Radiation Protection - Science in Crisis

Flaws in ICRP's scientific model

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Links to further pages with greater detail are at the bottom of this page

ICRP's scientific model is used as the basis of radiation protection almost everywhere. It depends on studies of the survivors of the Hiroshima A-bomb. NRPB says these studies are "pivotal".

External vs internal

The group considered to be "exposed" consisted of people who were in the open at the time of the explosion. Their exposure was therefore

  • a large dose of
  • externally delivered
  • gamma rays,
  • at high dose rate.
The control group consisted of people who were elsewhere at the time or were shielded. The problem is that both groups, by definition, lived in the bombed cities, and were therefore exposed to ingesting, inhaling and absorbing fallout. This means the studies are silent on internal radiation and the very different types of exposure involved:
  • chronic low doses from
  • internal
  • alpha and beta emitters,
  • at low dose rate.

Early reports of cancer incidence at Hiroshima (1) using an uncontaminated control group were seriously out of line with those later used to set risk factors.

Other studies which are supposed to inform on risk are mostly of external x-rays. A couple of small internal studies are included, but these are of natural isotopes, not including Uranium.

It is astonishing that estimation of risk from internal contamination has such an irrelevant and inadequate basis.

Physics vs biology

The ICRP / NRPB model is essentially a physics based one.
As far as the epidemiology is concerned all that has been done is to extrapolate the exposed group's high dose data points in a straight line down to the low dose region. This assumption that risk is directly proportional to dose has been widely criticised on various grounds. For example, Goodhead calls the extrapolation "a large region of uncertainty"(2), while others question the validity (3) and relevance (4) of bomb survivors' data.

Average dose vs local dose

A further shortcoming is that doses are averaged over large volumes of tissue, although it is well known that radiation damage to body cells is caused by discrete tracks which either hit vital structures or miss them altogether.
The fact that cancers are monoclonal (i.e. they start with mutations to one cell) ought to alert us to the inadequacy of the averaging approach.

It is becoming widely realised that concepts such as average energy transfer, absorbed dose, and relative biological effectiveness are useless at the low doses resulting from environmental contamination. (5) [see more on this by clicking the Irrelevant concepts button below]

Links to further pages on wobbly science

The dose concept ICRP clings to is fundamental to radiation protection, yet for internal radiation (i.e. from radioactivity inside the body) it is in many circumstances meaningless.

ICRP fails a test. Incidence of infant leukaemia after Chernobyl was hundreds of times higher than predicted by ICRP's risk factors.

WHO conference on effects of Chernobyl accepts the infant leukaemia evidence

NRPB hits back but makes a Freudian slip: NRPB's head of epidemiology Colin Muirhead destroys validity of averaging. (What is NRPB?)

ATLANTIS. An SRP Conference hears that old certainties like average energy transfer, absorbed dose, and RBE are irrelevant at low doses. The Conference rapporteur coins ATLAS to stand for At These Levels Act Scientifically and the Laboratory RaT quips obscurely that if ATLANTIS stands for Assumption That Linear No Threshold Is Safe, it's sunk.

More on dose. Authorities debate absorbed dose

Collective Dose. ICRP pays lip service to the Linear No-Threshold model, but cynically tries to drop Collective Dose (and is defeated).

Roger the King of Radsavia! - a fairy story for grown-ups, all about ICRP and Collective Dose.

The landmine in your lungs - hot particle effect illustrated with an autoradiograph of a Plutonium particle in lung tissue.

Another autoradiograph, this time of a Uranium particle from the conflict in Lebanon, summer 2006.

Hot particles: official ignorance and sloppiness revealed.

NOT particles! - the UK radiation risk agency, under pressure from an outraged public, pulls the wool over their eyes.

Genetic effects of Plutonium - internal Plutonium may have a Relative Biological Effectiveness factor of 200

Tritium risks underestimated.

Science advice gathering is a problem for Governments. Bias on Committees and advisory bodies tends to block paradigm-breaking evidence. People die as a result.

world scientists lobby new National Academy of Sciences committee

V. T. Padmanabhan shows the weakness of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki studies (the basis of official risk factors)

further flaws in Hiroshima studies

European Parliament questions risk factors. (This European initiative happened in 2001. We heard Roger Clarke complaining about it at a conference somewhere but as far as we know ICRP has never complied with the Parliament's request)

Eric Voice - said to be the most radioactive man on the planet - took part in Plutonium ingestion experiments in the 1990s. He died in 2004.

Don't forget that dodgy epidemiology is another branch of flawed science. The authorities need it to go on covering up the problem. See our epidemiology section through the link on the Home Page navigation bar (use the Back button to get there)


1 Harada T, Ishida M, First Report of the Research Committee on Tumour Statistics, Hiroshima City Medical Association, Japan,Journal of the National Cancer Institute 29 1253-64
cited in ICRP 8 91965):- The first reports on the survivors ... were contradictory. A large excess of cancer among the heavily irradiated was reported by the Hiroshima Cancer Registry ... but not by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission [i.e. the Americans]

2 "The Health Effects of Low Level Radiation: Proceedings of a Symposium held at the House of Commons, London 24th April 1996" R. Bramhall (Ed): Green Audit ISBN 1 897761 14 7 page 45

3 Stewart, A. M. 1982 Delayed effects of A-bomb radiation: a review of recent mortality rates and risk estimates for five-year survivors. J. Epidemiology and Community Health 26/2: 80-6

4 Radiation Roulette: New Scientist 11th October 1997 reporting Professor Eric Wright at MRC

5 See for example Proceedings of a meeting of the Society for Radiological Protection, 10 October 2000; SRP Bulletin report expected in Spring 2001, but LLRC report already in Radioactive Times, Vol. 4 No. 2 Report and Editorial

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