CDC/NIOSH Expert Emphasizes that Low Radiation Can Cause Cancer, not Will Cause Cancer

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – Depending upon whom you place your faith, the Japanese nuclear disaster has become a war of experts --- some stating that the radiation leaks will only impact those living close by; others stating that under other circumstances populations further away could get sick from the escaping radiation from the facility.

Even as radiation emissions continue, media commentators have praised Japanese nuclear workers as “heroes” for risking their lives to continue containment efforts.

These Japanese workers are not unlike nuclear plant workers in the US during the Cold War, except those workers did not know they were receiving life altering and life threatening dosages of radiation at work.

Stuart L.Hinnefeld, a scientist and expert for the CDC and NIOSH , has worked extensively with victims of radiation related illnesses attributed to working at plants such as the ones in Portsmouth , Paducah and Huntington, WV (i.e. Huntington Pilot Plant, which processed and recycled uranium/plutonium and nickel during the Cold War.).

Expert opinions regarding the Japanese nuclear catastrophe often state low levels of radiation CAN cause cancer, but this counterbalances that not all low level radiation causes an individual to get sick.

Here’s how Hinnefeld explained the low level radiation illness paradox in conjunction with US workers applying for compensation for working at these former Atomic Energy/Department of Energy facilities:

One important aspect of the information you are citing is that these experts are stating that low levels of radiation can cause cancer not that they will cause cancer. The current position on radiation induced cancers is that the chance of an individual developing cancer increases as the radiation dose received increases. Therefore, it is possible that low doses of radiation can cause cancer.

Because the cancer rates observed in non-exposed populations and populations exposed to low-levels of radiation are quite similar, a probabilistic approach must be taken to determine if the radiation dose received caused the cancer. The technical basis for EEOICPA is consistent with the statements of the “many experts” regarding small doses—that small doses of radiation can cause cancer, because any radiation dose increases the risk of cancer.  In our dose reconstructions, we also include doses resulting from environmental releases from the covered facility.

The EEOICPA statute requires that compensation decision be based on a probability of causation calculation and that the calculation include the upper range (99th percentile) of the risk resulting from radiation exposure. The calculation weighs the cancer risk resulting from radiation exposure against the person’s overall cancer risk had there been no radiation exposure. If the risk due to the radiation exceeds the risk if there had been no radiation exposure, then the probability of causation exceeds 50%.

Before workers (or survivors of workers) qualify, the plant at which they worked must be on the Congressionally approved list of plants that made nuclear materials during the Manhattan Project and Cold War. While an ‘oversight’ bill has been introduced to Congress, the bill , as yet, does not contain additions to the listed facilities.

Workers from numerous plants not on the approved list, though, claim they received materials contaminated with atomic radiation from those plants. They too want compensation. However, in order to qualify, Congress must add the location they worked to the list of atomic weapon sites where radioactive contamination injured workers health.