[ RadSafe ] Montgomery Burns Award, 2016

Mon May 16 10:04:58 CDT 2016

According to Table 12D-1 of BEIR VII, the thyroid sensitivity to radiation drops dramatically with age. In particular, looking at cancer incidence (cases per 100,000 after exposure to a single dose of 0.1 Gy), the number of thyroid cancers is 115 (age 0), 76 (age 5), 50 (age 10), 33 (age 15), 21 (age 20), 9 (age 30), 3 (age 40), 1 (age 50), and less than 1 for later ages.

You can interpret these numbers in many ways. For example - you can certainly make a case that no protective measures are needed at all after age 20, when the sensitivity drops by a factor of almost 6 compared to an infant. If you're more cautious, you can also point to age 50, when the sensitivity is almost entirely absent (or, more likely, when the latency period is longer than the expected remaining lifespan). It depends on what your own threshold for action is.

What I do not know is the expected risk from taking KI at various ages - whether due to allergic reaction or accidental overdose. It would make sense to cease administering KI at the point where the risk from taking it exceeds the risk from not taking it. Whether that's at age 20, 40, 50, or some other age is what I don't know. Any KI experts out there who can fill us in on that item?


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Peter Crane
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2016 11:36 AM
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Montgomery Burns Award, 2016

Ten days ago, I wrote to Mark Flanagan, who edits "Nuclear Notes" for the Nuclear Energy Institute, and followed up later that day with an email to Ellen Anderson, the chief health physicist for NEI, to point out an inaccuracy in a blogpost dealing with the effects of radioactive iodine. To date, neither one has responded in any way.

I have been following the efforts of the nuclear industry to win the hearts and minds of the American people for 41 years, since the days when John Simpson of Westinghouse led the Atomic Industrial Forum. I'd like to suggest the establishment of a Montgomery Burns Award, for those who speak for the nuclear power industry but do so in a way that only fosters public distrust of the industry and the technology. Mr. Flanagan can be the first recipient.

The messages follow.

1.  Dear Mr. Flanagan,

I recently read your post from 2011, "Iodine-131: Not an Issue in the United States," in which you wrote that  except for pregnant women, there is no risk from I-131 to anyone over 20. Can you tell me your source for that? Everything else I have read, in some 33 years of following this issue, says that the risks are minimal once one reaches 45, but not below that age.

Lest you think me some reflexive anti-nuke, I am on record as believing that nuclear power should be part of this country's energy mix, and that eliminating it, in an age of global warming, would be reckless. I was also on television in Seattle in March 2011, saying that it was "irresponsible fearmongering" to suggest that people should be buying and taking potassium iodide in the U.S. on account of Fukushima. But I feel strongly that the case for nuclear power can and should be made on the basis of a scrupulously accurate analysis of risks and benefits, with no distortion of the underlying facts.

I look forward to hearing from you.

-- Peter Crane, NRC Counsel for Special Projects (retired)

2. Dear Ms. Anderson,

I realized belatedly that I should have copied you in on the message that I sent to Mark Flanagan earlier today. His statement that there is no risk to anyone over 20 from I-131 contradicts the FDA guidance on potassium iodide from 2001, which calls for administering KI to all those under 40, and even to those over 40 if the potential thyroid dose is high enough to result in hypothyroidism. I am not aware that this guidance has been changed since then, or that there is any new scientific information suggesting that it ought to be. Could it be that Mr. Flanagan intended to write "40" and that the "20" that appeared was a typographical error? 

I hope you will discuss this with him. Thank you.

-- Peter Crane, NRC Counsel for Special Projects (retired) _______________________________________________
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