[ RadSafe ] A critique of Chris Busby's leukemia article.
sjd at swcp.com
Sun Apr 24 20:40:39 CDT 2011
April 24, 2011
Chris Busby's article  says "there were reported increases in
infant leukemia in the in the in utero exposed cohort" in Scotland,
Belarus, Greece, Germany, and Wales and Scotland combined.
The claim about Scotland by itself is found in a one-column letter
to the editor of the Lancet  in 1988. The authors allude to the
Chernobyl accident and write, "Whole body scanning for radiocaesium
has been done in some of our children and their mothers but no
increased levels have been found compared with controls." Also: "No
increase in young children has been found in the Nordic countries,"
and "For West Germany data were available only for the whole age
range to 14 years; again no increase has been observed." (The
authors refer to unpublished data for the Nordic countries, and for
I would assume that the Nordic countries and West Germany received
higher exposure to the Chernobyl accident than did Scotland. If that
assumption is correct, it seems likely that the former two areas
would have higher rates of leukemia than did Scotland. Again, if my
assumption is correct, although Scotland saw an increase in leukemia
it seems unlikely that it can be attributed to Chernobyl.
At the end of their "Short Communication" (three pages long) 
about leukemia in Belarus, the authors write: "However, the observed
excess in Belarus in the 'exposed cohort' is not statistically
significant and is smaller than the increase seen in Greece or
Germany. The radiation exposures after Chernobyl were far higher ---
by a factor of more than 10 --- in Belarus than in Greece or in
Germany [exposure levels omitted]. The comparison of observed excess
rates in Greece and Germany with those in Belarus makes it,
therefore, difficult to accept radiation from Chernobyl as the
The Petridou et al. study (a Letter to Nature) about Greece  is a
little peculiar. The de facto Abstract begins by saying, "There has
been no documented increase in childhood leukaemia following the
Chernobyl accident." The closing paragraph of the letter says, "In
conclusion, we provide evidence that infant leukaemia may be caused
by very low level intrauterine exposure to ionizing radiation; that
fallout from the Chernobyl explosion may have increased the incidence
of infant leukaemia among Greek children exposed in utero, perhaps by
as much as 2 to 3 fold; and that low-level preconceptional radiation
has no demonstrable effect on leukaemia risk."
"[M]ay be," "may have," and "perhaps." The authors are not very
decisive, are they?
In the same issue of Nature  (pp. 303-304), in a brief "News and
Views" assessment of the Petridou et al. study, Darby and Roman raise
some legitimate questions about their findings, and note that their
results "depend on only 12 cases of infant leukaemia".
Busby invokes a study in Germany by Kaletsch, et al. , however I
have not read it. I doubt that it reports anything much different
than what the other studies have found. His claims about Wales and
Scotland combined [6, 7] are based on studies that he co-authored. I
don't know if these two journals are available at the local
university library, and my guess is that the primary source material
is full of qualifiers about the findings of increased leukemias.
In his article  Busby also wrote:
"Because the number of exposed children is so large, it can be safely
concluded that there was a real increase in infant leukemia in those
who were exposed in utero to the fallout from Chernobyl although we
cannot say for certain that the effect was not due to parental
pre-conception irradiation, since our exposed groups (defined by
Petridou et al.) were born up to the end of 1987."
Petridou et al. is the Letter to Nature  discussed above. If we
take the "cannot" and the "not" out of what Busby wrote, what he is
saying in effect is that parental pre-conception irradiation may have
caused the increase in leukemias. This is the opposite of what
Petridou et al. write. They said, "we provide evidence . . . that
low-level preconceptional radiation has no demonstrable effect on
Busby  also wrote, " The ICRP model has been criticized for lack
of scientific method and for failures to predict or explain a number
of observations in children [11-13,16]."
References 11,13, and 16, are all co-authored by Busby. Numbers 11
and 16 are not peer-reviewed papers. Number 12 is in French. I
don't read French, so I can't comment on it.
Someone else has already pointed this out on RADSAFE, however it
bear repeating: Busby's article has 20 references. Seven of them
are Busby citing work that he wrote or co-wrote. Three of those
seven are not peer reviewed papers, they are reports or recommendations.
I don't know where Chris Busby, a chemist, gets the idea that he is
qualified to criticize the ICRP.
 Busby, Christopher. Very Low Dose Fetal Exposure to Chernobyl
Contamination Resulted in Increases in Infant Leukemia in Europe and
Raises Questions about Current Radiation Risk Models. Int. J.
Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6(12), 3105-3114.
 Gibson, B.E.S.; Eden, O.B.; Barrett, A.; Stiller, C.A.; Draper,
G.J. Leukemia in young children in Scotland. Lancet 1988, 2, 630.
 Ivanov, E.; Tolochko, G.V.; Shuvaeva, L.P. Infant leukemia in
Belarus after the Chernobyl accident. Radiat. Env. Biophys 1998, 37, 53-55.
 Petridou, E.; Trichopoulos, N.; Dessypris, N.; Flytzani, V.;
Haidas, S.; Kalmanti, M. Infant leukemia after in utero exposure to
radiation from Chernobyl. Nature 1996, 382, 352-353.
 Kaletsch, U.; Michaelis, J.; Burkart, W.; Grosche, B. Infant
leukemia after the Chernobyl Accident. Nature 1997, 387, 246.
 Busby, C.; Cato, M. Increases in leukemia in infants in Wales and
Scotland following Chernobyl Energy Environ. 2000, 11, 127-137.
 Busby, C.; Scott, C.M. Increases in leukemia in infants in Wales
and Scotland following Chernobyl: Evidence for errors in statutory
risk estimates and dose-response assumptions. Int. J. Radiat. Med. 2001, 23.
Busby's References 11, 12, 13, and 16 are:
11. Busby, C.; Bertell, R.; Schmitz-Feuerhake, I.; Yablokov, A. 2003
recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk. The
health effects of ionising radiation exposure at low doses for
radiation protection purposes. Regulators Edition; ECRR: Brussels,
12. IRSN. Les consequences sanitaires des contaminations internes
chroniques par les radionucleides. Avis sur le rapport CERI 'Etudes
des effets sanitaires de l'exposition aux faibles doses de radiations
ionisantes a des fins de radioprotection. DRPH 22005/20 Institut de
Radioprotection at de Surete Nucliare (IRSN): Fontenay aux Roses,
13. Busby, C.; Fucic, A. Ionizing Radiation and children's health:
PINCHE conclusions. Acta Paediat. 2006, 453, 81-86.
16. Bramhall, R.; Busby, C.; Dorfman, P. Minority Report of the
Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters; Sosiumi
Press: Aberystwyth, UK, 2004.
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