[ RadSafe ] A critique of Chris Busby's leukemia article.

Steven Dapra sjd at swcp.com
Sun Apr 24 20:40:39 CDT 2011

April 24, 2011

	Chris Busby's article [1] 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 [2] 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authors refer to unpublished data for the Nordic countries, and for 
West Germany.)

	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) [3] 
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 
causative factor."

	The Petridou et al. study (a Letter to Nature) about Greece [4] 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 [4] (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. [5], 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 [1] 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 [4] 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 
leukaemia risk."

	Busby [1] 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.

Steven Dapra


[1]	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.
[2]	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.
[3]	Ivanov, E.; Tolochko, G.V.; Shuvaeva, L.P. Infant leukemia in 
Belarus after the Chernobyl accident. Radiat. Env. Biophys 1998, 37, 53-55.
[4]	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.
[5]	Kaletsch, U.; Michaelis, J.; Burkart, W.; Grosche, B. Infant 
leukemia after the Chernobyl Accident. Nature 1997, 387, 246.
[6]	Busby, C.; Cato, M. Increases in leukemia in infants in Wales and 
Scotland following Chernobyl Energy Environ. 2000, 11, 127-137.
[7]	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, 
Belgium, 2003.
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, 
France, 2005.
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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