mechanisms for DNA repair, resulting in a healthier-than-average individual.

So in short, there is at least very suggestive evidence for a "safe" (and even moreso than safe) level of radiation.

Re:Low level radiation (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859253)

Double unfortunately, I copy-pasted the wrong section:

Quoting results from literature research,[6][7] they furthermore claim that approximately 40% of laboratory studies on cell cultures and animals indicate some degree of chemical or radiobiological hormesis, and state:

"...its existence in the laboratory is beyond question and its mechanism of action appears well understood."

They go on to outline a growing body of research that illustrates that the human body is not a passive accumulator of radiation damage but it actively repairs the damage caused via a number of different processes

Once again, yes even in the wikipedia "article" itself it is debated, but that's the point of error-bars in science.

Re:Low level radiation (1, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860941)

I know that hormesis sounds like a crackpot theory along with holistic super-diluted medicinal honey therapy, but some of the greatest minds in Medical Physics believe it exists.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Wikipedia is not evidence of any variety. It is commonly held, and backed by numerous studies, that ionizing radiation is harmful. non-ionizing radiation may be harmful, in cases where it causes heating of the tissue (especially eyes), or electrical discharge. Hearing that the "greatest minds" in medicine believe something is disappointing; In their field, I would hope they don't practice medicine based on belief... I would hope they do it based on facts, evidence, working theories, etc.

Re:Low level radiation (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861719)

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

I linked wikipedia because it's not behind a paywall like the citations to scientific papers it references are. And by "believe", I mean that the studies in question have large error bars associated with them due to the difficulty of controlling for so many variables, but that the mean trend motivates hormesis.

Given that there are papers for and against many topics similar to this in the scientific community, it is as much a statement as whether certain scientists either "believe" in global warming or not.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861495)

Unfortunately, what you say is at best inconclusive, but at worst wrong. Google "hormesis".

know that hormesis sounds like a crackpot theory along with holistic super-diluted medicinal honey therapy, but some of the greatest minds in Medical Physics believe it exists. It is basically the hypothesis that low levels of additional radiation can actually make you healthier than no additional radiation at all (including daily dosage of cosmic rays). Hence the quote about high background radon studies and inverse correlations with health outcomes.

Hormesis is irrelevent. The dosages that matter for medical, nuclear and public safety applications are well above the threshold where statistically significant evidence of any "benefit" can be found.

At low levels the signal you think you hear is the noise floor. We don't have necessary sample sizes in any practical study to see anything with meaningful certainty...not when 1/5th of us will die of cancer anyway. Having slept through university statistics courses each interest defaults to seeing what they want to see. All of it is irrelevent. TFA included Iowa study.

So in short, there is at least very suggestive evidence for a "safe" (and even moreso than safe) level of radiation.

Or maybe it means smoking is good for you?

The problem with Hormesis is that it is useful only as a public manipulation tool to irresponsibly sway public consumption. "Relax some radiation is good for you". The problem is that when you go to the Dr and have medical imaging done the amount of radiation you are exposed to is NOT so trivial...the same for industry limits and most everything else that matters. It is simply a tool for irresponsibly spreading uncertainty to effect public opinion.

TFA is not about hormesis ... It is about the realitve safety of prolonged low dosage vs short term high dosage exposure. It suggests sustained low dosage exposure is WORSE than previously assumed.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861759)

Actually, ~0.1 Sv is exactly the dose rates where hormesis is in question. And while hormesis is not the topic of TFA, I was responding to the parent thread above me and not the article.

Also, irrelevant*

Re:Low level radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858543)

Cancer cluster among TSA screeners are a statistical artifact since the scanners have not been in use long enough for changes in cancer rates to show up. Also, you mistakenly;y treat increased cancer among TSA people as evil instead of good.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

dasunt (249686) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858717)

There is no threshold below which radiation is 'safe'. There is a threshold below which is become statistically indistinguishable from random events, but that is not the same thing.

If "the effect of a substance is indistinguishable from random events" is not a definition of "safe", then what definition are you going to use?

There are many things in our environment that, in a large enough dose, will end up killing us. Take food. A lot of food will have trace amounts of chemicals that, if concentrated and taken in a large enough dose would kill us. Heck, overdoses of water or salt will kill a person. But that doesn't mean small doses of either are harmful.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858865)

That was pretty much the point of TFA. The most important factoid that comes from TFA is that the previously considered 'safe' value of 0.1 Sv DOESN'T drop down in the noise - there are excess cancers that can be discerned in published data at that level AND that the average medical radiation burden in developed countries is approaching that 0.1 Sv level.

Therefore, the combination of business as usual for medical radiation AND increased man made exposure from reactor leaks, bombs, spills and other detritus of the nuclear power industry would be additive above baseline. You might have what is thought to be a 'small' spill that turns out to have larger medical consequences than previously thought.

Re:Low level radiation (1)

dasunt (249686) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860311)

Therefore, the combination of business as usual for medical radiation AND increased man made exposure from reactor leaks, bombs, spills and other detritus of the nuclear power industry would be additive above baseline. You might have what is thought to be a 'small' spill that turns out to have larger medical consequences than previously thought.

Presumably, coal power would have a few more deaths to add to its thousands and thousands of calculated deaths then, since a coal power plant is a greater source of radiation than a nuclear power plant.

Re:Low level radiation (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859157)

There is no threshold below which unreasoning fear is 'safe'.

FTFY.

Seriously, the inflated risk estimates of the no-threshold model are a far greater threat to public safety than even those inflated risks themselves. There is any amount of evidence, as well as theoretical backing from our understanding of biology, that the biological effects of radiation are non-linear.

To take a trivial example: if it were otherwise, Q would always be 1. Since it isn't, radiation effects are non-linear. That's at the high end, but once you admit that it's possible the mantra "there is no safe level" looks like what it is: stupid.

We also know a a lot about the mechanics of DNA repair these days, and denying the existence of threshold effects in radiation response is getting perilously close to denying evolution: you would have to be comparably wrong in your understanding of the chemistry of DNA in both cases.

After the Fukushima disaster mothers in Tokyo were at risk of dehydrated babies because the the no-thresholders were claiming far greater risks than supported by the data.

Finally, why does the summary identify the source as "the Bulletin" rather than spelling out the full name, and why is anyone reading what purports to be a scientific report from a purely political anti-nuclear lobbying organization? It's like getting your information on birth control from "Conservative Catholic Christians for Reproductive Oppression."

Re:Low level radiation (2)

Strider- (39683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860493)

Finally, why does the summary identify the source as "the Bulletin" rather than spelling out the full name, and why is anyone reading what purports to be a scientific report from a purely political anti-nuclear lobbying organization? It's like getting your information on birth control from "Conservative Catholic Christians for Reproductive Oppression."

I don't know where you're getting your info, but The Bulletin is actually a rather neutral publication. For the most part, the articles tend to be in favour of civil nuclear power, assuming that proper safeguards are in place etc... They also do a good job of presenting multiple sides of many issues, giving equal space to each of the arguments.

For example, when discussing Iran's nuclear ambitions, they began with a well researched article on what Iran's current capabilities are, how much weapons grade material they may have produced by this point, and so on. There were then a couple of arguments as to whether Iran was planning on developing a weapon (one author arguing for, one against) and then a set of articles on what to do about it, ranging from doing nothing to a significant attack.

To put it bluntly, most of the articles within the publication are written by people within the nuclear industry who actually know what they are talking about. The only people that would generally consider it rabidly anti-nuclear are those who a) haven't read it and b) are rabidly pro-nuclear.

Actually no. (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859993)

The biggest source of ionizing radiation , is the background radiation (from a combo of the ground/environment (granite is different to say , chalk ground), sleeping near somebody, what you eat, the own atoms in your body which decay....). In the sky, except the UVA/UVB which should be pretty resonnable, it is mostly non ionizing UV,

Actually no (corrected) (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860051)

The biggest source of ionizing radiation , is the background radiation (from a combo of the ground/environment (granite is different to say , chalk ground), sleeping near somebody, what you eat, the own atoms in your body which decay, medicine xray etc...). In the sky, except the UVA/UVB which should be pretty resonnable, it is mostly non ionizing EM.

ETA: I shoulkd have previewed.

protracted exposure (3, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858211)

Like fallout from nuclear testing and nuclear disasters.

Re:protracted exposure (2, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858269)

And emissions from coal fired plants...and living in a concrete building...

Re:protracted exposure (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858499)

Or that granite countertop in your kitchen.

Re:protracted exposure (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858565)

Don't forget "eating bananas."

As often as I've heard radiation levels as compared to the radiation exposure caused by eating a banana, you'd think we'd all be glowing in the dark by now.

Re:protracted exposure (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860363)

The best food in the world, tainted by radioactivity? God damnit!

The Debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858223)

This research is saying that low-level ionising radiation exposure is dangerous over prolonged exposure and is more dangerous than a single high-dose blast.

I don't really see those things in competition with each other, though it does challenge what the NRC considers "safe".

Dry? (1, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858261)

Skip past the dry abstract

Dry, but a funny read in some ways.

Model fits, both parametric and nonparametric, to the atomic-bomb data support a linear no-threshold model, below 0.1 Sv.

OK so the data implies there is no safe minimum dose based on models derived from numerology and graphs and experience.

On the basis of biologic arguments, the scientific establishment in the United States and many other countries accepts this dose-model down to zero-dose, but there is spirited dissent.

But that doesn't seem to make biochemical sense. (eventually you end up in the radiation equivalent of homeopathy)

a sizeable percentage of this population will receive cumulative doses from the medical profession in excess of 0.1 Sv, making talk of a threshold or other sublinear response below that dose moot for future releases from nuclear facilities or a dirty bomb.

"moot" in science-speak means it doesn't matter. Its not a 4chan reference.

The risks from both medical diagnostic doses and nuclear accident doses can be computed using the linear dose-response model, with uncertainties assigned below 0.1 Sv in a way that captures alternative scientific hypotheses.

A big F you to both the cranks and the real biochemical / biophysical scientists, because no civilized human can go thru life below 0.1 Sv, you can rock on with your homeopathy or astrology or whatever, none of us doctors cares much about your weird little long tail that no one can live in anyway.

Re:Dry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858635)

Don't be an asshole. At least Radiation Hormesis guys can propose a perfectly reasonable high-level explanation of how it might help, which Homeopathy guys can't -- in essence, they argue it's like finding that periodically (or continuously) scrubbing your RAID-5 to catch read errors and rewrite good data reduces overall data loss risk, despite putting additional wear on the disks.

Re:Dry? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859023)

in essence, they argue it's like finding that periodically (or continuously) scrubbing your RAID-5 to catch read errors and rewrite good data reduces overall data loss risk, despite putting additional wear on the disks.

or in essence its like arguing that running your heart during aerobic exercise helps it age better, or vaccinating yourself by injecting dangerous microbes paradoxically reduces your odds of infectious death. Also you can have fun with a more engineering example like work hardening... who could guess that whacking softened copper with a hammer actually makes it stronger instead of just turning it to mush?

The homeopathy comment was more a measurement, ridiculous biochemically irrelevant concentration, rather than an explanation like "the water remembers it was radioactive once, so it saves itself". you can talk about a measured homeopathic quantity of a substance without also believing it is relevant.

Re:Dry? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858951)

It's pretty well established that exposure levels are given in units above the background. This isn't new. If you were taught how to read a geiger counter in high school the first thing they should have taught you was how to zero it out so the background levels (which are different from place to place) didn't affect your measurements. So no, no one is going to go through life with less than .1Sv, not if they make it to 40 anyway, but most people who don't work in radiation exposing occupations and don't get seriously ill will go through life without .1Sv of additional exposure, which is what the article is talking about.

Re:Dry? (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858995)

But that doesn't seem to make biochemical sense. (eventually you end up in the radiation equivalent of homeopathy)

I don't think that argument applies here. Remember that we're talking about a probabilistic process here - people exposed to radiation have an increased risk of getting cancer that's hypothesised to be linearly proportional to their level of radation exposure. Even though radiation is quantized, if someone's been exposed to radiation levels so low that it's incredibly unlikely their body actually absorbed a single quanta of radiation their increased risk of cancer is roughly (probability of cancer from one quanta of radiation)*(probability of absorbing one quanta of radiation), which is what the linear no-threshold model says it should be.

Cost benefit analysis (5, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858329)

Low level radiation may be dangerous, but we have to weight that against the benefit to the corporations that sell airport scanners. Some amount of harm is worth it.

Re:Cost benefit analysis (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858437)

Not to mention the politicians who are "keeping us safe".

Re:Cost benefit analysis (1)

WrecklessSandwich (1000139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858931)

Evidence points to a potentially large benefit to be had from exposing politicians to radiation. More studies are necessary, especially with respect to unsafe levels of exposure.

Re:Cost benefit analysis (1)

redneckmother (1664119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859107)

I quite agree. I also propose a study on the source pool of politicians, namely, lawyers.

Re:Cost benefit analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39860477)

weight is a noun

weigh is the verb you are looking for

Lies? (1)

MxMatrix (1303567) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858381)

/conspiracy mode on: Its LIES lies lies ... for all those years, and I've suspected them ever since. Now where did I put my tin foil hat? .... Oh noes, radiation made me forget. Ok, serious, how about radiation levels in medical appliances? I can remember they use low level barium in hospitals for all kinds of scans. If even a low level already is unsafe, how many more have been affected by these low levels?

Re:Lies? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858921)

Here, I'll make you feel better. Barium is used as a contrast agent. It blocks the xray so that it creates a shadow where the barium is located (like in your gut). It's not radioactive in and of itself.

All is does is get you wonderfully constipated.

Re:Lies? (1)

reasterling (1942300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858993)

I can remember they use low level barium in hospitals for all kinds of scans. If even a low level already is unsafe, how many more have been affected by these low levels?

The risk, that are minimal, are considerably less than the risk that the physician might give a misdiagnosis if you don't have the procedure. I used to work administering the test that required the use of barium. I was a x-ray tech (I don't work in healthcare anymore), and I know for a fact that the overwelming majority of the barium that patients injest, or receives retrograde (if you don't know you don't want to find out), is passed out of the body after a couple of bowel movements. The actual x-ray itself exposes the patient to far more ionizing radiation than the barium ever will.

Interesting bit at the end... (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858385)

"Thus, pressure to update regulations may build, as awareness grows of the five-to-tenfold disparity between the risk estimates per unit dose recommended by scientists today and the older values still used by regulators in cost–benefit calculations for determining allowable doses."

The Fukushima Argument (1)

princessAndDragon (2570097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858461)

We've heard it many times since the Fukushima failure:

"Most citizens of this planet will experience, on average, less exposure to radiation, from the Fukushima facility, than they would from exposure to 1 or 2 x-ray examinations."

Of course, during an x-ray examination there exists no chance of sucking down a radioactive isotope of cesium- of which Fukushima released, into the atmosphere, a volume on the order of peta becquerels. Little research exists examining the long term effects of low dose internal radiation exposure - the type of exposure that results from the inhalation or ingestion of a radioactive isotope. Radioactive isotopes circulated systemically through the body will continue to release alpha,beta, and gamma radiation directly to internal organs. This presents an obvious contradiction to calculations of external dose to which the internal organs are shielded by clothes and skin.

Anti-nuclear publication (3, Informative)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858629)

Do note that the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" is a generally an anti-nuclear, scare-mongering publication. These are the people whose count-down to nuclear disaster has been just a few minutes before midnight for decades. Whatever they publish should be viewed with this in mind.

Scanning RFTA, in the end, it says basically nothing at all. They did no studies themselves, but just looked around at ones already done. The key points seem to be:

  • The same total exposure in the form of long-term exposure may be slightly (20%) more dangerous than the same dosage in a short, high-intensity form.
  • They desperately search for something to say about low-level, long-term exposure. They spend pages talking about the competing theories, from "Supralinear response" (really dangerous) to "Adaptive response" (a little radiation is healthy). In the end, they find no convincing evidence one way or the other, because the uncertainty bounds at such low levels include essentially all possibilities.
  • Based on this lack of evidence, they conclude that low levels of radiation are really dangerous, and that all Western populations are "primed for radiation-induced, delayed cancers from releases from nuclear reactors".

In the end, given the publication, the conclusion was obvious.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (3, Interesting)

Tyler Durden (136036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859349)

Do note that the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" is a generally an anti-nuclear, scare-mongering publication

Utter nonsense. I remember perusing the print version of the Bulleting in my college library a few years ago, and it was anything but a knee-jerk, "scare-mongering" publication on nuclear issues. The articles were extremely informed and detailed.

There are two great articles that spring to mind. One was regarding a project run by the US government regarding how difficult it would be for countries without nuclear weapons to develop one. To test this, they found a physicist who had just gotten his PhD, making sure he that he wasn't someone with two much particular knowledge on nuclear physics. By using research from publicly-available sources he was able to eventually come up with a working design for a nuclear weapon. Just to be thorough he even designed a more complicated implosion design rather than a the simpler bullet design. The point of the article was that the difficult part for a country aspiring to create a nuclear arsenal is accumulating the proper uranium or plutonium. Creating the bomb is relatively simple.

The other article examined whether using depleted uranium for ammunition had lasting effects because of radioactivity. If I recall correctly, the radioactive aspect was not a concern. However, uranium can be poisonous without any consideration of its (limited) radioactivity. Since DU rounds piercing armor can cause the outer shell of them to vaporize, this could be a problem.

The Bulletin's conclusion was not obvious. Judging them just because of the Doomsday Clock is rash.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860579)

The point of the article was that the difficult part for a country aspiring to create a nuclear arsenal is accumulating the proper uranium or plutonium.

In other words, they rediscovered something that any professional or serious amateur in the field has known for decades.
 

The other article examined whether using depleted uranium for ammunition had lasting effects because of radioactivity. If I recall correctly, the radioactive aspect was not a concern. However, uranium can be poisonous without any consideration of its (limited) radioactivity. Since DU rounds piercing armor can cause the outer shell of them to vaporize, this could be a problem.

In other words, they (again) rediscovered what everyone else already knew.
 

The Bulletin's conclusion was not obvious.

Not to you maybe. That doesn't mean it wasn't obvious and well known to everyone else.
 
But, when you're not cherry picking articles that say more about you than the Bulletin, and when you're actually knowledgeable about the field, you'll find the OP is correct. Just because they're scientists doesn't mean they aren't biased.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (3, Interesting)

Tyler Durden (136036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861233)

In other words, they rediscovered something that any professional or serious amateur in the field has known for decades.

Umm. The Bulletin is not, nor does not pretend to be, a scientific journal. Many serious amateurs or all professionals would not use it as a source for the latest information in nuclear science. And whether the conclusion of the article is known by the reader or not is completely irrelevant. The story behind it would definitely be of interest to a serious amateur or professional.

The conclusion regarding depleted uranium ammunition may be obvious to you, but I remember the mainstream media of the time had a lot of knee-jerk scare-stories regarding the harmful effects from "all that radiation". Since the Bulletin had a more informed and balanced article on the topic than other sources at the time, this means that the OP's assessment of it as "scare-mongering" in regards to all things nuclear (and your defense of him) is wrong.

But when you're not completely missing the point I'm sure you can come up with a post with more substance than insults.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861319)

Just to clarify, when I said that "The Bulletin's conclusion was not obvious," I was talking about the conclusion of the original Slashdot topic (implied through bias). Not the conclusion of the two example articles I brought up.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861045)

By using research from publicly-available sources he was able to eventually come up with a working design for a nuclear weapon.

Where did they detonate it? If they didn't detonate it, how did they know it was a working design?

The BAS is a purely political organization pursuing a purely political goal. There are virtually no nuclear physicists involved in it because they don't do science: they are a lobbying organization.

That they can mislead someone who doesn't know anything about nuclear engineering into thinking that they do have some non-political agenda is unsurprising. Those of us who have PhDs in the subject and have worked in environments where radiation safety matters know that the BAS is a political organization, not a scientific one.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861291)

Where did they detonate it? If they didn't detonate it, how did they know it was a working design?

If I recall correctly, the judgment that it was a working design came through the military from people who actually do design such things.

Those of us who have PhDs in the subject and have worked in environments where radiation safety matters know that the BAS is a political organization, not a scientific one.

What specific article(s) written by them do you, as someone with a PhD in the subject, feel are biased and/or inaccurate. I'm honestly curious.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (2)

Tyler Durden (136036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39861437)

Yes, I know I'm posting way too much stuff about this, but the experiment the article was referring to was this [wikipedia.org] .

The timing of the article makes sense because the experiment was declassified around 2003, which would be about when I was reading from the Bulletin.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (5, Insightful)

imjustmatthew (1164609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859595)

Do note that the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" is a generally an anti-nuclear, scare-mongering publication. These are the people whose count-down to nuclear disaster has been just a few minutes before midnight for decades. Whatever they publish should be viewed with this in mind.

As a strong supporter of nuclear power I feel this attitude is exactly what makes it so easy to scare up opposition to nuclear power. That article was extremely well written and researched. IMO it presented a fairly balanced view of the existing studies and the overall challenges to new research and regulation. Yes their are concerns about low and protracted doses, and yes the industry has tried to downplay and bury that research. Just like the "green power" industry doesn't want anyone to look at the lifecycle costs on those PV cells and LiPo batteries.

The only way to stop fear mongering and get new power plants is with open and honest research - not making attacks on an article that tries to present the facts.

Re:Anti-nuclear publication (1)

Xylantiel (177496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860237)

You have misinterpreted their conclusion. By "primed" they mean that all Western populations have enough exposure already from medical sources that everyone is above any "threshold" for zero-danger. They are just saying there is no reason to quest for this threshold and we should just get on with applying models that don't assume that there is such a magic threshold.

(pl0s one Inform4tive) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858649)

Survey which said. 'Screaming aal over America

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: not reputable (1)

echusarcana (832151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858721)

You might try posting articles from sources that aren't rabidly anti-nuclear.

Re:Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: not reputable (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39858969)

You could always find a Fox News article on the joys of chronic radiation exposure to fair and balance us. Post it to the Firehose.

Yes, the Bulletin on Atomic Scientists is anti nuclear but I'd hardly call them 'rabid'. You're not going to find a neutral point of view in this debate (and the article discusses this with a distinct slant), but it is still worth a read rather than an automatic dismissal.

It makes perfect sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39858747)

Drinking 100 liters of water would kill someone, therefore if 100 persons drink one liter of water, one will die because it scales linearly.

Oncologists and the risk of low-dosage radiation (1)

eis2718bob (659933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859097)

Why haven't radiation oncologists produced good data on this? Many, many people are exposed to substantial radiation doses in the treatment of cancer. And their progress and outcomes is tracked by the tremendous statistical measurements of modern oncology. (This statistical rigor is a big chunk of the improvement in cancer treatment over the last generation or two).

Of course there are huge confounding factors, including that the patient already has cancer, is exposed to carcinogenic chemotherapy regimens, and so on. But it would seem to me that with such a large dataset--along with the long-term tracking--the quantitative danger and damage due to smaller and smaller doses of radiation would be measurable.

Re:Oncologists and the risk of low-dosage radiatio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39861731)

because they only track the patients for 5 years. after that, you're "cured" so people fall out of the research pool. either that or you're dead from the recurring cancer or disease caused by the cancer treatment.

you've got to track for decades to capture enough data on cancer genesis by radiation.

A couple issue with the report. (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39859757)

1. They claim that LNT applies to prolonged exposure, and that the risks are actually higher than the single exposure data from Hiroshima. Examine Figure 2 in the PDF report and you'll see that while the data is within 1 sigma of LNT for the range of exposures shown, it actually appears to follow a quadratic curve, with lower ERR up to 0.25-0.3Gy, 2.5x-3x the "low-level" dose, then the risk is higher than LNT with higher cumulative exposure. From that chart, prolonged exposure to low-level (cumulative) is indeed a lower risk than a single equivalent dose. Prolonged exposure to high-level (cumulative) may be greater than a single equivalent dose. They're using a limited subset of the data that falls within 1 sigma in order to support their claim that LNT applies to prolonged doses, yet an analysis of the data doesn't really support that claim.

2. While they mention locations with higher than average natural background radiation, they don't ever address the facts about those locations. Namely, that they have ~ average cancer rates and longer average life spans, even though the cumulative lifetime dose significantly exceeds 0.1sv. A quote from that site:

From BEIR V, National Research Council report on Health Effects of Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation:

        In areas of high natural background radiation, an increased frequency of chromosome aberrations has been noted repeatedly. The increases are consistent with those seen in radiation workers and in persons exposed at high dose levels, although the magnitudes of the increases are somewhat higher than predicted. No increase in the frequency of cancer documented in populations residing in areas of high natural background radiation.

WTF (1)

Gill Bates (88647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39860247)

I expected to see this http://xkcd.com/radiation/ [xkcd.com] as approximately the second post, but it's nowhere to be found! /. truly is slipping into obscurity.

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