More Radiation Bogeymen


BY MICHAEL R. FOX PHD. – I recently read an Associated Press (AP) article regarding medical radiation doses and the allegation that harm from such doses is increasing (

The AP author makes no mention of the decades-long firestorm over the health effects of radiation, especially at the low doses used in medicine.  May I point out that for years there has been a serious challenge to the assumption that observable harm occurs at low doses.

Harmful health effects at low doses are predicted by the Linear No Threshold Dose (LNT), yet none is observed.  The LNT came originally from studies of very high doses (100+ rem) among Czech uranium miners decades ago.

A chart line was then simply drawn from this high dose region through the low dose region, and on down to zero.  Over the years this line eventually was assumed to truly represent the actual relationship between radiation dose and observable harm, but it doesn’t–and nothing could be further from the truth.

Even worse, the LNT became the basis for radiation exposure limits written into the law by nearly all states and federal regulatory agencies. As a result, the risks of low dose radiation have been grossly exaggerated for decades. The flaws of the LNT have been described by two world radiation experts:

Dr. Lauriston Taylor describes the abuses of the LNT as “a deeply immoral use of our scientific heritage,” Gunnar Walindar Sweden, states that the LNT is “the greatest scientific scandal of the 20th century”. (I omitted #3, it was redundant)

The use of the dubious LNT has wasted hundreds of billions of dollars by the US reactor business, and drives everyones medical costs skyward.  Overstating such risks, while horribly harmful to the economy and to the costs of energy and medicine, is an economic boon to those rent-seekers, greens, news media, and law firms who “help” reactor owners and health care agencies “comply”  with such Draconian and discredited regulations.

I am not aware of any serious study which shows observable harm to humans at these low doses. There are many studies which show no harm and many more indicate a health benefit from these low doses.  In the latter case much of the radiation andcell biology has already been been scrutinized.

Radiation can cause the formation of chemical “radicals” in cells that are very reactive, and can be damaging.  But this doesn’t begin to tell the radiation story.  Each day billions of our cells are also damaged from other radicals from other “oxidizing processes”, taking place each second in our bodies.

Our fabulous cellular defense and immune systems, and DNA damage detection and repair mechanisms are all involved with detection, damage repair, or excretion of such damaged cells. See this study for more of the details.

So the issues are not whether radiation can cause cell damage, but what are the relative amounts of cell damage from radiation, compared with the natural processes of daily cell damage, and do these manifest themselves into observable harm to the organism (in this case the human body)? Cutler and Pollycove and others have shown that the cell damage rates from natural oxidants can be thousands of time greater than the cell damage rate from a 1 rem (a measure of radiation dose) exposure.  Just for a little perspective, oxygen, which we absorb with every breath, is also a powerful oxidant, producer of lots of “radicals” and can cause prolific cell damage, too.

So if no one minds (given my condition: fighting cancer and using CT scans),  I’ll be damned if I’ll ever take health advice from an AP reporter, or from those “authorities” she selects to fortify her opinion.

1.  Given that a single CT scan gives me a radiation dose of around 1 rem each.

2. Given that such low grade radiation damage is reversible and is not cumulative, as long as the immune system is not swamped with huge over doses, and as long as the CT and MUGA doses are spread out over time,

3.  And given that the health information obtained from such scans is extremely helpful in plotting future therapy strategies,

I would simply invite all supporters of these 40 year old, obsolete, bogey-man arguments to simply go to hell, get out of the way, and let technology advance, for the health benefit of all of us.

Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., is a nuclear scientist and a science and energy resource for Hawaii Reporter and a science analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and now lives in Eastern Washington. He has nearly 40 years experience in the energy field. He has also taught chemistry and energy at the University level. His interest in the communications of science has led to several communications awards, hundreds of speeches, and many appearances on television and talk shows. He can be reached via email at