By Michael Mariotte

Today’s post is by Dr. Ian Fairlie, reposted with permission from his blog here.

In 2013, I discussed several epidemiological studies providing good evidence of radiogenic risks at very low exposure levels.

A powerful new study (1) has been published in Lancet Haematology which adds to this evidence. However the study’s findings are perhaps even more important than the previous studies, for several reasons.

First, as stated by the authors, it provides “strong evidence of a dose-response relationship between cumulative, external, chronic, low-dose, exposures to radiation and leukaemia”.

Second, it finds radiogenic risks of leukemia among nuclear workers to be 50% greater than previously thought. The excess relative risk of leukemia mortality (excluding CLL) was 2·96 per Gy. In 2005, a similar study among nuclear workers in 15 countries by several of the same authors (2) found an ERR of 1·93 per Gy. Just as important, the new study’s estimated risks are much more precise than before.

Third, it confirms risks even at very low doses (mean rate = 1·1 mGy per year). Unlike the Japanese bomb survivors’ study, it actually observes risks at low dose rates rather than extrapolating them from high levels.

Fourth, it finds risks do not depend on dose rate thus contradicting the ICRP’s use of a Dose Rate Effectiveness Factor (DREF) which acts to reduce (by half) the ICRP’s published radiation risks.

Fifth, it finds radiogenic leukemia risks decline linearly with dose, contradicting earlier studies suggesting a lower, linear-quadratic relationship. It strengthens the Linear No Threshold model of radiogenic risks, as it now applies to leukemias as well as solid cancers.

Sixth, the study uses 90% confidence intervals and one-sided p-values. In the past, 95% intervals and two-sided p-values were often incorrectly used which had made it harder to establish statistical significance.

Just as important are the study’s credentials which are pretty impeccable. It’s a huge study of over 300,000 nuclear workers adding up to over 8 million person years, thus ensuring its findings are statistically significant, i.e. with very low probability of occurring by chance. Also, it’s an international study by 13 respected scientists from national health institutes in the US, UK, and France including

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, US
Department of Health and Human Services, US
University of North Carolina, US
Drexel University School of Public Health, US
Public Health England, UK
Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, France
Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Spain
UN International Agency for Research on Cancer, France

Funding was provided by many institutions including US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, US Department of Energy, US Department of Health and Human Services, Japanese Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare, French Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, and the UK’s Public Health England.

Other Conclusions

This study powerfully contradicts the views of ill-informed and inexperienced journalists (including the UK writer, George Monbiot) and self-styled scientists who argue that radiation risks are over-estimated and even that radiation is somehow good for you. Hormetic …read more

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