The ICRP, International Commission on Radiaological Protection, has set the standards for low level radiation protection for many years, but recently some scientists are challenging their risk assesment levels. This comment came from Radsafe, a radiation protection email type forum.
ICRP model in trouble
Scientist report on Uranium toxicity reveals a massive gap in the
scientific modelling of the International Commission on Radiological
Protection (ICRP). There are massive implications for all aspects of
nuclear policy and Uranium weaponry.
“Secondary Photoelectron effect”
The dangers of Uranium may have little to do with its inherent
radioactivity. The Low Level Radiation Campaign’s Dr. Chris Busby has
proposed that genetic damage is caused by the interaction of natural
gamma and other radiation fields with Uranium or any element of high
atomic number. The impact of the gamma causes localised showers of
ionisations close to particles and even single atoms of elements of
atomic number. Research by Busby in conjunction with Pr. Ewald Schnug,
colleague at Germany’s Federal Agricultural Research Centre, is about
be published [see footnote].
All elements absorb gamma radiation and re-emit its energy in the form
of secondary photo-electrons. Their ability to do this varies with the
fourth power of the atomic number of the element; Uranium absorbs gamma
rays 585365 times more effectively than water does. The shower of
localised ionisations caused by the secondary photo-electrons creates a
mechanism for genetic damage which is ignored by the conventional model
of radiation risk. (The arithmetic is in LLRC’s journal Radioactive
Times April 2008 page 8. www.llrc.org/rat/subrat/rat72.pdf)
In 2003 Busby reported this “Secondary Photoelectron effect” to the
British Government’s Committee Examining Radiation Risk of Internal
Emitters (CERRIE). It was one of the many important topics omitted by
the CERRIE Majority Report. Subsequently Busby published two papers
footnote] and described the effect to the UK Ministry of Defence
Depleted Uranium Oversight Board and CoRWM (Committee on Radioactive
Heavy metal poisoning
The New Scientist has discussed the Secondary Photoelectron effect only
in relation to Depleted Uranium, although it has far wider relevance.
has potential to explain why heavy metals are toxic. Heavy metal
toxicity exists despite wide differences in chemistry; until now no-one
has understood the reason.
Uranium DNA affinity
Uranium itself has a high affinity for the phosphates in the DNA
molecule and it is known that, at small total body burdens of Uranium,
very high proportion of it will be on the DNA. Meditated by the
Secondary Photoelectron effect, Uranium focuses the energy of natural
gamma radiation onto DNA. This has the potential to explain observed
high risks of genetic diseases associated with nuclear facilities and
events like Chernobyl which are ignored by the ICRP and sneered at by
the pro-nuclear International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health
Organisation (which has to defer to IAEA in matters of radiation and
The mining, processing, use and disposal of Uranium must now be seen as
creating health hazards far greater than predicted by the ICRP’s out of
date modelling. There are extremely important policy implications for
nuclear power, disposal of radioactive waste, and nuclear weapons
(including depleted Uranium and new generations of weapons containing
other types of Uranium).
As LLRC has said since 1992, the effects of other types of radioactive
pollution have probably been underestimated too, but it now seems that
Uranium is the dominant problem.
New light on Busby’s “Second Event theory”
In the last 20 years Chris Busby has proposed his “Second Event theory”
as a possible explanation of how radioactive elements that decay more
than once (Strontium 90 is an example) may have a greater effect on
genetic mutation. A first radioactive disintegration that hits a cell
without killing it forces the cell to repair itself. If a second
disintegration hits the same cell during the repair process, which
a few hours, it may cause a mutation that the cell cannot repair. This
is all in Wings of
Supporters of nuclear power have attacked the theory, not least because
they said radiation could not initiate the repair process in cells, but
in the New Scientist article the ICRP’s Hans-Georg Menzel accepts that
“double hits of energy are known to be the most damaging to cells.” The
Majority Report of CERRIE denied this in 2004 after long arguments. See
Report (http://www.llrc.org/wobblyscience/subtopic/cerrie.htm) for the
true state of the debate on the Second Event theory.
The Secondary Photoelectron effect is now seen to be another case of
general Second Event theory, describing how sequences of radiation
events can be concentrated into very localised cellular targets. These
considerations make nonsense of the conventional model of radiation
biology, which views radiation in terms of average energy transfer
across large volumes of tissue. The old concept of “dose” is now useful
only for those exposure regimes where the radiation truly is
well-averaged. The regulation of radioactivity in the environment is
about to enter a new phase in which “ionisation density” will be the
In the New Scientist article Mark Hill of Oxford University is reported
as saying that Compton scattering would reduce the importance of the
secondary photo-electron effect. However, Hill only discusses high
energy gamma; the low energy part of the natural gamma spectrum will
create relatively high ionisation densities with a correspondingly
enhanced probability of causing double hits to DNA.
accessible to subscribers
but it is free on
The Low Level Radiation Campaign plays a key role in all this. LLRC
funds much of Dr. Busby’s research. It was LLRC’s publicity material
that alerted Professor Schnug to Dr. Busby’s existence, and our office
put them in touch with each other. It was our journal Radioactive Times
that alerted New Scientist to the imminent publication of Busby and
Schnug’s new paper.
LLRC does all this and much more on a microscopic budget, but we need
money. Please consider a donation. http://www.llrc.org/donation.htm
tells you how you can give money – cheques, Standing Orders, transfers,
and Paypal (you don’t need to have a Paypal account of your own)
Clicking on this
charset=UTF-8> link takes you to our Paypal account, which is a safe
to send money and costs you nothing.
You can do this even if you don’t have a Paypal account – when the
payments page opens, scroll down to find where you can pay with
1. “Advanced Biochemical and Biophysical Aspects of Uranium
Contamination”. Chris Busby and Ewald Schnug: Institute of Plant
Nutrition and Soil Science, Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL),
Bundesallee 50, D-38116 Braunschweig, Germany in “Loads and Fate of
Fertilizer Derived Uranium”, pp. xx-xx Edited by L.J. De Kok & E.
(c) 2007 Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands
2 Busby C (2005) Depleted Uranium weapons, Metal Particles, and
Radiation Dose European Journal of Biology and Bioelectromagnetics Vol
No 1 p 82-93 www.ebab.eu.com
3. Busby C (2005) Does Uranium Contamination amplify natural background
radiation dose to DNA?
European Journal of Biology and Bioelectromagnetics Vol 1 No 2 p
This is from Dr. Rudi Nussbaum, one of the pioneers of radiation safety. Now retired, he helps us out on occasion with answers to our many questions on the risk/dose equations of low dose radiation.
In general, countertops in kitchens, in particular, that contain radioactive minerals definitely present a health risk since they are a continuous radiation source. Moreover, in addition to external exposure from penetrating radiation (gamma or high energy beta rays), released radioactive gas (radon) or radioactive minerals leaching from the stone due to spilled liquids like vinegar or other acids might enter your lungs or into food and thus produce internal exposure.
While the skin is thick enough to protect body tissue from damage by external alpha radiation, this is not true if alpha emitters get lodged in organs or the blood inside the body. Internal exposure represents a very much larger health risk compared to external exposures. However, it is extremely difficult to make any reliable statements about the magnitude of this risk compared to other environmental risks from chemicals in our food, water, air pollution, etc.
There are a few reliable studies of health risks from low level radiation for specific exposure situations: E.g. variations in terrestrial gamma background radiation across the British Isles is definitely correlated with variation in childhood cancer mortality. Or, low-dose exposures (most likely internal exposures) from radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests in the US or from the Chernobyl explosions in Europe have been found to be correlated with increases in neo-natal infant mortality.
The scarcity of research data is only in small part due to the limits of available scientific research tools. This kind of research requires levels of investment that only large research grants could provide. For over fifty years the political and military/industrial powers have deliberately manipulated the scientific establishment (by holding the research purse strings and carefully selecting scientist-members of official radiation protection bodies, including the UN World Health Organization) to proclaim in hundreds of official reports and mainstream journals and popular magazines that low level radiation is harmless (or may even be beneficial), thus protecting the interests of nuclear weapons and ammunition production, the industrial applications of radiation, but also the medical radiation establishment (radiology and nuclear medicine).
This is consistent with what you report about the granite industry.
There has always been a relatively small number of courageous whistle blowers who believe that they have a responsibility to search for the truth and resist corrupting pressures on their sense of scientific integrity. Any independent and critical scientist who challenges the accepted dogma with conflicting evidence (like the above examples about fallout) finds it very difficult to get his research reports published in the mainstream scientific/medical literature, and often has seen his career under assault and sometimes destroyed.
These are ugly facts of corruption and they result in workers’ and citizens’ lives being sacrificed, who remain unable to litigate for compensation because of the intentional absence of scientific evidence and the inherent impossibility to prove cause and effect for any individual victim of radiogenic disease. Open discussion of these matters in the general media would violate a strict taboo.
About the author:
Rudi H. Nussbaum, Ph.D.
Dr. Nussbaum is professor emeritus of physics and environmental sciences at Portland State University Physics and Environmental Sciences emeritus faculty, co-edited The Effects of Low-Dose Radiation Exposure: In Children, in Young Adults, in Medicine, the Environment and in the Workplace, which was from the proceedings of an international conference held March 19-21, 1998, in Muenster, Germany. The volume is published by the German Society for Radiation Protection, Berlin, 2001. Nussbaum also co-authored Epidemic Juvenile Hypothyroidism among a Population of Hanford ‘Downwinders’, which appears in the volume. Dr. Nussbaum received his B.S. in 1951, and Ph.D. in 1954 from the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
This article covers why the latency period is so unpredictable from radiation induced cancers. Some what technical, but readable.
This link is an interview with John William Gofman, who was
” a professor emeritus of Medical Physics at UC Berkeley, and lecturer for the Department of Medicine, UCSF. While getting As PhD in physics at Berkeley in the 1940s, Gofman proved the slow and fast neutron fissionability of uranium-233. At the request of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gofman helped produce plutonium (not even a quarter-milligram existed at the time) for the Manhattan Project. He got his MD from UCSF in 1946 (winning the Gold-Headed Cane Award, presented to the senior who most fully personifies a “true physician”) and began his research on coronary heart disease. In 1963 the Atomic Energy Commission asked him to establish a Biomedical Research Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to evaluate the health effects of all types of nuclear radiation. By 1969, however, the AEC and the “radiation community” were downplaying his warnings about the risks of radiation . Gofman returned to full-time teaching at Berkeley, switching to emeritus status in 1973.”
Goffman explains why a single track of ionizing radiation through a cell can lead to cancer. He also postulates that X ray radiation (no different than Gamma from a granite countertop) is more harmful that the atomic bomb radiation. It seems that the X ray radiation is traveling slower, leaves more energy deposited in a cell than a faster moving atomic bomb Gamma or Nuetron ray.
One of his most troubling messages was this:
“Women irradiated 15, 20 years ago got horrendous doses from mammography compared to now. And therefore, some of the present increase in breast cancer has to be from the radiation they got.”
Apparently they have learned to use lower doses and a few are concerned that they did a lot of harm in the past.
And this was a troubling quote:
“If I were a member of the public, knowing what I know: if the establishment told me that something had a certain risk, I’d assume that the true risk was at least 10 times worse.”
This interview is an easy read, not at all technical. It makes you think about what made this esteemed expert unacceptable to the government. Might be a case of shooting the messanger.
For some time now, there has been a debate on the “bystander effect”, in which a radiation damaged cell signaled nearby cells in some manner, causing up to 50 more cells to become damaged as well. Many studies pointed to the possiblity, but this new study is the first to actually find proof of the injured, unradiated cells.
The researchers too mice, used a lead shield to protect the head from Radiation, then zapped them with radiation. Brain tumors were found in higher levels than the control mice, until a chemical that prevents cells from communicating was injected in one of the batches of mice. Those mice did not have a higher level of brain tumors.
The importance of this study is that it will lead other researchers to duplicate the results, and if that happens, the dose/risk rates of radiation will tumble to new lows. What we think as safe will become known as not safe, leading to a lower acceptable radiation exposure level. Of course exposure levels have been dropping every few years since they were establised in the forties. No surprise that it should happen again.
Once thought impossible or difficult to prove, long term radiation damage has been found to leave easily read clues in the human body.
This was found by a team of US scientists studying workers from a Russian nuclear facility. Damaged DNA was found by a novel use of dyes, and it was suggested that up to 62% of the workers blood cells had chromosone damage at one point.
The following is off a radiation safety forum. The debate centers around low dose radiation, why one should avoid as much as possible. Dr. Long’s last sentence says it all.
So, “high dose radiation – 12,000 times – chest x-ray” affects adjacent
Would other severe injury, like crushed arm, affect the rest of the
body? Of course!
Why the surprise?
Why the false headline that it “Hints at Dangers of Low Dose
Hormesis, low dose good where high dose bad, must be taught.
We must correct this disinformation by fearmongers
to dismantle over-regulation and liberate nuclear power.
This was interesting for those who have a lot of granite installed in a home, tiles, showers, or countertop. If the general level of the home is raised more than 11 uR/hr, you will exceed the maxiumum allowed dose past background radiation levels.
From the Health Physicists Society “ask an expert” section.
How many mR/hr (alpha,beta,gamma,or x ray) could be considered unsafe for continuous exposure?
First of all, the units, mR/hr apply only to gamma or x radiation. However, the same question could be posed in terms of dose equivalent rate, mrem/hr, which is applicable to all types of ionizing radiation. As a matter of reference, an exposure of 1 mR gamma or x radiation results in a dose equivalent of approximately 1 mrem (with a small variation depending upon the energy and irradiation conditions). The current regulatory occupational exposure limit in the United States is 5000 mrem per year. If continuous exposure is interpreted as 2000 working hours per year, this translates into 2.5 mrem/hr for radiation workers. However, occupational exposures should be kept as low as reasonably achievable with 5000 mrem/yr as a regulatory upper limit. This does not necessarily mean that radiation does in excess of 5000 mrm/yr are unsafe for radiation workers, but this is the limit applied for regulatory purposes. Because of factors such as the general population being more heterogeneous and containing individuals of all ages and conditions of health, the regulatory limit is lower than for occupational exposure. The limit for radiation delivered in addition to the natural background radiation to individuals of the general public is 500 mrem in any one year and 100 mrem/yr on a prolonged basis. If we interpret continuous exposure as 8766 hours per year (24 hrs/day x 365.25 days/yr), 100 mrem/yr translates to 0.011 mrem/hr or 11 microrem/hr. This would be in addition to the natural background radiation which is quite variable but which averages about 300 mrem/yr or 34 microrem/hr. This does not necessarily mean that radiation doses in excess of 500 mrem in a single year of 100 mrem on a prolonged basis are unsafe when added to the pre-existing natural background but rather these are the limits accepted for regulatory purposes. Charles E. Roessler, CHP, PhD
Dr. Alice Stewart and a college did some work for Hanford Nuclear facility years ago. Hanfords managment did not like the results, so they fired the scientists, curtailing access to the worker health records that the study was based on.
Sixteen years later, Dr. Stewart gained access to the records, and her completed study showed a larger risk from low dose radiation.
Well, we are still learning that, but this article from India says that 4″ to 5 times background is enough to cause concern.
“i don’t want to be an alarmist,” srinivasan said. “at the same time people in hyderabad – especially the builders and architects – should be aware that local granites used in house construction are a source of radiation much higher than normal,”
“we cannot tell for sure whether or not there is a health risk until the radon survey is carried out, srinivasan said.” The former director of AMD claims this is not an issue, but where there is disagreement, safety should always come first.