Michael Meacher <i>Foreword</i> to CERRIE Minority Report

Foreword to the CERRIE Minority Report
by Michael Meacher MP,
Minister for the Environment in the Blair government until July 2003, and Minister responsible for setting up CERRIE

I am deeply disappointed that it has proved necessary to publish this minority report. I set up the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters because I was aware of the growing evidence suggesting that radioactive releases may have very long-term health consequences, and because there are wide differences of opinion about the reality of this evidence.

Preliminary discussions with scientists from both sides of the divide persuaded me that the current model of radiation hazard, based as it is almost exclusively on the consequences of gamma irradiation delivered from outside the body in a single massive dose from an exploding atom bomb, was very unlikely to be a reliable indicator of the cumulative impact of chronic inhalation and ingestion of radioactivity. As Environment Minister I was required to take responsibility for policy in many relevant areas.

Science can be only trusted if it is pursued with the most rigorous procedures that guarantee freedom from bias. For this reason I deliberately set up the committee on a balanced basis with all opposing views fully represented - the first such science committee that I am aware of. I asked the Members to agree where they could and to delineate any areas of disagreement. Their remit was to explain the disagreements in accessible language and to propose research which might resolve them. Unfortunately, it seems that the procedures which prevailed in the Committee, while they have allowed discussion of a wide range of topics, have produced a Final Report which does not accommodate a full and fair representation of all views. More seriously, from the point of view of taking this debate forward, the Report fails to explain the reasons for the continuing disagreements. This applies, in some cases, to what look like quite basic issues. Take, for example, the question of whether there was or was not a significant increase in infant leukaemia across Europe after the Chernobyl disaster. Why does the Final Report present only one side? This is very worrying for it is hard to conjecture that, if the leukaemia peak was real, anything other than the radiation from Chernobyl could have caused it. If that were indeed the case then the estimates of radiation risk which currently are used to set policy would fall to the ground and many other health phenomena, including the notorious cluster of childhood leukaemias near Sellafield, might find an explanation. Considerations like this have profound implications for policy and this is why I have recently proposed a new Committee to build on the experience of CERRIE.

Michael Meacher
Aug 19th 2004

[Mr. Meacher's final sentence refers to an Early Day Motion tabled shortly before the House went into recess (see this link to EDM 1548.]

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