[ RadSafe ] Researcher Points to Suppression of Evidence On Radiation Effects by Nobel Laureate

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Mon Sep 26 12:24:40 CDT 2011

Without intending to disparage anyone on any side of the issue, reading
someone's archived correspondence doesn't necessarily give you complete
insight into their thoughts and motivations, and publishing "key
excerpts" does not always capture the truest picture.  

But regardless of what was thought or known or believed in the 1940s, it
is time to systematically revisit Linear No Threshold.  LNT is at its
heart a statistical argument, and there is perhaps no single field in
which the available tools have changed so much as our ability to
manipulate lots and lots of numbers.  Even if there were no basic
disagreement about the validity of LNT, it would STILL be time to look
at it again more closely.  

I believe that it shouldn't be too difficult or expensive to put
together an experiment that will have the power to pretty much answer
the question about LNT's legitimacy.  The trick is that it should not be
done by people who think LNT is wrong, or by people who think it is
right.  Instead, several researchers with enough street cred to make
people listen, and who are on opposite sides of the issue, should get
together and design the experiments together.  If they work to make sure
that all possible objections are addressed before the experiment
actually begins, they should produce something truly impressive.  Yes,
someone will be proven wrong, but they will have been proven wrong in
the best possible way, and any prestige they loose from being wrong will
be more than replaced by being shown to be scientists in the finest

So, someone out there; get to it. 

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Miller, Mark L
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 4:04 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Cc: Johnson, Dr. Janet @ MFG; Roberts; Glenn at agni.phys.iit.edu; Bob
Meyer; Little, Bonnie Colleen; Mark Miller @ home
(marklmiller at comcast.net)
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Researcher Points to Suppression of Evidence On
Radiation Effects by Nobel Laureate

No Safe Level of Radiation Exposure? Researcher Points to Suppression of
Evidence On Radiation Effects by Nobel Laureate
ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2011) - University of Massachusetts Amherst
environmental toxicologist Edward Calabrese, whose career research shows
that low doses of some chemicals and radiation are benign or even
helpful, says he has uncovered evidence that one of the fathers of
radiation genetics, Nobel Prize winner Hermann Muller, knowingly lied
when he claimed in 1946 that there is no safe level of radiation
Calabrese's interpretation of this history is supported by letters and
other materials he has retrieved, many from formerly classified files.
He published key excerpts this month in Archives of Toxicology and
Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.
Muller was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery
that X-rays induce genetic mutations. This helped him call attention to
his long-time concern over the dangers of atomic testing. Muller's
intentions were good, Calabrese points out, but his decision not to
mention key scientific evidence against his position has had a
far-reaching impact on our approach to regulating radiation and chemical
Calabrese uncovered correspondence from November 1946 between Muller and
Curt Stern at the University of Rochester about a major experiment that
had recently evaluated fruit fly germ cell mutations in Stern's
laboratory. It failed to support the linear dose-response model at low
exposure levels, but in Muller's speech in Oslo a few weeks later he
insisted there was "no escape from the conclusion that there is no
threshold." To Calabrese, this amounts to deliberate concealment and he
says Stern raised no objection.
Calabrese adds, "This isn't an academic debate, it's really practical,
because all of our rules about chemical and low-level radiation are
based on the premises that Muller and the National Academy of Sciences'
(NAS) committee adopted at that time. Now, after all these years, it's
very hard when people have been frightened to death by this dogma to
persuade them that we don't need to be scared by certain low-dose
Within a year after Muller and his group persuaded the NAS to accept the
linear model for gonadal mutations, the practice was extrapolated to
somatic cells and cancer. Twenty years later, NAS adopted the linear
approach for chemicals. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency announced it would use the linear model for risk
assessment, Calabrese points out.
Some can accept that even the most distinguished scientists have human
failings, he acknowledges. But his view is that "the regulatory research
community needs to hear about this. The implications of my findings are
that we should revisit our exposure regulations because our regulatory
history is founded on a deception. We have seen literally hundreds of
thousands of cleanup decisions based on a model that was fraudulently
derived. I think we should probably have drastically different exposure
standards today, and far less fear."
Calabrese believes, "The die was cast by Muller and regulations adopted
since then have gone unchallenged. I think he got his beliefs and his
science confused, and he couldn't admit that the science was unresolved.
So he went ahead and expressed an opinion about how to handle the public
health situation."
Geneticists in the 1950s came to embrace the "linear dose-response
model" of risk because at the high exposures they tested, there was no
level below which DNA damage did not occur. They felt medical doctors
didn't grasp how significant were the dangers. As the smartest and
brightest, Muller anticipated the risk of atmospheric atomic testing and
became passionately committed to protecting society, Calabrese explains.
Muller and Curt Stern had done many of the key experiments. Muller
himself served on the NAS's Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation
(BEAR) committee, through which the linear dose-response approach to
risk assessment became firmly entrenched. The two successfully
suppressed last-minute evidence from the fruit fly experiment conducted
in Stern's lab by postdoctoral researcher Ernst Caspari, and the rest is
history, Calabrese says. It marked the "transformation of a
threshold-guided risk assessment to one now centered on a linear
"To me this all raises the question, what happens when a scientific
field lies to the public, to federal agencies and the president? It's a
very scary situation that the radiation genetics community in the 1950s
assumed that something was correct without requiring the necessary
documentation to support it," the UMass Amherst toxicologist says.
Stern's group published a paper in 1947 not long after Muller's Nobel
Prize acceptance speech in which they tried to discredit their own
study, further evidence of a deliberate cover-up, Calabrese says. "It's
been hidden in the bowels of the Atomic Energy Commission for decades
until I found it. They revised it to remove the one sentence suggesting
this experiment might provide evidence for the threshold model."
"One could argue that Muller single-handedly undermined above-ground
atomic testing, which is a good thing," Calabrese says. "But after
uncovering this lie, I'm starting to contemplate what society would have
looked like if the regulatory community had felt free to use a threshold
model. Members of that 1956 NAS BEAR committee didn't see the domino
effect of their
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