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HOW HOT ARE DR. HAUGHTON'S RUNNING SHOES?
The running shoes of Dr. Dennis Haughton of Phoenix, pictured on page 1 of The Medical Tribune, July 23, 1986, were
said to radiate at a rate "over 100 times background" afterbeing in Kiev at the time of the Chernobyl accident.This
report is typical of media accounts, which give the radiation rate in units of "times normal."How hot is that? It is
impossible to say.The background in Colorado is "2.5 times normal" if Texas is defined as normal (250 vs 100
mrem/yr).An area near the Library of Congress receives"700 times normal" if normal is defined as what Congress
allows at the boundary line of a nuclear power plant.A whole year's exposure of "50 times normal" is within NRC
standards for occupational exposure.These figures refer to total body irradiation. The volume of tissue irradiated
is crucially important.The safest available treatment for hyperthyroidism -- radioactive iodine -- delivers up to
10,000 rads (10 million millirads) to the thyroid, and about 14 rads to the body. Also, the duration of exposure is
important. A dose of "100 times background" for a week might subject a person to the dose he would have received
from living in Colorado for a year (where the cancer rate is lower than elsewhere.) A meaningful report of radiation
exposure would give the dose (rems, rads, etc). But journalists seem to be more interested in alarming the public
than in enlightening them.
Both issues are "hot." Comparison of doses may influence the future foundations of radiation protection
principles and regulations. The report's appendix on Chernobyl (115 pages and 558 references) is obviously
politically incorrect: it denies the claims of a mass health disaster caused by radiation in the highly contaminated
regions of the former Soviet Union.
At the global scale, as the report shows, the average natural radiation dose is 2.4 mSv per year, with a "typical
range" reaching up to 10 mSv. However, in the Annex on natural radiation, UNSCEAR presents data indicating that this
dose range in some geographical regions is many tens and hundreds times higher than the average natural global dose,
or than the currently accepted annual dose limits for general population (1 mSv) and occupationally exposed people
No adverse health effects related to radiation were ever observed among people exposed to such high natural doses.
This strongly suggests that the current radiation standards are excessively, and unnecessarily, restrictive.
Fortunately, the human body can repair most radiation damage if the daily radiation doses are not too large. As
will be explained in Appendix B, a person who is healthy and has not been exposed in the past two weeks to a total
radiation dose of more than 100 R can receive a dose of 6 R each day for at least two months without being
Only a very small fraction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki citizens who survived radiation doses some of which were nearly
fatal have suffered serious delayed effects. The reader should realize that to do essential work after a massive
nuclear attack, many survivors must be willing to receive much larger radiation doses than are normally permissible.
Otherwise, too many workers would stay inside shelter too much of the time, and work that would be vital to national
recovery could not be done. For example, if the great majority of truckers were so fearful of receiving even non-
incapacitating radiation doses that they would refuse to transport food, additional millions would die from
starvation alone.The authoritative study by the National Academy of Sciences, A Thirty Year Study of the Survivors qf Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, was published in 1977. It concludes that the incidence of abnormalities is no higher among children later
conceived by parents who were exposed to radiation during the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki than is the
incidence of abnormalities among Japanese children born to un-exposed parents.
In his presentation at the DDP meeting in Las Vegas, Myron Pollycove, M.D., of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission highlighted the following:
* Aging and cancer result from DNA alterations caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Normal oxidative
metabolism causes at least a million such changes per cell every day. Normal background radiation causes about two.
* Low-dose ionizing radiation stimulates the body's enzymatic repair mechanisms. DNA repair is tripled by
exposure to 25 cGy (25 rads). A tenfold increases in background radiation from 1 mGy/yr to 10 mGy/yr stimulates
overall DNA damage control by 20%.
* Total body irradiation or TBI (e.g. 150 r in fractionated doses in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) has improved
survival compared with chemotherapy alone.
* TBI in mice, especially when combined with chronic caloric restriction, prevents or causes regression of
spontaneous mammary tumors.
* Dr. Pollycove summarized a number of epidemiologic studies that support hormesis, involving populations in
areas with high background radiation; survivors of the atomic bombs or radiation accidents; nuclear workers; and
patients exposed to multiple fluoroscopies. He also presented experimental evidence of life extension effects,
immune stimulation, suppression of malignant transformation of cells, slowing of tumor growth, and reduction in
number of metastases.
``All statistically significant adequately controlled epidemiologic studies,'' he writes, ``confirm low doses of
radiation are associated with reduced mortality from all causes, decreased cancer mortality, and may be protective
against accidental high- dose radiation.'' In US nuclear shipyard workers, for example, those with a cumulative
exposure between 0.5 and 40 cSV or rem had a standardized mortality ratio 16 standard deviations below that of
matched nonexposed workers for all causes, and 4 SDs less than nonexposed workers for all malignancies.
The Chernobyl Accident
According to the Committee's scientific assessments, there have been about 1,800 cases of thyroid cancer in children
who were exposed at the time of the accident, and if the current trend continues, there may be more cases during the
next decades. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to
radiation exposure fourteen years after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer
incidence or mortality or in non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The risk of
leukaemia, one of the main concerns owing to its short latency time, does not appear to be elevated, not even among
the recovery operation workers. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of
radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population are not likely to experience serious health
consequences from radiation from the Chernobyl accident. However, the accident had a large negative psychological
impact on thousands of people.
Myth: In the worst-hit parts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where all buildings were demolished, everyone was killed by blast, radiation, or fire.
° Facts: In Nagasaki, some people survived uninjured who were far inside tunnel shelters built for conventional air raids and located as close as one-third mile from ground zero (the point directly below the explosion). This was true even though these long, large shelters lacked blast doors and were deep inside the zone within which all buildings were destroyed. (People far inside long, large, open shelters are better protected than are those inside small, open shelters.)
Many earth-covered family shelters were essentially undamaged in areas where blast and fire destroyed all buildings. Figure 1.5 shows a typical earth covered, backyard family shelter with a crude wooden frame. This shelter was essentially undamaged, although less than 100 yards from ground zero at Nagasaki.4 The calculated maximum overpressure (pressure above the normal air pressure) was about 65 pounds per square inch (65 psi). Persons inside so small a shelter without a blast doorwould have been killed by blast pressure at this distance from the explosion. However, in a recent blast test,5 an earth-covered, expedient Small-Pole Shelter equipped with blast doors was undamaged at 53 psi. The pressure rise inside was slight not even enough to have damaged occupants' eardrums. If poles are available, field tests have indicated that many families can build such shelters in a few days.
The great life-saving potential of blast-protective shelters has been proven in war and confirmed by blast tests and calculations. For example, the area in which the air bursting of a 1-megaton weapon would wreck a 50-psi shelter with blast doors in about 2.7 square miles. Within this roughly circular area, practically all them occupants of wrecked shelters would be killed by blast, carbon monoxide from fires, or radiation. The same blast effects would kill most people who were using basements affording 5 psi protection, over an area of about 58 square miles.6
Figure 1.2 also illustrates the fact that at a typical location where a given amount of fallout from an explosion is deposited later than 1 hour after the explosion, the highest dose rate and the total dose received at that location are less than at a location where the same amount of fallout is deposited 1 hour after the explosion. The longer fallout particles have been airborne before reaching the ground, the less dangerous is their radiation.
Within two weeks after an attack the occupants of most shelters could safely stop using them, or could work outside the shelters for an increasing number of hours each day. Exceptions would be in areas of extremely heavy fallout such as might occur downwind from important targets attacked with many weapons, especially missile sites and very large cities. To know when to come out safely, occupants either would need a reliable fallout meter to measure the changing radiation dangers, or must receive information based on measurements made nearby with a reliable instrument.