Daily Archives: September 25, 2011

Calabrese, E. 2011: Muller’s Nobel lecture on dose-response for ionizing radiation: ideology or science?

I’ve been following the work of this researcher for many years. He has published many papers on hormesis and several scholarly reviews on linear dose-response extrapolation versus a threshold response.

Calabrese, E.J. 2011. Muller’s Nobel lecture on dose–response for ionizing radiation: ideology or science? Archives of Toxicology, DOI: 10.1007/s00204-011-0728-8

Abstract:  In his Nobel Prize Lecture of December 12, 1946, Hermann J. Muller argued that the dose–response for radiation-induced germ cell mutations was linear and that there was “no escape from the conclusion that there is no threshold”. However, assessment of correspondence between Muller and Curt Stern 1 month prior to his Nobel Prize Lecture reveals that Muller knew the results and implications of a recently completed study at the University of Rochester under the direction of Stern, which directly contradicted his Nobel Prize Lecture. This finding is of historical importance since Muller’s Nobel Lecture gained considerable international attention and is a turning point in the acceptance of the linearity model in risk assessment for germ cell mutations and carcinogens.

Click here to obtain the paper (fee).

UMass Press Release

UMass Amherst Researcher Points to Suppression of Evidence on Radiation Effects by 1946 Nobel Laureate

Sept. 20, 2011

Contact: Janet Lathrop

AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental toxicologist Edward Calabrese, whose career research shows that low doses of some chemicals and radiation are benign or even helpful, says he has uncovered evidence that one of the fathers of radiation genetics, Nobel Prize winner Hermann Muller, knowingly lied when he claimed in 1946 that there is no safe level of radiation exposure.

Calabrese’s interpretation of this history is supported by letters and other materials he has retrieved, many from formerly classified files. He published key excerpts this month in Archives of Toxicology and Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.

Muller was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery that X-rays induce genetic mutations. This helped him call attention to his long-time concern over the dangers of atomic testing. Muller’s intentions were good, Calabrese points out, but his decision not to mention key scientific evidence against his position has had a far-reaching impact on our approach to regulating radiation and chemical exposure.

Calabrese uncovered correspondence from November 1946 between Muller and Curt Stern at the University of Rochester about a major experiment that had recently evaluated fruit fly germ cell mutations in Stern’s laboratory. It failed to support the linear dose-response model at low exposure levels, but in Muller’s speech in Oslo a few weeks later he insisted there was “no escape from the conclusion that there is no threshold.” To Calabrese, this amounts to deliberate concealment and he says Stern raised no objection.

Calabrese adds, “This isn’t an academic debate, it’s really practical, because all of our rules about chemical and low-level radiation are based on the premises that Muller and the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) committee adopted at that time. Now, after all these years, it’s very hard when people have been frightened to death by this dogma to persuade them that we don’t need to be scared by certain low-dose exposures.”

Within a year after Muller and his group persuaded the NAS to accept the linear model for gonadal mutations, the practice was extrapolated to somatic cells and cancer. Twenty years later, NAS adopted the linear approach for chemicals. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would use the linear model for risk assessment, Calabrese points out.

Some can accept that even the most distinguished scientists have human failings, he acknowledges. But his view is that “the regulatory research community needs to hear about this. The implications of my findings are that we should revisit our exposure regulations because our regulatory history is founded on a deception. We have seen literally hundreds of thousands of cleanup decisions based on a model that was fraudulently derived. I think we should probably have drastically different exposure standards today, and far less fear.”

Calabrese believes, “The die was cast by Muller and regulations adopted since then have gone unchallenged. I think he got his beliefs and his science confused, and he couldn’t admit that the science was unresolved. So he went ahead and expressed an opinion about how to handle the public health situation.”

Geneticists in the 1950s came to embrace the “linear dose-response model” of risk because at the high exposures they tested, there was no level below which DNA damage did not occur. They felt medical doctors didn’t grasp how significant were the dangers. As the smartest and brightest, Muller anticipated the risk of atmospheric atomic testing and became passionately committed to protecting society, Calabrese explains.

Muller and Curt Stern had done many of the key experiments. Muller himself served on the NAS’s Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) committee, through which the linear dose-response approach to risk assessment became firmly entrenched. The two successfully suppressed last-minute evidence from the fruit fly experiment conducted in Stern’s lab by postdoctoral researcher Ernst Caspari, and the rest is history, Calabrese says. It marked the “transformation of a threshold-guided risk assessment to one now centered on a linear dose-response.”

“To me this all raises the question, what happens when a scientific field lies to the public, to federal agencies and the president? It’s a very scary situation that the radiation genetics community in the 1950s assumed that something was correct without requiring the necessary documentation to support it,” the UMass Amherst toxicologist says.

Stern’s group published a paper in 1947 not long after Muller’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech in which they tried to discredit their own study, further evidence of a deliberate cover-up, Calabrese says. “It’s been hidden in the bowels of the Atomic Energy Commission for decades until I found it. They revised it to remove the one sentence suggesting this experiment might provide evidence for the threshold model.”

“One could argue that Muller single-handedly undermined above-ground atomic testing, which is a good thing,” Calabrese says. “But after uncovering this lie, I’m starting to contemplate what society would have looked like if the regulatory community had felt free to use a threshold model. Members of that 1956 NAS BEAR committee didn’t see the domino effect of their actions on our society. Muller’s impact on the world of today is almost incalculable. He couldn’t have imagined it. But we shouldn’t have to live with it.”

Pennsylvania issues notice for private water well disinfection


HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Department of Environmental Protection reminds homeowners with private water wells affected by flood waters to properly disinfect their wells prior to taking a water sample to test for contamination.

It is important for homeowners to test their private wells to ensure that the water is safe to drink and does not have any bacteriological contamination. Homeowners can pick up water sampling kits for free at DEP’s North-central, Northeast, South-central and Southeast regional offices, all of which have extended weekend hours, and drop the samples off for testing to be done at no expense. Homeowners will be notified by phone if results are positive, and all water sampling result notifications will be mailed to homeowners.

The test kits come with a bacteriological sample bottle, sample submittal form, sampling procedure and well disinfection instructions. All steps should be followed thoroughly in order to ensure accurate testing and results.

“Water sampling is the only way to find out if your well has been contaminated,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “DEP wants all people affected by the flooding to take the necessary and proper steps to protect their health and safety, and we are here to help them do that.”

In order to properly test well water, the first step is to disinfect the well. The fact sheet, “Disinfection of Home Wells and Springs,” is located on DEP’s website under the Flood-related Information section. It outlines the procedure necessary to disinfect private water wells using common household items. Once homeowners follow the well disinfection procedure, they should wait two to five days before taking a sample of their water for analysis. Staff at DEP’s regional offices are available to provide assistance and answer questions about the disinfection and sampling procedure.

If the water sampling results are positive for contamination, homeowners are asked to repeat disinfection and sampling until the sampling results are negative.

Until the water is tested and determined safe to drink, people should continue to use bottled water or bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. Bottled or boiled water should be used for drinking, cooking, food preparation, dishwashing, making ice and coffee, mixing baby formula and brushing teeth.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set the maximum contaminant health goal for total coliforms to zero in their Total Coliform Rule, meaning the presence of any coliform bacteria in water suggests the presence of microbial contamination. Although many types of coliform bacteria are harmless, some can cause health problems, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting. Well water should have zero total coliforms for it to meet the acceptable drinking water standard.

If water sampling results continue to be positive for coliform bacteria after repeated disinfection and sampling, homeowners should have their well or spring further evaluated. Continued contamination may be caused by design or construction deficiencies, deferred maintenance or ongoing susceptibility to surface water contamination. Homeowners may need to consider modifications to their well or spring or install treatment for coliform bacteria.

If homeowners need to conduct additional testing for industrial chemicals, DEP regional offices can provide contact information for accredited labs in their region.

For more information, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click on the Flood-related Information button. Addresses and phone numbers for your nearest DEP regional office can be found on the website’s Regional Resources page.

Media Contact: Lisa Kasianowitz, 717-787-1323

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Missoula (MT) water: A different view

Click here for an update on the Carlyle Group investment in the Missoula, Montana drinking water system.

Consider this situation from a different perspective. One reason cities like to own their own water system is for the revenue it brings in to the city. There are cities, however, that go one step further and generate revenue from water fees to pay for other local government programs.

So what is the difference to the customer?…pay so that investors (who may live in the city) can make a reasonable return on their investment, which results in economic activity…..or pay so that politicians can decide how to spend more of other people’s money (to put it bluntly)….

Is this where Missoula is headed?……water rate payments for social programs? I can assure you that if the city owned the water system now, the water rates would not be any lower than if Carlyle owns the system, and they would likley be higher.  Perhaps the rate payers (citizens) should have a say in the matter…..in addition to the investors and politicians….


Is the Ipswich, Massachusetts Perchlorate Notice Alarmist?

This is an interesting situation.  The State of Massachusetts has set a maximum contaminant level for perchlorate in drinking water at 2.0 ug/L.

The town of Ipswich has issued a public notice because 2.2 ug/L perchlorate was detected. click here for news article.  Click here for the notice.

However, studies do not support setting an MCL at such a low level.  For example, an epidemiological study reported previously on this blog (click here) concluded the following:

“Low-level perchlorate exposure is ubiquitous, but is not associated with alteration in thyroid function tests among women in the first trimester of pregnancy.”

The source of perchlorate in the city’s water is not mentioned….was perchlorate intentionally added or did it occur naturally? What would be the test results if performed by another laboratory…..is there bias in the data?

 Is there a clear bright line between effects at 2.0 and 2.2 ug/L in drinking water, making one concentration safe and the other not safe? No, there is not. It is also unreasonable to say that any concentration is harmful. The notice says any level above 2.0 ug/L is harmful….which is speculative…

Perchlorate exposure also occurs through food and other routes of exposure. There is no mention in the public notice of other sources and the uncertainty associated with knowing whether there are any thyroid effects of perchlorate in drinking water at all at such a low concentrations (and all of the assumptions made) given the other factors that affect the thyroid….

I would expect that in issuing the notice the city is just doing what the state requires?  Is this public notice alarmist? It is certainly misleading…. 

Poor economy and unemployment increase water system thefts

Irrigation system backflow valves are made of brass and cost $300 to $400 to replace…..They are easy targets for thieves if left exposed…..For an example from Tennessee…..click here.

Should Las Vegas take Eastern Nevada groundwater?

In the west, water is for fight’n….and so a new hearing will revisit an old issue frought with conflict. A new multi-billion dollar pipeline would span 300 miles.

The state engineer is to decide if and how much groundwater the Las Vegas valley can take…..click here for a background article.

CDC: Dental Caries in Rural Alaska Native Children — Alaska, 2008

This study concludes that tooth decay is higher in rural Alaska. Click here for a news article discussing this study by the State of Alaska and CDC.

The study itself (click here) states:

“Dental caries severity was greater in nonfluoridated villages. Children from nonfluoridated villages had 1.2–2.9 times higher mean dft or DMFT than children from fluoridated villages and 1.2–3.1 times the mean number of decayed teeth. Children from the Alaska region had 1.5–4.5 times the number of dft or DMFT than same-aged U.S. children and 1.6–9.0 times the number of decayed teeth. On age-adjusted bivariate analysis, only lack of water fluoridation, increased soda pop consumption, and infrequent brushing of teeth were significantly associated with dental caries severity in primary and permanent teeth (all p-values <0.05).”

Lack of water fluoridation is implicated,

“Dental caries severity was greater in nonfluoridated villages. Children from nonfluoridated villages had 1.2–2.9 times higher mean dft or DMFT than children from fluoridated villages and 1.2–3.1 times the mean number of decayed teeth. Children from the Alaska region had 1.5–4.5 times the number of dft or DMFT than same-aged U.S. children and 1.6–9.0 times the number of decayed teeth. On age-adjusted bivariate analysis, only lack of water fluoridation, increased soda pop consumption, and infrequent brushing of teeth were significantly associated with dental caries severity in primary and permanent teeth (all p-values <0.05).”