House of Commons Symposium

on the Second Event theory

Committee Room 14: 24th April 1996


On 24th April 1996, marking the 10th Anniversary of Chernobyl, the Low Level Radiation Campaign and MEDACT (Medical Action for Global Responsibility) organised a Symposium at the House of Commons. Cynog Dafis MP and Sir Raymond Hoffenberg, Vice President of MEDACT, co-chaired. The venue was the grand Committee Room 14. The topic was the Second Event theory developed by Chris Busby, and participants were asked to address the theory. Nearly 100 people attended - anti-nuclear campaigners, government officials, scientists, researchers, press, and cancer charities.

Busby was the first of four participants and he presented his theory, together with supporting evidence from animal and cell culture studies and epidemiology.

Professor Ernest Sternglass from Pittsburgh University, one of the first academics to raise the alarm about the dangers of low level radiation, gave further evidence from the US. He said he found the Second Event theory plausible, but also believed that the beta emitter Strontium-90 played an important role in causing suppression of immune function. He thought that the fact that the stem cells for producing white blood cells are found inside bones is an evolutionary device to protect them from natural background radiation. Strontium-90 is stored in the bones themselves and can therefore irradiate and damage the stem cells internally.

Dr Colin Muirhead spoke for the National Radiological Protection Board and explained NRPB's view that the dangers of low level radiation are already adequately understood. He gave a basic introductory lecture on epidemiology and focussed on attacking the idea that bone cancer data can give any clue to the causes of increasing cancer rates. Two days before the Symposium Wales Cancer Registry had conveniently announced a revalidation of bone cancer figures, bringing the Welsh rate into line with the rest of the UK. In the event, though, Muirhead was the only person to mention bone cancer, so his points seemed rather irrelevant. (On the day itself - 24th April - the Welsh national daily, the Western Mail - carried an item reporting that Wales Cancer Registry was to be closed down, amid allegations of incompetence, and its duties handed to another agency. How about that for a coincidence!)

Professor Dudley Goodhead, head of the Radiation and Genome Stability Unit of the Medical Research Council accepted that models of radiation hazard based on external dose are not appropriate when considering risk from internal contamination. He disagreed with the Second Event theory as a mechanism explaining the excess hazard from man-made isotopes, although he thought the theory to be well specified and worth testing. He said that he was willing to help find researchers to carry out relevant studies, and admitted that if the theory turned out to have any validity it would have profound implications for all aspects of radiation protection, not least for x-ray exposures.

The Symposium was important in bringing together leading figures from both pro- and anti-nuclear fields and many other interested parties including the Mayor of Dundalk, home of the four activists who are currently suing BNFL, Dr Inna Merculova of the Institute of Radiation Research in Minsk, and the Belarus Ambassador, H.E.Vladzimir Shchasny, who later threw an impromptu party in the Pugin Room, compete with canapés and Belarussian vodka.

The four main presentations were followed by an energetic and informative debate. The proceedings were recorded and an entire verbatim account is published by Green Audit (ed. Richard Bramhall) with some additional material and correspondence. Essential reading for all those who are interested in how paradigms implode. Price is a negotiable £35.00 if ordering direct from LLRC.

"Low Level Radiation and Health: Proceedings of Westminster Symposium 24th April 1996" R. Bramhall (Ed): Green Audit £35.00 ISBN 1 897761 14 7 144 pages 62 figures, references.


Developments since the Symposium are covered in the Second Event theory section of this site.
Wolves of Water carries on the story of this crusade. Now published (January 2007). An indispensable combat manual for the Science Wars

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