[ RadSafe ] Arguments with Dr. Busby

Otto G. Raabe ograabe at ucdavis.edu
Mon May 16 17:47:29 CDT 2011

To understand Dr. Busby's perspective it is 
useful to recognize that one of his favorite 
references may be the antinuclear reporter's 
anecdotal early history of the use and misuse of 
radiation written by investigative journalist 
Catherine Caufield in her book “Multiple 
Exposures, Chronicles of the Radiation Age” 
(Caufield 1989). It describes the primitive early 
beginnings of the use of radiation and radium 
after their discovery over 100 years ago. Many 
people inadvertently received gigantic doses of 
ionizing radiation in those early years of the 
Twentieth Century. Apparently for this 
information that shapes much of his views about 
radiation safety (rather radiation 
unsafety).  She seems to look at every fact 
through dark glasses. This is not a science book, 
but rather it seems to be written more as a 
popular text exposé to promote the author’s 
personal antinuclear political views concerning 
ionizing radiation. While most of the facts, 
dates, and people’s names are largely correct in 
her book, the overall discussion is misleading 
and omits important scientific findings during 
the past half-century. Caufield’s exaggerated 
fear of ionizing radiation and low regard for 
radiation safety practice and the scientists who 
worked to provide radiation safety standards led 
her to write a distorted description of radiation 
protection knowledge, radiation biology, and the 
scientific basis of modern radiation safety and 
health physics. Caufield is not a scientist. Her 
book incorrectly and negatively portrays the 
positive work of brilliant radiation safety 
scientists while lionizing the scientifically 
unsound positions of anti-nuclear activists. 
People unfamiliar with the true history and 
reliability of current radiation safety standards 
might readily find her account to be convincing.

Caulfield's book discusses the early part of the 
Twentieth Century when little was known about 
radiation risks, especially with regard to the 
use and abuse of radium isotopes. Her discussion 
of the history of radium toxicology ends before 
the big scientific advances in the second half of 
the 20th Century and ignores the vital work of 
Robley Evans and many other 20th Century 
radiation safety scientists whose dedication and 
contributions led to the reliable standards and 
sound radiation safety practice that have been in 
place in the U.S. for more than 50 years. The 
“rest of the story” about radium and radiation 
toxicological knowledge is very important, but is 
noticeably omitted in Caulfield's book..


Prof. Otto G. Raabe, Ph.D., CHP
Center for Health & the Environment
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
E-Mail: ograabe at ucdavis.edu
Phone: (530) 752-7754   FAX: (530) 758-6140

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