By John LaForge
Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2018-19
“Bowing to the nuclear industry, the Trump administration appears to be relying on fringe researchers who reject mainstream science to roll back radiation safety laws,” the Natural Resources Defense Council Reports. “Despite substantial evidence that any level of ionizing radiation poses a cancer risk, the US Environmental Protection Agency is currently pursuing a little-noticed change that could lead to weaker protections for workers at nuclear plants, medical technicians conducting X-rays, and those living near Superfund sites contaminated by radioactive material,” the NRDC said Oct. 2, 2018.
The EPA’s “new proposal pulls from scientific outliers friendly to the nuclear industry who claim low-level exposure to this and other toxins could actually benefit the body. One problem: The National Academies of Science (NAS) and the EPA’s own scientists have studied this idea [known as ”hormesis”] and summarily dismissed it as bunk,” the group noted.
The NRDC was referring to NAS’s 7th edition of “Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation” (BEIR-VII), where it emphatically rejected “hormesis” as it has done many times. The NAS concluded that any radiation exposure, no matter how slight, carries a risk of causing cancer or other illnesses. The EPA itself has said for years on its website, “Based on current scientific evidence, any exposure to radiation can be harmful (or can increase the risk of cancer) … In other words, it is assumed that no radiation exposure is completely risk free.”
Dr. Peter Crane, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission attorney told the New York Times in September 29, 2015, “[The NAS], along with the rest of mainstream scientific authority, regard hormesis as wholly without merit.”
The Associated Press noted last Oct. 2, “Critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure … any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.”
The motive behind the EPA’s proposal was made clear by Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the Univ. of Massachusetts, who said in 2016, “This would have a positive effect on human health as well as save [industry] billions and billions and billions of dollars.” Ed Lyman, senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Courthouse News “the vast majority of scientific work” finds there is no acceptable level for radiation exposure. And if the administration uses the work of Calabrese it would be an example of choosing the outlier instead of what’s generally accepted.
There is no specific date for adoption of the new rule.