Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Don't Let the Data Get in the Way of a "Made Up" Mind

What is the significance of this report? Professor Emeritus John Cameron of the University of Wisconsin Medical School puts it in perspective:

"This study is probably the best scientific evidence, of many scientific data sources, to show that low levels of ionizing radiation are without health hazard. The results clearly contradict the conclusions of BEIR [American Academy of Science Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation committee] that even small amounts of radiation have risk (in BEIR V and earlier reports), which have been largely based on the data from the Japanese atomic bomb survivors, who largely received their radiation exposures in very brief, high dose rate conditions and who are also now demonstrating that effective radiation health effects thresholds exist in the range of 20 to 200 rem [20 to 200 cGy]."

It is commonplace for us to read various national polls in the newspapers based on 1,044 or so interviews. Presidents and tax-peasants alike make decisions from the opinions of a group of individuals that wouldn't fill one side of a high school basketball gymnasium. Yet in the United States, with a sample size of about 1,000, the statistical error is on the order of 5%. Compare that sample size with the 72,000 individuals evaluated in the in-depth scientific survey being presented here. Yet the Department of Energy hasn't bothered to explain why their own study flies in the face of their regulatory policy.

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Permit me to elaborate on just a few points. Certainly you are welcome to draw your own conclusions from the surprising (to the researchers, anyway) Johns Hopkins data, but here are the top three things that jump out at me in response to this data:

1. Why would 28,000 workers, with the same backgrounds as the guys they stood with in the hiring line, have 24% fewer deaths than their non-nuclear buddies?

2. Except for mesothelioma, which was attributed to other causes, the exposed individuals invariably had a lower mortality than unexposed. This is precisely the opposite of what the LNT hypothesis would predict.

3. While the lung cancer rate of all workers was higher than that of the general population - presumably since more industrial workers smoke cigarettes than do coaches and preachers - it is very interesting that these data parallel others that show that the exposure of lung tissue to radiation reduces lung cancer. The alpha radiation from radon and plutonium, in particular, seems to do a good job. (No, I'm really not kidding.)

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Get ready for a treat. You are about to meet Bernie Cohen.