"The power of an aroused public is
Dr. Helen Caldicott
1946 Herman Joseph Muller wins the Nobel Prize in
Herman Joseph Muller, an American scientist,
concludes from his investigations that low dose exposure, and therefore even
natural background radiation, is mutagenic and there is no harmless dose range
for heritable effects or for cancer
The biological effects of radiation are thought of in
terms of their effects on living cells.
A typical CT scan equals 400 chest
Equal doses of different types or energies of radiation
cause different amounts of damage to living tissue.
The units used to
measure ionizing radiation are rather complex.
The ionizing effects of
radiation are measured by units of exposure:
The coulomb per kilogram
(C/kg) is the SI unit of ionizing radiation exposure, and measures the amount
of radiation required to create 1 coulomb of charge of each polarity in 1
kilogram of matter.
The roentgen (R) is an older traditional unit that
is almost out of use, which represented the amount of radiation required to
liberate 1 esu of charge of each polarity in 1 cubic centimeter of dry air.
1 Roentgen = 2.58×10-4 C/kg.
However, the amount of damage
done to matter (especially living tissue) by ionizing radiation is more closely
related to the amount of energy deposited rather than the charge.
is called the absorbed dose.
The gray (Gy), with units J/kg, is the SI
unit of absorbed dose, which represents the amount of radiation required to
deposit 1 joule of energy in 1 kilogram of any kind of matter.
(Roentgen absorbed dose), is the corresponding traditional unit which is 0.01 J
deposited per kg. 100 rad = 1 Gy.
1 Gy of alpha radiation causes about
20 times as much damage as 1 Gy of x-rays.
The equivalent dose is
defined to give an approximate measure of the biological effect of radiation.
It is calculated by multiplying the absorbed dose by a weighting factor
WR which is different for each type of radiation (see above table).
sievert (Sv) is the SI unit of equivalent dose.
Although it has the
same units as grays, J/kg, it measures something different.
It is the
dose of any type of radiation in Gy that has the same biological effect on a
human as 1 Gy of x-rays or gamma radiation.
The rem (Roentgen equivalent
man) is the traditional unit of equivalent dose.
1 sievert = 100 rem.
Because the rem is a relatively large unit, typical equivalent dose is
measured in millirem (mrem), 10-3 rem, or in microsievert (µSv), 10-6 Sv.
1 mrem = 10 µSv.
For low levels of radiation, the biological
effects are so small they may not be detected in epidemiological studies.
The body repairs many types of radiation and chemical damage.
Biological effects of radiation on living cells may result in a variety
of outcomes, including:
Cells experience DNA damage and are able to
detect and repair the damage.
Cells experience DNA damage and are
unable to repair the damage.
These cells may go
through the process of programmed cell death, or
eliminating the potential genetic damage from the larger tissue.
experience a nonlethal DNA mutation that is passed on to subsequent cell
divisions. This mutation may contribute to the formation of a
Other observations at the tissue level are more complicated.
In some cases, a small radiation dose reduces
the impact of a subsequent, larger radiation dose.
This has been termed an 'adaptive response' and is
related to hypothetical mechanisms of hormesis.
Radiation hormesis is
the unproven theory that a low level of ionizing radiation (i.e. near the level
of Earth's natural background radiation) helps "immunize" cells against DNA
damage from other causes (such as free radicals or larger doses of ionizing
radiation), and decreases the risk of cancer.
The theory proposes that
such low levels activate the body's DNA repair mechanisms, causing higher
levels of cellular DNA repair proteins to be present in the body, improving the
body's ability to repair DNA damage.
This allopathic theory is very
similar to the theory of vaccination immunization.
This assertion is
very difficult to prove (using, for example, statistical cancer studies)
because the effects of very low ionizing radiation levels are too small to be
statistically measured amid the "noise" of normal cancer rates.
of radiation hormesis is considered unproven by regulatory bodies, which
generally use the standard "linear, no threshold" (LNT) model - the risk of
cancer is directly proportional to the dose level of ionizing radiation.
The LNT model is safer for regulatory purposes because it assumes
worst-case damage due to ionizing radiation; therefore, if regulations are
based on it, workers might be over-protected, but they will never be
In biology, radiation is mainly used for sterilization,
and enhancing mutations.
The 'background' dose of natural radiation is ~
3 mSv (300 mrem) per year.
The lethal dose of radiation for a human is
around 4 - 5 Sv (400 - 500 rem).
Marie and Pierre Curie distill radium from pitchblende.
James Douglas, a scientist and mining engineer, daughter Naomi is diagnosed
with breast cancer.
Doctors in New York operate on her five separate
times but each time the cancer returns.
As a last-ditch attempt at a
cure, Douglas takes his daughter to Europe to be treated with
1910 Douglas devotes his life to the
promotion of radium therapy for cancer treatment.
1913 With a US government
grant, Douglas forms the National Radium Institute, to mine radium from
uranium ores recently discovered in Colorado.
1917 Douglas gives his entire share of the National Radium
Institute to Memorial Hospital along with the stipulation that the
hospital should return to its original mandate of serving as a cancer hospital.
The second is that radiation
would be studied and used to treat cancer.
1918 Grace Fryer starts work as a dial painter at the United
States Radium Corporation (USRC) in Orange, New Jersey.
was "the elite job for the poor working
It pays more than three times the average factory job, and
those lucky enough to land a position ranked in the top 5% of female workers
nationally, giving the women financial freedom in
a time of burgeoning female
luminosity is part of its
allure, and the dial painters soon became known as the "ghost girls" -
because by the time they finished their shifts, they themselves would glow in
Radium is believed to be beneficial to health.
drank radium water as a
tonic, and one could buy cosmetics, butter, milk, and toothpaste laced with
reported its use would "add years to our lives!"
1947 Colonel EE Kirkpatrick of the
US Atomic Energy Commission issues a secret document (Document 07075001,
January 8, 1947) stating the agency will begin administering intravenous doses
of radioactive substances to humans.
Researchers inject 4.7 micrograms
of plutonium into American
soldiers at the Oak Ridge facility.
Plutonium Trojan Horse in the Body
a total of 200 doses of iodine-131, a
radioactive tracer that concentrates almost immediately in the thyroid
gland, to 85 healthy Eskimos and 17 Athapascan Indians living in
Laboratory workers at the University of Minnesota and
University of Chicago inject human guinea pigs with phosphorus-32.
Rochester radiologist Colonel Stafford Warren injects
plutonium into human at the
University of Rochester researchers
inject four male and two female human guinea pigs with uranium-234 and
uranium-235 in dosages ranging from 6.4 to 70.7 micrograms per one kilogram of
body weight in order to study how much uranium they could tolerate before their
Six male employees of a Chicago metallurgical laboratory are given
water contaminated with plutonium-239 to drink so that researchers can learn
how plutonium is absorbed
into the digestive tract.
Human guinea pigs are given one to four
injections of arsenic-76 at the University of Chicago Department of
The Atomic Energy Commission
(AEC) sponsors iodine studies at the University of Iowa.
first study, researchers give pregnant women 100 to 200 microcuries of
iodine-131 and then study the women's aborted embryos in order to learn at what
stage and to what extent radioactive iodine crosses the placental barrier.
In the second study, researchers give 12 male and 13 female newborns
under 36 hours old and weighing between 5.5 and 8.5 lb iodine-131 either orally
or via intramuscular injection, later measuring the concentration of iodine in
the newborns' thyroid
Researchers feed 28 healthy infants at the University of
Nebraska College of Medicine iodine-131 through a gastric tube and then
test concentration of iodine in the infants'
At the University of Tennessee, researchers inject healthy
two-to three-day-old newborns with approximately 60 rads of iodine-131.
Researchers at Harper Hospital in Detroit give oral doses of
iodine-131 to 65 premature and full-term infants weighing between 2.1 and 5.5
Eleven patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston
are injected with uranium.
Researchers inject a genetic compound called
radioactive thymidine into the testicles of more than 100 Oregon State
Penitentiary inmates to learn whether sperm production is affected by
exposure to steroid hormones.
1958 The Atomic
Energy Commission (AEC) drops radioactive materials over Point Hope,
Alaska, home to the Inupiats, in a field test known under the codename
1986 Six documented accidents occurred when
the high-current electron beam generated in X-ray mode was delivered directly
Two software faults were to blame.
One, when the
operator incorrectly selected X-ray mode before quickly changing to electron
mode, which allowed the electron beam to be set for X-ray mode without the
X-ray target being in place.
A second fault allowed the electron beam
to activate during field-light mode, during which no beam scanner was active or
target was in place.
Killed By A Machine: The Therac-25
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