Saturday, February 27, 2016

Do Nuclear Workers Glow in the Dark?

Mortality study of plutonium workers at Rocky Flats involving 7,112 workers from 1952 to 1979 gave cancer deaths at 64% of the expected number in the general population. - Nuclear News, December 1981

While the workers building bombs and those involved in electric power generation are in entirely different industries (except in the minds of anti-nuclear protesters), there are many similarities in their work environments. Of particular interest to us are the radiation levels (which are in the area where we would anticipate hormesis), the relatively accurate dosimetry (a fancy scientific word for measuring radiation exposure), and excellent follow-up on the health and longevity of the "participants." We'll look first at two Canadian studies of power plant workers and then at investigations of weapons plant workers by both American and British researchers.

Just in case I forget to mention it three or four times in the next few chapters, none of these investigations had any intention of even considering the possibility of hormesis. They were all expecting to prove a positive correlation between radiation and cancer. That's what a "smart" researcher does: makes sure the report comes out to reaffirm what the political authority footing the bill already believes. [Most experimentalists are dedicated scientists who let the data speak for themselves. But as in all other facets of life, there are some who play it "smart" to make sure they stay on the government payroll. It is these few that I refer to here.]

As you'll see, some researchers show data that offer evidence of the hormesis version of dose-response, but they conclude that there is a linear relation between radiation and exposure and any particular cancer you'd like to worry about.