One of STAR's board of directors is Jay Gould of the "Radiation and Public Health Project" http://www.radiation.org/
Gould is the author of an incredible page "WHY NUCLEAR FALLOUT HAS CAUSED 20 MILLION PREMATURE US DEATHS SINCE 1950" at http://www.radiation.org/premature.html
On his page is a graph showing "US Crude mortality Rates, 1900-99". The rate decreases steadily from about 16 deaths/1000/year in 1900 to about 10 deaths/1000/year by 1945. The rate continues to decline after 1945, but at a slower rate, to about 8.5 deaths/1000/year in 1999. Gould also plotted a "best-fit" curve through the 1900-1945 data, and extrapolated it to 1999 (where it continues on a downward trend). He did a similar thing for infant death rates per 1000 live births.
Gould says: "If the average annual rate of improvement had remained at 2 percent throughout the 20th century, the US total mortality rate in 1999 would be about 6 deaths per 1000. Instead, the observed rate is 9 deaths per 1000. There would have been nearly 20 million fewer premature deaths after 1950. ... While other environmental pollutants contributed to the observed mortality deterioration, only nuclear fallout seems a plausible cause for most of this vast change since 1950."
Gould's claims seem at first glance to be believable, since there definitely is a declining death rate (except during the 1918 influenza epidemic) up to the middle of the 20th century. And the change in rate seems to correspond with the era of nuclear testing.
But there is a lot more information, hidden in the average death rate, than appears at first glance. The first half of the 20th century witnessed huge leaps in medical knowledge, clean water, sanitation, food quality and availability, warmer homes in winter, cooler homes in summer, anti-biotics, industrial and public safety, health education, shorter and less-strenuous work weeks, mechanization and accessible health care. People didn't die of common diseases as much, nor were they worn out by physical jobs as much. Thus people increasingly lived longer and better. And because deaths were forestalled by these advances, these factors affected the death rate.
Along with the improved health of the population came an increased birth rate, and an inproved infant survivability rate. Thus the demographics changed to a younger average age and the death rate decreased further.
The death rate is continually in flux, unless you reach a steady population where deaths equal births. In a stable population, the death rate is the reciprocal of the average age at death. Therefore a death rate of 6 people per year per 1000 people (where Gould claimed we should be by 1999) is equivalent to an average age at death of 167 years, in a stable population. A rate of 8.5/yr/1000 = an average age of death of 118 years. If the average age at death is 80 years, the death rate in a stable population is 12.5 deaths/year/1000 people. One can see that the death rate will have to increase again, as people who have now lived longer die off.
Thus Gould is spouting absolute nonsense. He has taken one statistic - the average death rate - and used it to "prove" his pre-conceived conclusions. He didn't even do a little basic thinking about all the factors that influence death rate, nor about what exactly the death rate represents. This is a case of unmitigated junk science. Obvious even to a non-statistician like me.
"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain
From: Franta, Jaroslav [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2003 12:27 PM
To: multiple (E-mail)
Subject: [cdn-nucl-l] FW: STAR-no-more
Nothing about what the shutdown of Brookhaven National Laboratory's High Flux Beam Reactor did to cancer research (among other things....).
Sent: Monday May 05, 2003 11:26 AM
STAR's Light Wanes
Hamptons environmental group folds under financial woes
By Bill Bleyer
May 3, 2003
Star power wasn't enough to keep STAR going.
Standing for Truth About Radiation, the East Hampton-based foundation headed
by former supermodel Christie Brinkley and her husband, architect Peter
Cook, has virtually shut down in an attempt to reorganize.
The 6-year-old group that has been suing and lobbying to shut down nuclear
reactors has dissolved its 11-member board of directors that had included
luminaries such as actor-writer Spaulding Gray, let go its staff of three
and on Wednesday closed its office on trendy Newtown Lane because it was
But Cook, the chairman of the board, said Friday that STAR will be
reconstituted with a new board of financial heavyweights who can afford to
fund its annual budget of around $400,000 out of their pockets.
In the meantime, the foundation formed in 1997 to push for shutting down
Brookhaven National Laboratory's High Flux Beam Reactor for safety reasons
will continue to maintain its Web site - www.noradiation.org - and
Washington consultant so it can continue some projects.
While STAR's public face was its media events such as the celebrity-studded
protest cruises featuring Brinkley, Billy Joel and Jimmy Buffett trying to
shut down the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford, Conn.,
environmentalists and East End public officials praised the group for its
dedicated scientific and lobbying work to fight the threat of nuclear contamination.
"We accomplished a great deal," said Scott Cullen, STAR's counsel before
becoming director of coastal conservation programs for the Nature
Conservancy's East Hampton office this week. "We shut down the reactor at
the lab" and helped push the Long Island Power Authority to begin an
offshore windmill project. "With Millstone, we were doing
high-profile events but we were also engaged in five or six lawsuits and
conducted scientific sampling over there."
East Hampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said "they played an important role
in closing down the nuclear reactor at Brookhaven, promoting renewable
energy and putting pressure on Millstone to make safety improvements."
But critics saw the group as biased hysterical dilettantes.
"STAR had almost zero scientific credibility," said Stephen Shapiro,
director of Brookhaven National Laboratory's Center for Neutron Science.
The problem for the group, Cook said, was that it was hard to get people on
Long Island - and beyond the Island - interested in Millstone and the lack
of an evacuation plan for the East End in case of a nuclear accident.
"People don't want to think about it as a New York issue," he said, "but
Millstone is 11 miles from the South Fork of Long Island and we have no evacuation plan.
"The bottom line is that STAR ran out of money at the end of last year,"
Cook continued. "We had a very aggressive campaign last year to develop a
new Web presence and TV commercials and print ads in the hope that it would
give us something to market to get people to donate. It turned out that it
didn't." He said the poor economy and concerns about security after the
Sept. 11 attacks also hurt fund-raising.
Gwynn Schroeder of the North Fork Environmental Council, whose group worked
with STAR on Millstone, said, "I think they were extremely effective. They
were really dedicated individuals and there will be a big void."
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.
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