Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Politics of Permissible Dose

The EPA, FDA, and other regulatory agencies establish "permissible" level of exposure for the population to chemicals and radiation known to cause diseases and birth defects.

However, the process of establishing a "permissible" exposure level is fraught with scientific uncertainty and political advocacy on behalf of polluters responsible for exposure to genotoxic substances.

New findings call into question the safety level of our established permissible doses. 

There are quite a few books on the subject. One of the most interesting ones I've read recently is titled:  

Genomics and Environmental Regulation: Science, Ethics, and Law edited by R. Sharp, G. Marchant, and J. Grodsky, published by John Hopkins Press.

The editors note in their introduction that new discoveries about significant low-dose effects during critical times in development indicate that some sub-sets of the population may have very pronounced vulnerabilities to exposure levels that may not cause overt health problems in adults.

On Jan 1 3013 Counter Punch discussed the politics of the permissible dose of radiation exposure by showing how the standard of an adult male has been used to predict dose-effects. 

Research has documented that women, children, and developing embryo and fetuses are much more vulnerable to low-dose effects from radiation than are adult men.

Yet, recommendations for a permissible dose forwarded by the International Commission on Radiological Protection presuppose that the referent model for predicting dose-effects is an adult male.    

“Reference Man” Risk Model Lambasted as Obsolete, Unscientific Women & Children First! (to be Harmed by Radiation) by JOHN LaFORGE

[Excerpted] ...the standard still used for “allowable” and “legal” radiation doses is a chauvinistic and alarmingly dangerous method of calculating risk. The standard is called “reference man.” Created by the International Commission on Radiological Protection in 1975,  it defines humanity as a 5-foot-7-inch, 154-pound “Caucasian” male, 20-to-30 years old, who is “Western European or North American in habitat and custom.” 

Of course, this set represents neither the most vulnerable population nor the average person. An authoritative report from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) — the influential scientific watchdog group in Takoma Park, Maryland — declares that the use of Reference Man is “scientifically inappropriate because the vast majority of people, including women and children, fall outside the definition” and “does not protect those most at risk” from radiation. 

As Matt Wald reported in the New York Times: “Experts agree that women face a risk about 50% higher than the Reference Man from the same amount of radioactive material, while the risk for children is several-fold higher.”

MAJIA HERE: I'm going to paraphrase a list of problems he identified with the reference Man.

1. Guidelines are inadequate for protecting vulnerable populations (which happen to be the majority given they constitute all women and children)

2. The tendency to define limits in terms of annual exposure has the effect of under-estimating the actual biological damage incurred by radiation exposure. For example, the same radiation dose has different biological effects/impacts depending upon the age, sex, and immunological conditions of the subject. Consequently, a dose that is not statistically likely to cause cancer in a 40 year old male may very well cause cancer in a 3 year old child.

3.  Children have the greatest biological impacts because their cells are dividing more rapidly.

4.  [excerpted] "The regulations and guidelines that rely mainly on Reference Man include the NRC’s radiation protection regulations in the workplace and for the general public (specified in 10 CFR 20, EPA Federal Guidance Reports 11 and 12, and DOE Order 5400.5). The default values in the official computer program used to estimate allowable residual radioactivity also use Reference Man. “He” is also used to assess compliance with the Clean Air Act..."

5. [excerpted] The Maximum Contaminant Levels for transuranic radionuclides [isotopes like plutonium that are heavier than uranium] in drinking water rely on Reference Man.[end excerpt]

6. [paraphrase] The National Academy of Science's study on low-level ionizing radiation, the BEIR VII report, evaluated the evidence and determined that women are in fact at greater risk of cancer mortality than men exposed to the same dose.

 7. Fetal exposure to radiation is only examined in relation to radiation-controlled workplaces. Standards are grossly inadequate (at least by a factor of 5) for protecting fetuses.

8. [excerpted] The failure to estimate doses to children and cancer risks to children, when they are in excess of doses and risks received by adults, would appear to be in violation of President Bill Clinton’s 1997 Executive Order on children, which was reaffirmed by George W. Bush, with some changes, in 2003.

Majia here: The argument being made is that standards for current exposure levels are NOT safe because they do not protect women and children adequately. 

The failure stems from exposure models that predict dose-effects for adult males, despite evidence that women and children are multiple times more vulnerable.

This conclusion demonstrates that our exposure standards are in violation of national law.

Protective guidelines codified in Clinton's 1997 Executive Order on Children were re-affirmed (albeit in modified form) by G. W. Bush in 2003.

Imagine a future where children are routinely born with disabilities and adults suffer from chronic health problems, including early onset of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

This is OUR future if we FAIL TO ACT NOW to protect ourselves - our species - from genetic and epigenetic damage that destroys the viability of our genome.


Cancer cluster map of St. Louis By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter

[excerpted] "In four square miles, there are three reported cases of conjoined twins and cancer rates that one data expert says is statistically impossible." 

[paraphrasing] a formal auditor conducted her own audit of cancer and birth defect rates within a 4 mile square area

[excerpted] "Another classmate, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, is an economist at Northwestern University. She ran her own analysis and found the likelihood of so many cancers among her high school peers was .00000001. Schanzenbach called it a statistical improbability...."


"Study Suggests Long-Term Decline in French Sperm Quality" February 1, 2013 by Adrian Burton

[Excerpted] New study findings suggest widespread declines in sperm quality in French men between 1989 and 2005, with average sperm counts falling while percentages of abnormally formed sperm rose. These findings are a “serious public health warning,” the authors wrote, although they point out the average estimated sperm count is still well above the level deemed normal by the World Health Organization.
Recent years have seen many similar reports of falling human sperm counts, but there has been much debate over whether the problem is real...."

1 comment:

  1. Japan's demographic disaster:

    Russia faces demographic disaster:

    Note the increasing birth rate in the Caucasus is an area with high natural background radiation. Generations that have lived there has become more radiation-tolerant thru natural selection.


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