NUCLEONICS WEEK APRIL 27, 2006
UN study: Chernobyl cancer impact relatively small, undetectable
At the same time as Greenpeace and others, including local officials in the affected ex-Soviet republics, claimed a heavy public health toll from Chernobyl, a group of scientists who reject the linear non-threshold model for the dose-effect relationship argued that the IARC[Elisabeth Cardis et-al] predictions of the accident's health impact were far too high and based on flawed science.
Maurice Tubiana, a respected French cancer specialist who has championed the theory of a threshold of dose below which the human body repairs radiation-induced damage, said this month that the IARC study was "an exercise in style" but wasn't scientifically valid because it is based on the concept of collective dose. That concept is itself based on the linear non-threshold risk model, which holds that any amount of radiation can cause cancer.
Tubiana co-authored a study published last year by the French Academies of Science and Medicine that concluded that the linear non-threshold theory was scientifically incorrect because the basic mechanisms of radiation impact at low doses and dose rates are different from, and less harmful than, those of acute and/or higher doses (NW, 27 Jan. '05, 8).
Using collective dose, the IARC study applied the total Chernobyl dose burden to all of those potentially exposed to derive a number of anticipated excess cancers. This mathematically leads to estimates of large numbers of cancers when applied to very large populations like that of Europe.
But Tubiana said this month that even if the IARC predictions are relatively low, "only 50 cancers a year (among the most-affected population) compared to 2 million cancers per year worldwide," he argued, "these numbers have absolutely no value."-Ann MacLachlan, Paris
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