It may surprise you that it took Dr. Joseph Lister more than 50 years in the 19th century to convince surgeons moving from working in a morgue on one side of a hospital corridor to wash their hands before entering a room on the other side of the corridor to help women give birth.
Dr. Ed Calabrese should not feel so exceptional to have spent much of the last 40 years of his career in genetics convincing his peers that the Linear No Threshold model for nuclear radiation damage, makes no sense what ever. Now by obtaining decades of correspondence from the numerous committees and panels who have maintained this unfortunate status quo he can prove fraud from almost the beginning. The bottom line before explaining the details of the fraud is that years of research on as many as 70,000 survivors of the atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their new born children was ignored in favor of dealing only with data arrived by exposing fruit flies (drosophila) and mice to radiation.
Calabrese is able to show clear conflict of interest in such a choice in order to maintain funding for animal studies rather than human studies. The National Academy of Science’s Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission human genetic study, reported by Neel and Schull in 1956, showed an absence of genetic damage in offspring of atomic bomb survivors to support of a threshold model. However, it was not considered for evaluation by the National Academy of Science’s Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation Genetics Panel. The study therefore could not impact the Panel’s decision to recommend the linear no threshold dose-response model for risk assessment, now well know as the LNT model.
Summaries and transcripts of the Panel meetings, now available, failed to reveal an evaluation of the Neel/Schull study. Despite its human relevance and ready availability. Instead they relied entirely on laboratory studies where radiation was applied to common fruit flies and mice.
Correspondence among the panel members now shows that the failure of the genetics panel to consider years of human exposure evidence meticulously attained was due to two things. First they all exhibited a strong belief that a single molecule of radiation could cause damage to humans, thus no threshold where damage would not occur. Second and more despicable is the fact that an excessive degree of self-interest among the panel members dealt with their primary research work being involved with animal studies including the impact of the late Herman J. Muller who had won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1946 for his work on fruit flies. That work was later shown to be flawed by a co-worker. Evidence shows that Muller himself tried to block the publication of the Neel/Schull study back in 1956, when he communicated the following message to Neel : “I cannot indicate my own approval of the publication of the working paper as part of the WHO report if this attack upon the credibility of extrapolation from animals to man..is to be included.”
They clearly feared that human genetic studies would expose the limitations of extrapolating from animals to humans, particularly using flies. This would shift research investments and academic grants from animal to human studies. Ignoring the Neel/Schull atomic bomb study served both the purposes of preserving the LNT policy goal and ensuring continued dominance of the followers of the Muller dependance on fruit flies and mice.
If the reader finds this to be as absurd and underhanded as it would appear you can be sure scientists studying climate change are experiencing the very same shunning of reason and logic in favor of absurd alarmist claims. As a result the world has poured money down a drain that could have helped raise the living standards for the poor.
In the case of the inaccurate LNT model patients not able to get potentially helpful radiation treatment have suffered unnecessarily.
Cancer risk assessment was built upon assumptions that Carcinogens are Mutagens, that radiation induced mutations follow a linear dose response down to a single ionization and that chemical carcinogens, which also act via mutagenic processes should be assessed in the same way as radiation for the purpose of cancer risk assessment. This has proved disastrous as US EPA adopted it as their policy in 1975 creating a variety of inaccurate alarmist positions regarding chemicals less harmful than advertised.
EPA based its linear foundation for cancer risk assessment on the mouse studies while ignoring by then 30 years of human studies involving radiation exposures that exceeded back ground levels by many orders of magnitude delivered at an extraordinary high dose rate.
We are therefore faced with the strange history of how the world came to adopt the Linear No Threshold based cancer risk assessment. Those in the position of power implemented an ends justified the means philosophy and would even commit scientific misconduct to ensure the adoption of the LNT. It is one that envelops the universal common denominators of money, power and influence.
The findings now nearly 50 years later have consistently continued to contradict a linear dose response, supporting a threshold response. The adoption of the LNT occurred during a perfect storm consisting of heightened societal fear of nuclear confrontation and continuing nuclear fallout from atmospheric testing.
This history should represent a profound embarrassment to the United States National Academy of Science, regulatory agencies world wide, and especially US EPA and the risk assessment community. Those whose founding principles were so ideologically determined and accepted with little if any critical reflection. It is time this all changes. The Linear No Threshold model dealing with nuclear radiation needs to be placed in the dustbin of history.
The complete 12 page article titled “The Muller-Neel Dispute and the Fate of Cancer Risk Assessment” by Edward J. Calabrese appears in Environmental Research.