15 May 2012

Government Radiation Hysteria May Do More Harm Than Good

This article is cross-posted to Al Fin Energy blog

A recent study from MIT suggests that government guidelines to protect from low-level radiation exposure may be verging on the the hysteric -- if not downright harmful.
The study, led by Bevin Engelward and Jacquelyn Yanch and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that when mice were exposed to radiation doses about 400 times greater than background levels for five weeks, no DNA damage could be detected. _MITNews
Life on Earth has always been exposed to variable levels of low level radiation. Background radiation has been a powerful driving force behind evolution, over the aeons.

Until now, governments have arbitrarily set radiation exposure limits, without basing them on realistic scientific studies. That may be about to change.
Until now, very few studies have measured the effects of low doses of radiation delivered over a long period of time. This study is the first to measure the genetic damage seen at a level as low as 400 times background (0.0002 centigray per minute, or 105 cGy in a year).

“Almost all radiation studies are done with one quick hit of radiation. That would cause a totally different biological outcome compared to long-term conditions,” says Engelward, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT.

...Background radiation comes from cosmic radiation and natural radioactive isotopes in the environment. These sources add up to about 0.3 cGy per year per person, on average.

“Exposure to low-dose-rate radiation is natural, and some people may even say essential for life. The question is, how high does the rate need to get before we need to worry about ill effects on our health?” Yanch says.

Previous studies have shown that a radiation level of 10.5 cGy, the total dose used in this study, does produce DNA damage if given all at once. However, for this study, the researchers spread the dose out over five weeks, using radioactive iodine as a source. The radiation emitted by the radioactive iodine is similar to that emitted by the damaged Fukushima reactor in Japan.

At the end of five weeks, the researchers tested for several types of DNA damage, using the most sensitive techniques available. Those types of damage fall into two major classes: base lesions, in which the structure of the DNA base (nucleotide) is altered, and breaks in the DNA strand. They found no significant increases in either type.

DNA damage occurs spontaneously even at background radiation levels, conservatively at a rate of about 10,000 changes per cell per day. Most of that damage is fixed by DNA repair systems within each cell. The researchers estimate that the amount of radiation used in this study produces an additional dozen lesions per cell per day, all of which appear to have been repaired.

Though the study ended after five weeks, Engelward believes the results would be the same for longer exposures. “My take on this is that this amount of radiation is not creating very many lesions to begin with, and you already have good DNA repair systems. My guess is that you could probably leave the mice there indefinitely and the damage wouldn’t be significant,” she says. _MITNews
What is the cost of government-instigated radiation hysteria? Look at how the world reacted to last year's tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Instead of focusing on the human tragedy of 30,000 human casualties, the media focus was on a nuclear power plant that lost power due to a poor design, discovered in hindsight, after an unanticipated natural disaster. And all of that, in spite of no one being killed or badly harmed from radiation exposure!

Advanced human societies are badly in need of reliable electrical power. The best source for that power is advanced nuclear reactors from gen III, gen IV, and beyond. But instead of pursuing an all out campaign of research and development to produce the needed electrical power generators, humans are retreating from the future in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, and more -- out of radiation hysteria.

It is time to return to a careful scientific study and to get away from hysterical herd behaviours, led by cynical governments and big money green organisations. That applies not only to nuclear hysteria, but to carbon hysteria, overpopulation hysteria, resource scarcity hysteria, and all the other forms of pseudoscientific hysteria that governments and the skankstream media love to torture the public with.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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