Radioactive Times: LLRC Journal

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research leads call for research on neglected and underestimated radiation hazards

Report from Radioactive Times Volume 3, Number 2, October 1999 (content not updated)

More than 70 organisations and individuals from around the world have called for more consideration of a wide range of the potential health effects of exposure to low-level radiation, including birth defects and genetic damage.

A letter to the NAS Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR VII) said

"It is important that the BEIR VII process address the full range of risks that have not been conclusively evaluated so far. This should include risks that have come to light since the BEIR V report (such as the combined effects of radiation and hormonally-active agents, also called endocrine disrupters) as well as issues that could have been addressed in BEIR V, but were not."
Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), said:
"The issue of the health effects of radiation is far more complex than the range of effects evaluated in the last BEIR committee report. Moreover, some of the data, such as US worker dose data, used in radiation studies is suspect or seriously flawed. It is crucial that the committee consider data integrity and quality questions and not accept results of studies only because they have been published in peer-reviewed journals."
Issues which IEER says are "crucial" include radiation effects on the development of ova, "synergistic" effects of radiation coupled with exposure to other hazardous substances, and variations in radiosensitivity of different populations.

The letter also calls for research on transmutation effects caused by radioactive atoms, such as carbon-14 and Tritium.

"When these become part of the DNA, they change the chemical composition of that piece of DNA when they decay."
David Close, a professor of physics at East Tennessee State University who specialises in the effects of radiation on DNA, said "Carbon-14 becomes nitrogen-14 when it decays. We need to know whether the genetic change that results from such a transmutation in the DNA can produce adverse health effects, and if so what these health effects are." LLRC points out that such atoms do not have to incorporated in DNA to have dangerous effects. In March this year Radioactive Times (Vol.3 No. 1) drew attention to the fact that the function of an enzyme molecule containing thousands of atoms may be destroyed when a single Tritium atom decays to Helium 3, and so loses its chemical bond to the adjacent atom.

The IEER letter is at http://www.ieer.org/comments/beir/ltr0999.html


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