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MIT Study: Prolonged Low-level Radiation Exposure Poses Little Risk

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the volunteers-for-further-tests-may-raise-their-hands dept.

Science 142

JSBiff sends this quote from MITnews: "A new study from MIT scientists suggests that the guidelines governments use to determine when to evacuate people following a nuclear accident may be too conservative. The study (abstract), led by Bevin Engelward and Jacquelyn Yanch and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that when mice were exposed to radiation doses about 400 times greater than background levels for five weeks, no DNA damage could be detected. Current U.S. regulations require that residents of any area that reaches radiation levels eight times higher than background should be evacuated. However, the financial and emotional cost of such relocation may not be worthwhile, the researchers say."

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142 comments

As opposed to... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010619)

...the financial and emotional cost to the unfortunate statistical cancer patient and family.

How about this: Do not force evacuation, but provide the necessary resources for those who want evacuation (which will be all the folks with an 80 IQ or higher).

Re:As opposed to... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010641)

Because people with an 80 IQ or higher don't understand statistics, don't trust science, or what?

Re:As opposed to... (5, Insightful)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010785)

Funny, but "no detectable DNA damage" is not the same as "no DNA damage or other side effects". This study would need to be much longer term and need to look for more than obvious DNA damage for me to trust it, personally. It was only 5 weeks!

Re:As opposed to... (3, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011297)

This study would need to be much longer term and need to look for more than obvious DNA damage for me to trust it,

This study will never be trustworthy.

The danger to civilians from a nuclear accident is unlikely to come from background dose. That's more likely to be the exposure mode for workers and people very close to the incident.

found that when mice were exposed to radiation doses about 400 times greater than background levels for five weeks, no DNA damage could be detected.

No surprises there, but they didn't test what would happen when the mice ingested radioactive particulates, or when their entire food chain or water table was contaminated. Those are the real dangers from nuclear accidents.

Re:As opposed to... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011399)

Are you talking about chemical poisoning, or magical evil pixie dust. 125I decays emitting low-energy gamma radiation (the type that gets adsorbed adversely by living things). Eating this will have no different an affect than living right under it, as an object like a person, or mouse, is not a relevant shield for gamma radiation.

Now, if we were talking about inhaling dusted alpha emitters, then you'd have a point. However, those are either heavy metals, oxidize and drop out of the air, or decay rapidly to long-term emitters. The dust will be much more poisonous than dangerous as a radioisotope.

Damnit, I fed the troll.

Re:As opposed to... (3, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011493)

A recently published study in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity confirms that the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster reached Europe (Lithuania), and included plutonium. Likewise strontium (89 and 90) levels were elevated globally.

The amounts were tiny, but randomly sized/distributed particulates are notoriously hard to measure and map.

Re:As opposed to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013731)

And? The earth is bathed in 'radioactivity', that radioactive particles from Fukishima were measured in Europe is hardly a reason for elevated concern...

Whether or not 'randomly sized/distributed particles are notoriously hard to measure and map', doesn't in any way imply that the 'high end' of the distribution of particulate size could be in any way dangerous...after all it's not like 'randomly sized' implies 'bolder size' particulates so clearly there is a cut off in the distribution...so your statement is simply meaningless and designed to spread FUD.

Re:As opposed to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012615)

Yes, it will have a different effect. Released inside the body, it can damage sensitive tissue (like the digestive tract), whereas when coming from the environment the skin usually absorbs most of it.

Re:As opposed to... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013717)

Right, what special magical property of the environment is this that relegates 'particles contributing to background radiation' external to humans? You do know that the primary culprit in 'background radiation' is radon GAS (e.g. an inhalant)...

And ultimately you are making an assumption not in evidence (e.g. that 'natural sources' of radiation are primarily absorbed externally while radiation doses from some 'accident' are primarily ingested or inhaled...not necessarily true in either case).

Re:As opposed to... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012369)

Oh please, you're not +3 insightful, you're an idiot. "background dose" is a unit, and refers to the average background radiation exposure of 360 mrem per year. It is not a dose that you are exposed to unaware in a nuclear accident. When mice are given are given 400 times the background dose it means they are given 400 mrem per day.

Re:As opposed to... (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013643)

you're an idiot. "background dose" is a unit, and refers to the average background radiation exposure of 360 mrem per year.

I keep forgetting that you have to explicitly explain everything on Slashdot or you'll be challenged on every minuscule aspect of your comment. Nevertheless, please read the Wikipedia article on background radiation, specifically the Human-caused background radiation section. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation [wikipedia.org] .

But I'll repeat: Measuring the effect of steady-state external radiation, as this study has done, gives almost no insight at all on the effect of ingesting alpha-emitting particulates. It would be ridiculous to base public policy on it.

To trust the study from TFA would be about as sensible as measuring average wave heights off Honshu for 20 years, and concluding it would be a safe place to build a nuclear reactor.

Re:As opposed to... (3, Informative)

budgenator (254554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012771)

Funny, but "no detectable DNA damage" is not the same as "no DNA damage or other side effects". This study would need to be much longer term and need to look for more than obvious DNA damage for me to trust it, personally. It was only 5 weeks!

Not that much longer, a mouse goes from infancy to maturity in about 6 to 10 weeks, a year can get you a generation or two. A mouse can have 5 - 10 litters in a year and their lifespan is 9 to 12 months; 5 weeks for a mouse is like 20 years for a human.

Re:As opposed to... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012967)

Colorado State University has done a large-scale, birth-to-death study of beagles exposed to low-level ionizing radiation; here's one publication:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10490210

Not good.

Re:As opposed to... (3, Informative)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013059)

Sophisticated molecular and genetic analyses were not available in 1950s - 70s when many experiments investigating the effects of radiation on plants and animals took place; most were crude LD50 and cancer frequency tests conducted at moderate to very high doses, few were conducted at low doses (0.1 Gy) where cells could potentially repair the damage caused. This has all changed in the last ~20 years.

Sophisticated laboratory techniques now detect and observe the defence & repair mechanisms that operate in cells and whole organisms at low doses (100 mSv, ~0.8% increased risk of cancer in humans). For example, healthy people's cells repair all radiation induced DNA Double Strand Breaks (DSBs) within 24-hours after a CAT scan, indicating little or no additional risk of cancer. It is clear from resent experiments that living organisms are not passive accumulators of radiation damage but they actively combat and repair the damage done. After all, life involved with radiation and 3.5-3.8 billion years ago radiation levels were many times greater then now, it was necessary to evolve sophisticated error correction mechanisms. Indeed, it is likely that radiation is far less harmful or harmless below a certain threshold, possibly ~ 20 mSv year.

Crump, K. S. et al. 2012. A Meta-Analysis of Evidence for Hormesis in Animal Radiation Carcinogenesis, Including a Discussion of Potential Pitfalls in Statistical Analyses to Detect Hormesis. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 15, 210–231.
Neumaier, T. et al. 2012. Evidence for Formation of DNA Repair Centers and Dose-Response Nonlinearity in Human Cells. PNAS 109, 443–448.
Löbrich, M. et al., 2005. In vivo formation and repair of DNA double-strand breaks after computed tomography examinations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102, 8984 –8989
Tubiana, M., Feinendegen, L. E., Yang, C. & Kaminski, J. M., 2009. The Linear No-Threshold Relationship Is Inconsistent with Radiation Biologic and Experimental Data. Radiology 251, 13–22. (Paper available without subscription).

Re:As opposed to... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011045)

I'll stay - my neighbors' houses aren't gonna loot themselves!

Re:As opposed to... (3, Interesting)

spike hay (534165) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012567)

Do you live near a freeway? That doubles the rate of atherosclerosis. Air pollution kills hundreds of thousands a year in the US, and also causes other significant morbidity like asthma in children. Way more dangerous that a measly radiation dose. Yet, I don't see people wanting to evacuate from around coal plants and freeways.

Re:As opposed to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013445)

Do you live near a freeway?

No, I don't. And I wouldn't choose to live by one either. Besides the noise pollution, the air pollution from cars is pretty obvious.

I also don't wish to live next to the smoker in my apartment complex where his second hand smoke drifts into my room as bad as if he were physically here.
Must I go to a business where smoking is banned to be freed from that?

Re:As opposed to... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013623)

Um, yes, they do. They just can't afford to.

Re:As opposed to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012639)

So... can we have our glow in the dark watch dials back please?

Re:As opposed to... (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013275)

You can have them but only with Tritium, which wears out within a couple years, not anything more potent.

5 weeks = long term? (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010675)

The article says low levels of exposure for five weeks resulted in no DNA damage. Five weeks is nothing, people living in contaminated areas will be there for years, and once radioactive material gets inside them it will be there for the rest of their lives. That is where the biggest danger is, long term internal exposure to material absorbed by the body into the organs.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (5, Interesting)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010829)

The interesting thing to note (if this study is correct) is that they observed a difference between an acute dose and a chronic one. Our radiation health data is mostly based on acute doses - the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, mainly. The low dose risk estimates are basically based on that, extrapolated downwards linearly.

If acute dosing behaves differently to chronic, that model wouldn't be appropriate.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (4, Interesting)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011041)

The interesting thing to note (if this study is correct) is that they observed a difference between an acute dose and a chronic one. Our radiation health data is mostly based on acute doses - the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, mainly. The low dose risk estimates are basically based on that, extrapolated downwards linearly.

If acute dosing behaves differently to chronic, that model wouldn't be appropriate.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki radiation victims are some of the few human models that have been studied, but the DOE (and probably other government agencies around the world) did extensive testing on the effects of radiation at various doses using animal models. In one large-scale study I know of they used two exposure groups of beagles, one using the radioactive isotopes the bomb victims were exposed to in order to establish a baseline model correlation (human effects vs. effects observed in laboratory animals) and the other group exposed to isotopes expected to result from nuclear accidents and the new generation hydrogen bombs (different fallout characteristics than the original atomic bombs). Quite a bit of research was done on this, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. They also experimented with direct gamma exposure at various levels; rumor has it (I've never seen published results on the experiments) that there was a sweet spot in the gamma ray exposure scenario that actually lead to significantly longer lifespan than the control group, with many theories as to the cause.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012399)

These animal measurements were corroborated with experiments on human victims^h^h^h^h^h^h participants in CIA experiments in the 50's and 60's. The military was justifiably worried about how low level chronic radiation exposure would play out on it's non-black servicemen.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012697)

So let me get this straight, they poisoned Snoopy? Bastards!

Re:5 weeks = long term? (1)

terjeber (856226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013413)

Correction: They radiated him, and in do doing, in sweet-spot cases, they created Super Snoopy, with cape and all, and now they won't tell us what the sweet-spots are.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (3, Insightful)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013217)

Interesting. But while there were very many experiments carried out in the 1960-70s, the radiation doses applied were generally much higher then the background levels we are interested in now. People are worried over a few extra MiliSieverts a year.

Scientists in the 1960-70s were were not able to observe subtle cellular effects, typical defence and repair mechanisms, that operate at and just above background levels of radiation (20 mSv). They were mostly crude LD50 and cancer frequency tests. Very few experiments investigated doses 0.1 Gy (about 100 mSv & 0.8% increase in human cancer risk). And the few experiments that did involve low doses gave confused results because of poor statistical certainty (some even suggested Radiation Hormesis, as you alluded to).

That's why these resent experiments are so important and interesting, they're finally investigating how organisms cope with low level radiation, and indeed they suggest the risks are grossly overestimated.

Crump, K. S. et al. 2012. A Meta-Analysis of Evidence for Hormesis in Animal Radiation Carcinogenesis, Including a Discussion of Potential Pitfalls in Statistical Analyses to Detect Hormesis. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 15, 210–231.
Tubiana, M., Feinendegen, L. E., Yang, C. & Kaminski, J. M., 2009. The Linear No-Threshold Relationship Is Inconsistent with Radiation Biologic and Experimental Data. Radiology, 251, 13 –22.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (2, Interesting)

zeigerpuppy (607730) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011087)

That's not the best evidence. The most appropriate literature for this exposure is that pertaining to nuclear industry workers. This is how the guidelines of 20mSv per year were derived. See this study for instance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17388693 [nih.gov] there's no need to reinvent the wheel here, there is ample evidence that nuclear workers have higher risks of cancer and a population exposed to fallout from a reactor could reasonably be expected to have similar or worse outcomes (due to increased ingestion of isotopes)

Re:5 weeks = long term? (3, Interesting)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011549)

That's a very difficult kind of test to do though, because making sure that radiation dose is the *only* difference between groups is virtually impossible. Even the abstract of that paper says that "Further studies will be important to better assess the role of tobacco and other occupational exposures in our risk estimates.". At least this mouse study allows for a proper controlled trial, and the Hiroshima data, while not perfect, is much less prone to such factors than your linked one.

Also, reading the part that says "Among 31 specific types of malignancies studied, a significant association was found for lung cancer (ERR/Sv 1.86, 90% CI 0.49, 3.63; 1457 deaths)" rather reminded me of this [xkcd.com] .

Re:5 weeks = long term? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013633)

To me the much more interesting studies are those being done in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, while they are obviously not controlled or double blind they do provide better feedback about actual contamination results than the lab experiment with a fixed gamma source.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010863)

They weren't talking about poisonous materials like iodine and strontium isotopes being released into the atmosphere. They were talking about Radiation. It says that very specifically. If radiation levels 8x greater than normal are present... evacuate. They think that should be set to 100x. Which makes sense. Would changing that regulation mean that if radiation levels were only at 10x background levels, and the sky was raining Cesium that they wouldn't evacuate? Of course not.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010935)

Which makes it sort of a stupid study.

It's not like power plants ever *directly radiate* that much radiation. Pretty much the only time that there will be increased radiation levels around a power plant is when radioactive materials are being released into the air around the plant.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010971)

Where do you think radiation comes from? If there are high levels of radiation it's because there is radioactive material near by. In most accidents that material will be small enough to get inside you. That's why after you evacuate you need to wash thoroughly.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011787)

Get inside you? Specifically, the materials you need to worry about are materials your body uses that in their isotope form have a relatively long half life.
Just as a rough example, if the material released from the reactor was Iodine-124, it's bad because your body does use Iodine, but it has a halflife of just a couple of days. It's not really that dangerous, and an evacuation of surrounding area would likely not be warranted if the levels are relatively moderate. If Iodine-129 is getting released, it has a half life of over 15 million years... get the hell out. The radiation level alone means nothing. Which is the point of this research.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013629)

Rain....cesium?

I would pay to see that. Best fireworks show ever.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (2)

slinches (1540051) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010897)

Yes, it is long term. At least it's long compared to the normal procedure for these types of experiments. What they were trying to determine is if the effects exposure are dependent on the rate as well as the total dose. From the linked abstract:

  "these results demonstrate in an in vivo animal model that lowering the dose-rate suppresses the potentially deleterious impact of radiation"

This study doesn't necessarily imply that exposure to 400 times background radiation levels are safe indefinitely. They just showed that the exposure rate as well as the total dose need to be considered when assessing the danger of radiation exposure.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010933)

You missed the part about 400 times higher than background levels, I take it? 400x background over five weeks, and they still can't detect DNA changes "using the most sensitive techniques available".

If the current guidelines say 8x background levels is the max before "holy shit everyone is going to die get the fuck out now" levels of evacuation, it might just be because it's a guess erring on the side of caution. Another way to look at it: that kind of evacuation and the ensuing panic might very well kill more people than the statistical chance of getting cancer from the radiation itself, 20-40 years down the road.

If the radiation is transient, it might make better sense for the people to stay, both in the human toll, and economic. Huh.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (3, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011053)

The article says low levels of exposure for five weeks resulted in no DNA damage. Five weeks is nothing, people living in contaminated areas will be there for years, and once radioactive material gets inside them it will be there for the rest of their lives.

They also said 400x normal, rather than 8x normal.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (5, Informative)

hbar squared (1324203) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011055)

once radioactive material gets inside them it will be there for the rest of their lives.

Wrong. Many radioactive isotopes aren't absorbed by the body and are flushed out rapidly, and some of the most damaging particles (alpha emitters in particular) are at their worst when airborne, only staying 'in' your body for the length of a breath. There are some isotopes that are absorbed easily (namely Iodine), but they are the minority. There is not a single "Radiation", there are a staggering number of different radioactive elements, and for each one, the chemistry matters far more than the half-life.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (3, Interesting)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011799)

One has to take care in this case to distinguish between the bio-retention of chemically pure compounds, and what happens in the real world, which is radioactive compounds embedded in small clumps with other material that makes them stick around, e.g. in the lungs. Especially if they get pulled through a cigarette or car engine on their way there.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (2)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011069)

Did you miss the part where they tested at 400x but the standard says 8x is too much? Over five weeks, that's roughly equal to the exposure they'd see in 4.8 years of 8x background. Assuming the food/water the mice were eating was equally contaminated, it's a pretty fair test.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013605)

Assuming the food/water the mice were eating was equally contaminated, it's a pretty fair test.

Do you only eat locally produced food? I know that I don't.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011489)

Maybe you, and the mods, might want to familiarize yourself with lab mice. They are precisely breed.
We know pretty much everything about them. For example, you can get mice that will get a specific cancer at 2 months, and it happens every time. 'only' 99.9% guarantee, but I have never seen one in a control not get cancer at the expected time

SO, for this test, 5 weeks is fine. But with ALL STUDIES, one isn't enough. DO several, control different variables, move to different species.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (3, Informative)

Xyrus (755017) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011915)

Spoken like someone who knows nothing about radioactive materials and how they interact biologically.

Few radioactive elements stay in the body permanently. Most of them like Cs137 and I131 cycle through the body in days to couple of months. Plutonium is one of the few that has a biological half life of significant length, and it is one of the lesser radioactive isotopes. The most likely isotope you'd encounter after a nuclear accident that has a long biological half-life is Strontium-90.

The effective half-life of an isotope is measured by taking into account the physical half-life of the isotope and the biological half-life of an isotope. Thus, an element like Strontium 90 has an effective half-life of about 18 years while plutonium has an effective half-life of about 50 years (due to their propensity for gather in bone). Cesium has an effective half-life of about 70 days, and iodine has an effective half-life of about 7.6 days.

With that in mind, chronic long term exposure can only occur if they are taking in enough radioactive materials to replace those that are expelled from the body. To accumulate, you'd need to be taking in more.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013009)

once radioactive material gets inside them it will be there for the rest of their lives.

This is no more true than it is for anything else you eat or breathe: stuff goes into you, stuff goes out of you, and most of the stuff in you is replaced over the course of a few years. There are a few notable exceptions, like radioactive calcium or strontium: these get incorporated into your bones, and are retained for considerably longer (i.e. decades).

Even if this weren't true, and fallout was retained in your body indefinitely, you've missed another point: radioactive materials decay. If an isotope has a half-life of a day or two, it'll be effectively absent from your system after a few weeks. If it has a half-life of millions of years, then it's not dangerous, because 99.99% of the radiation will be emitted after you're dead. The dangerous isotopes are those with a half-life similar to a human lifespan: strontium-90 gets a special mention for having a half-life of 29 years as well as being incorporated into your bones as described above.

Re:5 weeks = long term? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013111)

The point you should take from this is that for short term events such as a one time release of radioactivity from a nuclear plant, the dangers of evacuation will probably be higher than the dangers of staying put. Especially if proper precautions are taken. It requires a strong mental stamina to resist the urge to flee screaming. There are times when logic tells you what the safest course of action is, but the instinct is to do otherwise.

Why Should I Trust This Study (2)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010725)

Given the number of times one experts study is tossed out by another experts study why should I trust this 1 study, and what kind of assurances does anyone have that their isn't some kind of error and will be tossed out or ignored with the next study. How am I to know if this study wan't done to justify low level back scatter scanners at air port, and has fallen victim to confirmation bias of one form or anther?

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010759)

Because that's how Science works

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010765)

Quotes like this don't exactly add credibility:

My guess is that you could probably leave the mice there indefinitely and the damage wouldnâ(TM)t be significant

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010845)

I agree. Last I checked I wasn't a mouse. I don't really care if one of the greatest survivors on Earth handle radiation. Might as well tell me how high the background radiation can get for cockroaches before you can detect damage. That wouldn't be a good danger level for a human. As someone whose worked with people who sued to do some very expensive studies for drugs, human trials very frequently turn out different than animal trials, even on things where the best prior research shows a strong correlation between corresponding systems in lower animals. Maybe this is a good, accurate representation, but maybe not, and would you risk your life on that assumption? How about your family's?

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010847)

By reading it critically?

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010881)

More importantly: Why should we trust the government? Japan's government said the Fukushimi area was "safe" and now we're discovering the soil is polluted with radiation.

We should buildin a large margin-for-error, in order to account for politicians' tendency to lie. "It's only 400 times above normal. We don't need to evacuate - it's safe according to scientists." Meanwhile actual levels are 40,000 times which is deadly.

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (3, Insightful)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010963)

Probably you should not trust that one study. Currently, that is the only study that lead to this conclusion. Public safety regulation should not be lowered based on a single study.

Once the result has been succesfully reproduced in multiple independent labs, then the question will be different.

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012895)

The relevance of this study is not being questioned because of a concern of reproducibility but of the idea that a minor study where five weeks of exposure to a specific quantity of radiation was not found to have caused detectable disruption to genetic heredity would become equatable to saying that any low level radiation exposure is not worth being concerned enough about to inform or evacuate an area over. Their data is a single point on the scale of duration and quantity of exposure, and for each reproduction, a more statistically precise understanding can be attained.

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011077)

Given the number of times one experts study is tossed out by another experts study why should I trust this 1 study, and what kind of assurances does anyone have that their isn't some kind of error and will be tossed out or ignored with the next study. How am I to know if this study wan't done to justify low level back scatter scanners at air port, and has fallen victim to confirmation bias of one form or anther?

So, why should you believe that 8x normal level is a reasonable limit? It's not like there's any evidence that 8x is meaningfully better than 9x, or meaningfully worse than 7x....

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011341)

This is why I don't pay attention to ANY popularized publication of scientific results.

BPA - causes all sort of problems.

Eating GMO corn - rat livers have problems

Vaccine - causes autism

Yadda yadda, every day in the news. Then you dig into the toxicological assessments of the collected studies and you find - BPA, not one of the studies was reproducable. GMO corn study had bogus statistics used to manipulate results. The vaccine study was out and out fraud.

The answer lies in reading the toxicology journals where the assessments of the body of the studies are done. And of course this is exactly what the popular press doesn't report because these assessments generally come to the conclusion there isn't real evidence for a problem. If there isn't anything alarming or sensational it doesn't get into the news.

Re:Why Should I Trust This Study (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011515)

I pay attention, mostly to prepare for the on rush of people talking about it.

It's alright (2)

Panspechi (948400) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010743)

My girlfriend loves my new found third leg. Thanks, radiation!

Re:It's alright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010799)

Uh, is this a penis enlargement joke? Because I don't think radiation does that.

Re:It's alright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010815)

Why don't you make a radioactive pie and find out for us?

Re:It's alright (2)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010825)

Oh, now you tell me.

Re:It's alright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011237)

That depends, is a enlarged penis a super power?

Re:It's alright (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012487)

That depends, is a enlarged penis a super power?

Of course it is! What kind of question is that?

Re:It's alright (4, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011377)

Uh, is this a penis enlargement joke? Because I don't think radiation does that.

It does if radiation excites you sexually.

Re:It's alright (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012333)

Uh, is this a penis enlargement joke? Because I don't think radiation does that.

Tell that to Bruce Banner. Or the ever-smiling Betty Ross.

Let the MIT "experts" live in the hot zone, then. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010801)

There's nothing I detest more than some douche who has spent some time
at a university telling us all "we have nothing to fear".

They said that about DDT. They said it about thalidomide.

And "they" are wrong all too often. Let's add in that they may
say or write stuff as a result of their desire for grant money, and
you can see that blindly trusting experts might not be the smart
choice.

I'm fine with that, moron. (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011407)

There's nothing I detest more than some douche who has spent some time
at a university telling us all "we have nothing to fear".

Oddly, there's nothing I detest more than some idiot who is terribly afraid of something long after it's been proven to be safe.

I'd happily live in an area with 200x the level of background radiation (hey, my AT&T reception couldn't get any worse). The best benefit is that I can be sure compete morons like yourself will not be neighbors.

They said that about DDT.

Um, yeah...because DDT is safe [freerepublic.com] . And millions have been killed from malaria that could have been saved without idiots like yourself "protecting" them.

Moron.

Re:I'm fine with that, moron. (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011961)

Um, yeah...because DDT is safe [freerepublic.com]

Supporting those black natives, however, are two researchers, Richard Tren and Roger Bate, whose Malaria and the DDT Story, recently published by the Institute for Economic Affairs in London, shows how to foster both a healthier and an environmentally friendlier Third World. Greenpeace, in its self-assurance, embodies a contemporary cultural imperialism as offensive as any Jesuit's.

The Telegraph at its finest.

Re:I'm fine with that, moron. (2)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012791)

I'd happily live in an area with 200x the level of background radiation

Granite walled basement?

Re:I'm fine with that, moron. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013239)

A review article in The Lancet states, "research has shown that exposure to DDT at amounts that would be needed in malaria control might cause preterm birth and early weaning ... toxicological evidence shows endocrine-disrupting properties; human data also indicate possible disruption in semen quality, menstruation, gestational length, and duration of lactation."[24]

And a whole bunch of other dangers, DDT is genotoxic..

There is evidence from epidemiological studies (i.e. studies in human populations) that indicates that DDT causes cancers of the liver,[24][36] pancreas[24][36] and breast.[36] There is mixed evidence that it contributes to leukemia,[36] lymphoma[36][75] and testicular cancer.[24][36][76]

Re:I'm fine with that, moron. (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40013679)

We need to bring back DDT for killing bed bugs! It's about the single best way to kill the things and there would be little concern of bioaccumulation in that application. Oh, and calling someone a moron and then linking to the freepers is about the funniest thing I've ever read on the internet and I've been here since 1993 =)

this is bullshit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010821)

Last time I checked, human cells haven't changed in the last 100 years. We had some very smart people working on nuclear research back then (the people who invented it) and it only assures that this is bad science, or now MIT no longer has smart people.

Re:this is bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011113)

I think, quite honestly, that MIT hasn't had smart people for a decade or two. Well, perhaps smart in the sense that they have high IQs and can pass tests, but not smart in the sense of creative and industrious. I graduated in the mid-'80s during a shift in focus from academic adventure to business appeal. And we all knew we could make a lot of money on Wall Street but only then did a significant number start taking taking up those seductive offers.

MIT now suffers the same problem as every other institute of higher learning: you get grants by writing lots of stuff providing it's technically correct, and it's really easy to write a lot of irrelevant or misleading stuff which is technically correct..

Magical DNA damage testing? (2, Insightful)

jminne (521597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010831)

How can they really test every cell to determine if there has been damage? A longer term study monitoring cancer rates would be more useful. I'm not saying that we shouldn't question the current guidelines, but changing them because of a short study like this would be crazy.

Re:Magical DNA damage testing? (5, Informative)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011059)

If you follow the links to the abstract, it actually explains what they measured. Apparently, certain types of DNA damage leave easily measured chemical signatures. They also dosed them with the same radiation total over a short period of time and observed damage.

This is akin to turning your thermostat up 10 degrees for a few weeks as opposed to heating your house up to 500 degrees for a minute.

I'm not saying I want to invest in cheap Fukushima real estate. I'm just saying that maybe this science isn't as junky as some Slashdotters think.

Re:Magical DNA damage testing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011707)

Should use Chimps too... they live for sixty years. That would make for a far more accurate study.

Re:Magical DNA damage testing? (2)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012125)

They can't. That's why they formulate the experiment with an appropriately-chosen hypothesis and a control.

The question is whether the linear-to-zero dose model is accurate. It's the most conservative reasonable model and it has some experimental basis, but low-rate radiation isn't well-tested. In this model, at the low end of dosing, only the total dose, not the rate at which it's delivered, matters. (That is, you're in the "causes cancer" realm of radiation and not "radiation poisoning".)

So, you take two populations. Expose one to a dose over a long period of time, expose the other to a dose over a short period of time. If the difference in detectable radiation-caused damage is statistically significant, you have reason to suspect that the linear dose model is inaccurate.

When you're designing an experiment, you don't want to be working with a single population with results near your detection limit, because everything near the detection limit looks the same. (Hey, we found nothing!) Hence the carefully-chosen control or comparison group.

3 mile island = ok, chernobyl = bad China Syndrome (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010837)

3 mile island = ok, chernobyl = bad China Syndrome = run for your life.

and don't go any where near SNPP

So.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010839)

The next step is to stick some Iodine-125 down the researchers pants and see how things turn out for them.

Re:So.. (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011085)

Rule 34

Re:So.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40012025)

The next step is to stick some Iodine-125 down the researchers pants and see how things turn out for them.

When was the last time you saw Iodine-125 in nuclear fallout? You seem to have mixed it up with -131, which is a beta emitter, not gamma, and only dangerous if ingested.

Radiation Hormesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010865)

Maybe there is something to the theory of Radiation hormesis where low level radiation may be good for your health

What is the baseline background? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40010891)

Just pointing out that in most places background is pretty low. Eight times higher in a low background area isn't the same as say eight times higher in an area that already has a higher than normal background count (for example New Hampshire, the Granite (and slightly more radioactive than normal) State.

Also internal exposure increases the damage from radiation by a factor of ten. At a does the equivalent of 80x background, you might want to move.

Unfortnately at 5 weeks... (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40010967)

The mice turned green, grew to immense proportions and began pimp slapping the researchers around like they were red-headed step children!

Humans have no Vitamin C, Mice have (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011251)

The damage done by radiation is by 2 ways:
a) direct radiation impact in DNA, destruction of DNA
b) impact somewhere else in the cells, radicals build up, oxidative chemical damage on the way

About b) it is important how much countermeasures the organism has to counter the oxidative stress caused by that.

Mice and most other animals have normal (HIGH) production of Vitamin C in their bodies, which is an antioxidant and good against that oxidative stress, so less harm is happening. Body production can be 100x of human RDA (or more, if stressed/ill).

Humans have a gene defect and can't make Vitamin C in their bodies, so there usually are just very LOW levels of it (from nutrition), so there are not much countermeasures available against oxidative stress.

Thus, doing a study with mice and drawing conclusions for humans on this topic seems pretty stupid, sorry.

Also, (AFAIK) it was already known from chernobyl that animals (mice) have less issues with radiation that expected (from a human perspective), so the facts of this study are not even new, just the wrong conclusions.

Re:Humans have no Vitamin C, Mice have (2)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011445)

How much energy do you think, a cell has to absorb for any of this "oxidative stress" crap to happen?

Re:Humans have no Vitamin C, Mice have (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011531)

And that, ladies an gentlemen, is what happens you you derive your scientific opinion fro popular science articles.

You are _dead_ wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013135)

you are a moron. you dont deserve the name geekoid, you should have it stripped. this guy is 100% correct. mice and guinea pigs and many mammals but not humans produce all the vitamin C they need. Also vitamin C needs are greatly magnified during stress.

see if you can find a book by an author called en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllis_Cilento

trove.nla.gov.au/work/9585574

The most important detoxification system in the body is the SuperOxidiseDimutase family of enzymes. These enzymes protect against the SuperOxide radical O_2^-1 which is produced as a normal result of cellular energy production, energy is under more demand in times of stress. SOD turns the superoxide radical into hydrogenperoxide which is far more stable and safer in comparison. The SuperOxide radical is comparitively unstable, although peroxynitrite and other nitrogen radicals are pretty bad too. then there are the really toxic elements like Hg. The SOD enzyme needs a peptide called Glutathione as a rate limiting cofactor.

Glutathione is also recycled amongst other thing, by Vitamin C.

This peptide is recycled by rebuilding it from aminoacids glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine. It is also one of the most important peptides in the brain in glial cells. The xCT cysteine glutamate antiporter on glial cells is orders of magnitude faster than the other gultamate transporters which are needed for a signal which has been received to be brought back down to zero as quickly as possible. without this your brain becomes less efficient and you cannot cope with stress, and cannot effectively reach higher levels of arousal associated with higher mental functions.

studies are occuring and the results will be much more widely known soon enough. But right now lots of people are in the know about this and are just happy to have discovered something which can restore normality to severely disrupted lives.

http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00889538

oh and for your interest ive done a bsc, followed by first class honours in mathematics and working on a phd in mathematics, sure ive only taken chem to 2nd year, with some 3rd year topics, but he is 100% and you are ignorantly censoring one of the most relevant posts on this topic. this is a topic ive spent months of my life researching solidly. using all the journal subscriptions i have access to as a research student, plus subscription services like Web Of Knowledge/Science.

Finally you, or hopefully someone who is more open-minded should look into the Neuroreplete system. Read the publications of Dr Marty Hinz and then come back and appologise to the Slashdot community for ignorantly and calously censoring a genuine true post intended to inform and empower those that care about human life.

ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013211)

Guinea pigs should be in the same category as humans and have a corrupt gene for the last step in the synthesis of VitC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L-gulonolactone_oxidase

MOD PARENT 100% factually correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40013161)

the parent is actually 100% factually correct, and has an extremely practical and salient post!

why has he been dismissed and the ridicule compounded by a series of yes men morons who want to frame him as misled or that it would mislead others. and these morons are getting moded up? wtf

oxidative stress is real and it will (very slowly, possibly via a major illness) kill you

slashdot has really become fucked if this kind of moronic censorship is done to the most valid and directly salient post on the page

Background level (4, Informative)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011305)

Seems a bunch of people really don't understand the scale of how low "background level" really is, how quickly levels can drop as the worst isotopes rapidly decay, or how the body repairs over time. That last one is maybe okay; we really haven't put a lot of study into anything beyond immediate exposures, so no one has a good understanding of that; or, I should say, HAD. And to see so many first reactions to this new science being "I refuse to believe it!"? Very disappointing. It's amazing how much disbelief a purportedly "scientific" group can conjure when scary radiation is mentioned.

Btw, 100x background for 5 weeks is still less than the maximum year-long dose. Check the should-now-be-iconic xkcd radiation chart [xkcd.com] .

The part that gets me... (1)

Grog6 (85859) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012537)

I work with extremely sensitive radiation detectors at work; our typical energy is gamma at 511keV.

These gammas are derived from artificial radioactive sources, with a short half-life.

Testing these detectors is extremely informative; natural cosmic rays are much more worrisome to me than the sources...

I see 10-20GeV pulses at around 1-5 per minute; that's about all the energy they can dump in my detector, lol.

2x 8" lead bricks do not appreciably attenuate these cosmics at all; amazingly, underground missile silos were built to a spec! :)

useless (2)

spongman (182339) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011321)

it looks to me like the exposure was entirely external.

if you're breathing, eating, drinking and washing in the source then it's much more likely to be problematic.

Re:useless (2)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011483)

And people NEVER thought about measuring food and environmental contamination with radioactive isotopes, separately from external exposure.

Oh, wait, this is what I did at work! Twenty years ago!

5 week study .. long enough you think?? (0)

eyeb1 (522766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40011685)

a very convenient and timely study ..

all based on external exposure and 5 weeks long .. when some of the historical and current nuclear contamination from Fukushima will last for billions of years in some cases ..

we are just now at the stage where the first round of birth defects .. mutations .. and cancer are starting to show up in Japan .. not to mention the heart disease caused by the ingestion of cesium 137 .. which is never mentioned in the mainstream media when talking about the effects of radiation exposure risk ..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aBW-5atBus/ [youtube.com]

and although you would not know it from mainstream media coverage .. the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is far from over and will probably get much worse .. most likely when not if .. the number 4 fuel pool collapses ..

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-14-07/largest-short-term-threat-humanity-fuel-pools-fukushima/ [zerohedge.com]

and as an interesting counter balance .. this long term study 1950 - 2003 has also just been release .. claiming just the opposite of this study ..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VAncqK6bl0/ [youtube.com]

Got what they paid for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40011947)

At Chernobyl - wildlife have been reported to have lower survival and reproduction rates, with clear pathological effects to sperm.
This data point may be valid (it's a complex problem), but you have to wonder when the sponsor (DOE) reason to want this outcome.

Re:Got what they paid for (1)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012237)

At Chernobyl - wildlife have been reported to have lower survival and reproduction rates, with clear pathological effects to sperm.
This data point may be valid (it's a complex problem),

Not a bad point, and Chernobyl should figure in most radiation data comparisons due to its nature. However, radiation levels vary wildly in the area: the animals could have eaten their food from a hotspot even if the background would have been tolerable (which we don't really know either.)

but you have to wonder when the sponsor (DOE) reason to want this outcome.

No we don't. But, I'll say this much: the DOE is involved with coal power. The DOE is involved with nuclear power. Clearly, they're simultaneously plotting to replace coal with nuclear and nuclear with coal.

Also this was funded by both MIT and the DOE. This is just basic research, so cool it with the conspiracy theories.

Low level radiation may be protective (1)

etinin (1144011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012831)

My teacher, who has a PhD in Radiobiology, once did an experiment on the subject. He had two groups of mice. One of the groups was exposed to laser radiation. The other one was a control group. Both groups were then subjected to high energy ionizing radiation. Guess what: the ones who were exposed to the laser had a high survival rate than the ones who were not. So there is this belief that very low levels of radiation might actually activate your body's repair system without doing much damage. The caveat may be an increased incidence of mutations. We do not have many reliable methods to quantify that.

Diet and environment (2)

manu0601 (2221348) | more than 2 years ago | (#40012855)

Are the mice a good model for human radiation risk?

Radiation induce cancer, but that does not mean cancer will thrive. It needs to be promoted. Diet and environment contain promoters. I suspect the mice in the experiment were not fed with growth hormone treated beef, for instance. First-world humans tend to have a diet that highly promotes cancer, therefore their risk may be higher than the mice in the study.

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