The Week That Was
May 17, 2003

1. New on the Web: FRED SINGER REVIEWS JACK HOLLANDER'S NEW BOOK "THE REAL ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS." Poverty, not Affluence, is the Environment's Number One Enemy

2. DIOXIN RISKS IN PERSPECTIVE: EPA EXAGGERATES RISKS and sets safe doses two to three orders of magnitude lower than regulatory bodies around the world



5. Plutonium: Myths and Reality: Exposed workers have lower mortality


7. NEWS ABOUT NUCLEAR SAFETY IN EUROPE: from Dr. Klaus Becker (Berlin)

8. STUDY CHALLENGES AIR POLLUTION ALARMISM: Do fine particles (PM2.5) reply kill tens of thousands annually?




2. Dioxin Risks in Perspective: EPA exaggerates risks

"Dioxin risks in perspective: past, present, and future," a newly-published paper by Sean Hays and Lesa Aylward, traces trends in dioxin emissions, environmental levels, intake levels through foods, and human body levels. In the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (April, 2003) article, they show regulatory bodies around the world have adopted tolerable daily intakes for dioxin in the range of 1-3 pg-TEQ/kg-body weight/day, while EPA-determined safe doses are two to three orders of magnitude lower.

The scientists conclude that this difference is mostly a matter of policy, and not of interpretation of the scientific data, because non-cancer endpoints are very similar among all of the agencies.

In the same journal and issue, Michael Gough writes in an editorial titled "The limits of science: dioxin," that there was never a firmly established scientific basis for the linear model of dioxin cancer toxicity. Gough postulates that "EPA profits from its stubborn adherence to its policy choice by presenting itself as an agency bent on protecting health at any cost." Gough cites some of these costs: enormous expenses to clean up dioxin and PCB contamination, regardless of the likelihood of exposure; and diversion of resources to dioxin research costing $3 billion to date. Gough concludes, "Until EPA's 'science policy' is replaced with plain science, excellent data such as those reported, summarized, and interpreted by Hays and Aylward, will be denied their rightful regulatory importance."


3. LNT leads to unrealistic cancer estimates by CDC/NCI, endorsed by NRC

Any pretence that LNT is scientifically proven is an insult to the scientists who have demonstrated that it is not.

A draft report issued in February 2003 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) relies on LNT. In 1998, the US Congress asked them to study the health consequences for Americans exposed to radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear weapons tests conducted around the world. Focusing on the period between 1951 and 1962, when most above-ground tests were carried out, they estimated that about 11,000 people died from cancers related to these tests. Dose rates due to the fallout were estimated to be at least an order of magnitude smaller than background radiation and total individual doses were estimated to be around 1 mGy (or less than 1% of average background).

The National Research Council of the US National Academy has endorsed the CDC-NCI draft report - subject to reanalysis of exposure to iodine-131, in the light of risks observed from much higher doses due to the Chernobyl accident - and has said that it should be published without delay.

Does this mean that increased incidences of cancer have been observed in areas exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons tests? Not at all. The CDC-NCI estimates were obtained by multiplying very large numbers of people by very small risks derived from the LNT model. As most of the people associated with these calculations appear to be aware, there are no scientific data to support the LNT model at these low doses. Surely they recognize the possibility that no member of the American public has died from cancers related to nuclear weapons tests. (And what is the US Congress going to do with this estimate of 11,000 deaths anyhow?)



4. No leukemia after Chernobyl

The German Federal Ministry of Environment and Reactor Safety report finds no increase in leukemia among children in the former Soviet Union after Chernobyl. The just-published study was carried out by the Institute of Radiation Biology of the University of Munich under the direction of Prof Kellerer.


5. Plutonium: Myths and Reality: Exposed workers have lower mortality

A 37-yr-long study of 26 Plutonium workers at Los Alamos, exposed to an average of 26,000 pico-Curie showed a lower mortality than a comparison group. Additional studies of 224 workers who incorporated

19,000 picocuries (since 1974) and of 7,112 workers at Rocky Flats Plutonium Works (1952-1979) showed lower mortality compared to a control group. Malignant neoplasms were also lower (Eagle Alliance, 20.4.2003, Issue 5) See also (German) Dt.Ärzteblatt Oct.1994 , C-1697.

Four Pu workers who had been given a life expectancy of 10 years died after 21 to 44 years at age 79, 80, 83 and 87.


6. Low-Dose Nuclear Irradiation for Controlling Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among North American men and the second leading cause of death in those aged 65 and over. The American Cancer Society recommends testing those over age 50 who are expected to live at least 10 years, even though the ability of early detection to decrease prostate cancer mortality has not been demonstrated. So controversy exists about the appropriateness of screening because of the considerable economic and social burden of diagnosing and treating prostate cancer, coupled with the projected large increase in the number of new cases as the population ages. This very important public health issue could be addressed at low cost by total-body low-dose irradiation therapy to stimulate the patient's own defences to prevent and control most cancers, including prostate cancer, with no symptomatic side effects.

Source: Paper by Jerry M. Cuttler <>
To be presented at Canadian Nuclear Society conference Toronto, 2003


7. News about nuclear safety in Europe: from Dr. Klaus Becker (Berlin)

(1) Incidents in Paks/Hungary blown out of proportion:

It started on April 10, when, during cleaning of burned-up fuel elements of a Soviet-type WWER 440-231 in an intermediate storage pool, some radioactive gases were released. A second incident of this type took place on May 3. In another incident during last weekend, a leaking seal released some of the cooling pool's contaminated water into the nearby material testing pool of another, not operating reactor bloc. The leak has been sealed, and the 10 cm high water removed. One worker has been exposed slightly above the regulatory limit for radiation workers, nobody in the environment has been endangered.

However, it is important that nobody has been - or will
be - harmed by these incidents, which did not involve the reactor itself. This is not a Chernobyl/Three-Mile Island situation.

(2) There has been an 8-p.article "From Hiroshima to Chernobyl: Epidemiological findings, uncertainties, and perceptions" (in English) by Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General of IAEA, and Dr. Jolyon Hendry of IAEA Nuclear Sciences and Applications, in Int. J. Nucl. En., the monthly of the German Nucl. Soc., 48/4, April 2003, 236-243. It is a rather basic article worth reading.

The conclusions are:
**- a comprehensive mechanistic understanding of the complex interactions between radiation and relevant macromolecules is currently not feasible;
**- the possibility of the transfer of animal experimental results to humans, and the extrapolation to low doses even more limited;
**- important information can be obtained by epidemiology, however with large uncertainties in the low-dose range, and substantial uncertainties regarding the data interpretation because of environmental confounders.

To quote a few sentences: "In general, significant radiation effects can be detected at doses of about 100 mGy and higher... Analyses restricted to low doses are complicated by the limitations of statistical precision, the potential for misleading findings owing to any small, undetected biases...
However, epidemiology alone will not be able to resolve the issue whether there are dose thresholds in risk... Especially, the former Soviet Union, which built its military arsenal in a very short time with little concern for human exposures and environmental pollution, may offer the possibility to extend the findings from Hiroshima and Nagasaki...Ongoing and future studies in epidemiology and animal sciences, while of importance for quantitative risk assessment, will not resolve uncertainties surrounding the effects in humans of low-dose radiation..."

(3) In the same issue of (April 2003), pp.244-250, there is an interesting article, also in English, by R. Wakeford (Principal Research Scientist of BNFL Risley) "Leukaemia clusters around Sellafield and Dounreay - Dosimetry and Epidemiology". He describes in great detail and scientific correctness the true facts behind the media pollution with the "Sellafield Leukaemia Clusters" here in Western Europe since the story first came up in 1983, including the claim that fathers transmitted "radiation-leukaemia" to their children.

To quote the conclusion of this article: "It seems that the cause of the majority of the cases of childhood leukaemia has been identified as an infectious agent. This firm epidemiological evidence now needs to be complemented by the identification of the infectious agent (or agents) involved and the biological mechanism of leukaemogenesis."


8. American Cancer Society study challenged

A study by Joel Schwartz challenges the scientific basis of both the Bush Administration's Clear Skies Initiative and Senator Jim Jeffords's (I-Vt.) Clean Power Act. The analysis has implications for climate policy because Jeffords's legislation includes regulation of carbon dioxide emissions and Bush's plan could serve as a proxy climate policy by forcing utilities to close coal-fired power plants in order to reach the limits on mercury emissions.

Clear Skies and Clean Power would impose tough new controls on power plants to reduce levels of fine particle (PM2.5) pollution, which both sides claim kills tens of thousands of people per year. Supporters of these bills promise substantial benefits from additional PM reductions. [2.5 refers to particle size of 2.5 microns or smaller.]

Schwartz's new study, published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that Clear Skies and Clean Power rest on a weak scientific foundation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based its new annual fine PM (PM2.5) standard on a study known as the American Cancer Society (ACS) study of PM and mortality, which assessed the association between the risk of death between 1982 and 1998 with PM2.5 levels in dozens of American cities.

Although the ACS study reported an association between PM and mortality, some odd features of the ACS results suggest that PM is not the culprit. For example, higher PM levels increased mortality in men, but not women; in those with no more than a high school degree, but not those with at least some college; in former-smokers, but not current- or never-smokers; and in those who said they were moderately active, but not those who said they were very active or sedentary.

These odd variations in the relationship between PM2.5 and mortality seem biologically implausible. Even more surprising, the ACS study reported that higher PM2.5 levels were not associated with an increased risk of mortality due to respiratory disease; a surprising finding, given that PM would be expected to exert its effects through the respiratory system.

EPA also ignored the results of another epidemiological study that found no effect of PM2.5 on mortality in a cohort of veterans with high blood pressure, even though this relatively unhealthy cohort should have been more susceptible to the effects of pollution than the general population. The evidence therefore suggests that EPA's annual standard for PM2.5 is unnecessarily stringent. Attaining the standard will be expensive, but is unlikely to improve public health.

Air pollution has declined dramatically over the past 30 years, and will continue to decline, both because more recent vehicle models start out cleaner and stay cleaner as they age than earlier ones, and also because already-adopted standards for new vehicles and existing power plants will come into effect in the next few years.

If policymakers feel they must do something to speed up PM reductions, Schwartz advises they offer people tax incentives to scrap high-polluting older vehicles that account for a substantial portion of ambient PM levels in metropolitan areas. This flexible, cost-effective approach is more likely to result in net public health benefits than either Clear Skies or Clean Power.

The study is available at <,03452.cfm>. Cooler Heads


9. Pollution report plays numbers game
Daily News By Joel Schwartz

For decades, Americans have relied on the American Lung Association for reliable information on respiratory health. But in its "State of the Air 2003" report, the association vastly exaggerates air pollution levels and falsely claims that half of all Americans breathe air that puts them at risk.
The truth is, air pollution has been declining for decades, and already-adopted regulations will reduce vehicle emissions - the major source of smog - by 90 percent over the next 20 years.

How did one of the nation's foremost public health charities get the numbers so wrong? Rather than basing its study on actual air pollution levels and risks, the ALA used Enron-like accounting.

Here's how: Many counties monitor ozone at several locations because pollution levels vary from place to place. Taking Los Angeles County as an example, ozone could be high one day in Glendora and then high the next day in Santa Clarita, 50 miles away. In this situation, the report counts two bad-air days for the entire county, even though people in Glendora and Santa Clarita each experienced only one such day, and the other 8 million people in the county enjoyed clean air on both days.

Thus the report manages to claim Los Angeles County averages 35 bad air days per year, even though a direct inspection of the EPA monitoring data shows that Santa Clarita - the worst location - had 25 elevated-ozone days per year, while the average location had just seven elevated days - 80 percent less than the report claims.

Indeed, Long Beach, West Los Angeles, Hawthorne and Lynwood - the most densely populated areas of the county - had clean air every day of the year, yet the American Lung Association gave their air a grade of F. Even for areas with frequent high ozone levels, the grades bear little relation to actual health risk. The grades are based on the Environmental Protection Agency's stringent new "eight-hour ozone standard," which is replacing the current "one-hour standard."

Although the eight-hour standard is significantly tougher, the EPA itself estimates that reducing ozone levels from the current standard to the new standard would reduce emergency room visits for asthma by only 0.6 percent. The effect is so small because, as epidemiological studies show, current air pollution levels are low enough that air pollution accounts for at most a few percent of all respiratory distress.

Almost 90 percent of the country already has air meeting the one-hour ozone standard. Yet between the phony grading system and "pollution inflation," the report makes the false claim that half of all Americans breathe air that puts them at risk.

The fight against smog is actually turning into a great success story in environmental protection. According to the EPA, ozone levels decreased by an average of about 24 percent nationwide between 1980 and 2000. Southern California, the region with the worst air in the country, reduced its annual violations of the EPA's one-hour ozone standard by about 80 percent between 1980 and 2001. Houston, the second most polluted area in the country, reduced ozone violations by about 60 percent during the same period. These gains occurred at the same time Americans increased their driving by 75 percent.

Readers of the State of the Air report would never know these facts. Instead, the American Lung Association claims America has made little progress on air pollution, and that air pollution will increase without new regulations. Just the opposite is the case.

Already-adopted EPA regulations for 2004 and beyond require unprecedented reductions in automobile emissions. A fleet meeting the 2004 standards over its lifetime would be 90 percent cleaner than the average vehicle on the road today. Similar standards go into effect in 2007 for diesel trucks. This means that most air pollution will disappear during the next 20 years, as the fleet turns over to these advanced-technology vehicles.

False claims about pollution generate alarming headlines, but ironically, the American Lung Association's efforts could actually end up reducing Americans' overall health. This fear-mongering will encourage the public to demand unnecessary expenditures to clean up air that is already clean and new regulations to reduce emissions that will be eliminated by already-adopted measures.

In a world of limited resources, society can address only some of the many risks people face. When we waste effort on small or nonexistent risks, fewer real problems get the attention they deserve.

"If you torture the data enough, it will confess to anything," goes a cautionary statistics joke. The State of the Air report seems to have adopted this maxim without a trace of irony.

Joel Schwartz is a senior fellow at Reason Foundation and a former environmental scientist for the California State Legislative Analyst's Office and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. He is author of the forthcoming study "No Way Back: Why Air Pollution Will Continue to Decline."


10. McCain's Freudian slip or was it just April Fool's Day?

I have in my hand a letter dated April 1 from Senator John McCain to a constituent in Payson, AZ, signed "John."

In the letter, Mc Cain claims that "greenhouse gases are causing temperatures in our atmosphere to rise." He refers to the scientific report of the UN-supported IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which he identifies as "International Panel on Climate Control"!

That's a pretty ambitious goal - even for the UN. But it does show a certain mindset.

And just for the record: The best global data we have -- from weather satellites - do not show any significant atmospheric warming.



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