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SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)
TUCSON, Ariz., June 12, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The belief that radiation is unsafe at any dose is both false and itself dangerous, as Fukushima shows, writes Jane M. Orient, M.D., in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
In the Fukushima Prefecture, the death toll from evacuation has exceeded the toll from the hurricane and tsunami, but no one has died from radiation. The Japanese economy also suffered massive unnecessary damage.
Unlike at Fukushima, workers and firefighters did die at Chernobyl in the 1986 accident. Of 134 heavily irradiated persons, 28 died soon after the accident due to acute radiation disease, and 106 persons remained alive. Despite predictions of excess late cancers, solid cancer mortality was 15% to 30% less than expected among the Russian emergency workers, and 5% less than expected among the population of the most contaminated areas. The "dead zones," where human beings are still prohibited, are thriving wildlife sanctuaries.
The 1934 "tolerance dose" of 680 milligray (68 rad) per year was based on 35 years of medical experience. In the 1950s, exposure limits were drastically lowered for political reasons, Orient writes. Today, even radiation workers are not allowed to receive more than about one-thirtieth of the earlier tolerance dose.
The rationale is the linear no-threshold (LNT) assumption, which extrapolates cancer risk at the very high dose rates experienced by Hiroshima survivors down to zero, disregarding the rate of exposure (and thus repair mechanisms).
The assumption is not "conservative" or "prudent," Orient maintains, and it is contradicted by the evidence. It has led to a "psychosis of fear." Standards need to be changed immediately because in the event of use of radiation dispersal devices (RDDs or "dirty bombs") or nuclear weapons they would cause massive preventable casualties. If adhered to, they would preclude rescue efforts or economic recovery.
There is abundant evidence that low-dose exposures are actually protective, Orient explains, through stimulating a nonspecific adaptive response called "hormesis." Overstating risks and disregarding benefits deprives people of potentially enormous medical benefits as well as economic ones.
"It is the responsibility of physicians to insist on honest appraisal of risks and benefits," she concludes.
The Journal is the official, peer-reviewed publication of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, founded in 1943 to preserve private medicine and the patient-physician relationship.
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