Thursday, July 13, 2006

Radiation is Good For You

Rupert Murdoch's paper The Australian reports on a new study that says the risk of radiation is "greatly exaggerated."

I haven't read the study - which apparently draws its conclusions from research on the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster - but the article is a splendid example of conservatarian journamalism, as thus:

Research into the aftermath of the meltdown at the Soviet nuclear reactor has suggested that low levels of radioactivity are not as harmful as believed - and may even be beneficial.
That's a fairly startling claim, and you'd think that it'd necessitate some explanation of radiation's "beneficial" effects in this context. But the article says nothing further: no anecdotes, no quotes, no evidence, no nothing.

Next, we're invited to question the public's mental association between radiation and death:
Mike Repacholi, of the World Health Organisation radiation program, said: "People hear radiation, they think of the atomic bomb and they think of thousands of deaths."
They think of thousands of deaths? I can't imagine why. The article continues:
The UN Chernobyl Forum estimates that no more than 4000 people will die as a direct result of fallout, while radiation may be a contributory factor in another 5000 deaths.
The death toll stands at 56, as far as I know. Even if no one else died, I'd still find this alleged statement by Repacholi dubious:
The main negative health impacts were not caused by the radiation, but a fear of it, he said.
I haven't seen the final tally of people who died due to fear of radiation, but I'll let that go. I assume that in light of these new findings, The Australian and other Murdoch papers will downgrade their estimation of the danger posed by dirty bombs.

(Illustration by Cornelia Hesse-Honegger.)


juniper pearl said...

are we truly spiralling backward to such a dark age? when the phenomenon of radiation was new to the world, it was promoted for its energizing, invigorating health benefits--and then all the poor factory girls who had been licking the tips of paintbrushes that had been used to apply radioactive paint to the faces of watches started to notice that their jaws were full of holes. rupert murdoch, though, i mean, what do you expect?

Eli said...

Radiation = Mutation.

Mutation = Evolution.

Evolution = Good.

See, it's not so bad at all! And those who survive and manage to reproduce will be progressively more & more resistant to radiation!

spork_incident said...

Oh, Jeebus.

We're living in insane times.


Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow. As someone just having completed radiation ablation treament, I can assure you that even the beneficial aspects of radiation have strong adverse effects.

I may simply have the temporary version of salivary gland damage and tastebud malfunction, but about 30% of patients who start out with what I have experience recurrent problems for the rest of their lives. A much smaller percentage have chronic problems.

And then there's the dry eye caused by damage to lachrymal glands. Or intestinal lining damage.

Oh, yeah, really, really not so bad.

Speaking of using radiation for medical treatment, Roger Ebert has salivary gland cancer due to treatments with radiation given to him as a small child (forgot illness, but it was not uncommon. Sinusitus used to be treated with radiation, also, until all those pesky less beneficial effects showed up.).

four legs good said...

Clearly they have failed to recognize the fact that radiaction causes brain eating radioactive zombies.

But then again, since they love cheney, maybe they have.

moonbiter said...

This is the kind of thing they are talking about. We are talking about radiation levels far below those of ablation treatment. More here.

Phila said...


Thanks for the link. I think it's safe to say that radiation hormesis remains very much in dispute.

That's a separate issue, though. The point remains that this is an example of shoddy journalism: its reference to "beneficial effects" should've come with some example or explanation.