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Low-Level Radiation Benefits Human Health

July 12, 2011

Review of Radiation Hormesis and the Linear-No-Threshold Assumption, by Charles L. Sanders (Springer-Verlag, 2009), 217 pages, ISBN-13: 9783642037191Charles Sanders has written one of the finest scientific research publications I have ever read.

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Review of Radiation Hormesis and the Linear-No-Threshold Assumption, by Charles L. Sanders (Springer-Verlag, 2009), 217 pages, ISBN-13: 9783642037191

Charles Sanders has written one of the finest scientific research publications I have ever read. Antinuclear activists would have people believe that even the slightest hint of environmental radiation is equivalent to a death sentence, but Sanders convincingly explains and extensively documents that even long-term exposure to low-dose radiation is beneficial, rather than harmful, to human health.

Fears Versus Realities
The public has been inundated with nuclear radiation fears in wake of the earthquake and tsunami damage to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power reactors, but extensive scientific studies and real-world observations demonstrate these worries are unjustified.

Other than Chernobyl, where an explosion in an unprotected plant killed 50 people, there has not been a radiation-related fatality in the 444 nuclear power plants operating around the world.

Flaws in Low-Level Theories
Sanders leaves no stone unturned in making the scientific case for the human-health benefits of low level radiation. He surgically dismantles the Linear-No-Threshold (LNT) assumption, which asserts that even the smallest amount of radiation is harmful to human health and that health harms increase at a linear rate from such minimal exposure.

Sanders explains that under the LNT assumption, if one assumes 100 percent of a population would die or get cancer from a certain dose of radiation, one assumes 50 percent of that population would die or get cancer from a 50 percent dose, and so on, down to the most serious part of the fallacy, which holds that 1 percent of the population would die or get cancer from a 1 percent dose of the radiation. This allows doom-saying projections of mortality from inconsequential doses of radiation.

This LNT assumption, Sanders explains, ignores the biological defense mechanisms we know exist in the human body.

The concept that substances that may be harmful in large quantities can be beneficial in small amounts is called hormesis, from the Greek word “hormaein,” which means to excite. Low-level stress stimulates a system of protective biological processes at the cellular, molecular, and organism levels that decrease cancer incidence and other deleterious health effects.

A good analogy is the danger of overdoses of vitamins, which are so valuable in small quantities. Similarly, research suggests moderate alcohol consumption may provide health benefits even though the health risks from heavy alcohol consumption are substantial. 

Cancer Statistics Confirm Benefits
Alarmists assert exposure to even low levels of radiation increases cancer risks. Sanders, however, documents that the age-adjusted cancer mortality rate for the U.S. population decreases with increasing background radiation. Cancer mortality rates in Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico are 20 percent lower than those in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, where background radiation levels are nearly one-fifth those in the first-named states.

At Chernobyl, the 65,000 people who were involved in cleanup and emergency medical operations were found to have lower than normal cancer rates later in life. In fact, the only increases in mortality regarding people living near Chernobyl were from suicides.

We now treat more than one million patients with radiotherapy in industrialized countries, including 50 percent of all U.S. cancer patients, with obvious positive results. Literally hundreds of thousands of medical workers exposed to frequent low-level radiation have experienced similar positive health benefits.

Unfortunately, Sanders observes, our health agencies ignore all these benefits and continue to engage in fear-mongering.

Good Info on Other Health Issues
While focusing on low-level radiation, Sanders describes its relationship to most major diseases and, in so doing, brilliantly explains what variables are of importance in those diseases. He discusses liver and thyroid cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and lung cancer, among others.

As an example, Sanders provides the following description of lung cancer. “The risk of lung cancer is dependent on the number of cigarettes smoked per day, use of a filter, type of tobacco, extent of inhalation, number of puffs per cigarette, the length of time smoking, and time since quitting for ex-smokers.”

If you want to learn the truth about cancer, radiation, and other interesting health issues, do yourself a favor and buy this book.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ( is science director of The Heartland Institute.

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Jay Lehr is an internationally renowned speaker, scientist, and author