[ RadSafe ] Easing compensation rules for ill Hanford workers being considered - Science or Politics as usual?

Miller, Mark L mmiller at sandia.gov
Thu Mar 26 10:09:48 CDT 2015


Dear RadSafe,
I ran across this article from the Tri-City Herald (Richland, WA).  Just as the original version of the radiation worker compensation Act seemed to IGNORE decades of good science and dedicated radiation protection practices in the name of buying political votes (IMHO), this "extension of benefits" seemed to be just more of the same.  So I reached out to our trusted, competent colleague, Tony Brooks to see what HIS opinion was.  His reply follows:

As I read the newspaper article written by Annette Cary there is close to zero science and 100 percent politics.  She attends the Hanford Advisory Board, where I am a member, she has never interviewed me, only those who has views similar to her views and reports the interviews as the workings of the Board.  Of course my opinions would be based on science which most reporters do not like to hear.

 The whole compensation program: down-winders, nuclear workers, veterans etc is based on politics.  It had a science base when it started but with a science base almost no one would get "paid".  By passing laws to make payment dependent, not on dose, exposure or risk, but on living in a region, seeing an event or working, made it possible to pay a lot of people.  About 40% of us get cancer and 25% die of it without radiation exposure.  To get re-elected the politics took over, you need to pay more people for me to get re-elected.  I understand that over two billion dollars has been paid to date.

As a down winder I know that the people in southern Utah where I grew up are sure that we all got cancer from the fallout, workers are sure that they got cancer from the job and the veterans are sure that they got cancer from the tests they observed in Nevada.  They ask me this question.  If radiation did not cause the cancer why are they willing to pay me?  Tough question?  This provides serious fuel for radio-phobia.  I explain that the cancer rate in Utah is the lowest in the nation, the cancer rate in Washington county, where I lived and had the highest fallout recorded, has the second lowest cancer rate in the Utah.  Fallout did not cause and epidemic of cancer in Utah.  All that does is make them sure that I have sold out and must not have any credibility.   Please read the book by Dr. Daniel Miles, a good friend and St. George boy, "The Phantom fallout-induced Cancer Epidemic in Southern Utah, Downwinders Deluded and Waiting to Die" where he evaluated and proved wrong each of the myths in the books written to stimulate radio-phobia.

The proposal talked about in the article is to again pay not because of dose, biological damage or risk but to pay based on where you worked and suggests that the workers may have been exposed to internally deposited radioactive materials and that this dose was not taken into consideration when determining if they had radiation related cancers.  The proposal further states that they had to work at the site for 250 days to get reimbursed.  Bobby and I both know that internally deposited radioactive is much, much less effective in producing cancer than acute external exposure and that the potential doses from it in work environments are very much lower than the external exposures.  However, it does make good press and politics.  If they could demonstrate deposition and dose in individual workers, perhaps they should be paid, without that the monitoring of the areas is so good and the probability that they had internal exposures is so low in 250 days that there is no scientific basis for payment.

So we have no evidence for dose.  What is the evidence for radiation induced risk from internally deposited materials in the workers?   The cancers to be paid for include, brain, bone, lung and liver.  We all know that the blood brain barrier is effective and for most of the radionuclides there is no evidence for an accumulation in the brain to result in a significant brain dose.  The risk for brain cancer is not even listed in BEIR VII following A-Bomb exposure.  We all know that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer so it is impossible following low doses of low LET radiation to detect an increase in lung cancer in any of these payed populations.  Without smoking the doses to the lungs in Beagle dogs required to see life shortening or an increase in lung cancer was on the order of 40 Gy.  A huge exposure that is many orders of magnitude above any dose received during working at a nuclear site.  Bone cancer is not even listed in BEIR VII as a radiation induced cancer.  It is included in this list since the accumulation of 90-Strontium in bone can result in a dose to the bone.  Bone is one of the most radio-resistant organs in the body and huge amounts of dose are required to detect an increase in bone cancer.  Liver is another very radio-resistant organ but had a high frequency in the A-bomb data.  About 75% of the cases of liver cancer in Japan had chronic hepatitis C infections which has been shown to be a strong carcinogen.  Liver cancer in animal studies required very, very large doses.

In summary this article is a political attempt to pay more people associated with the nuclear industry, I think focused on stimulating fear of radiation in the general public.  It will reinforce the question.   If radiation did not cause cancer why are they paying us?

Dr. Antone L. Brooks
Retired Professor Washington State University

Mark L. Miller, CHP

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