Thursday, June 21, 2012

MIT Study: "At low dose-rate, radiation poses little risk to DNA"

That is one of the conclusions that the MIT researchers reached after the 5-week study using radioactive iodine on mice.

From MIT News Office (5/15/2012):

A new look at prolonged radiation exposure
MIT study suggests that at low dose-rate, radiation poses little risk to DNA.

Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

A new study from MIT scientists suggests that the guidelines governments use to determine when to evacuate people following a nuclear accident may be too conservative.

The study, led by Bevin Engelward and Jacquelyn Yanch and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that when mice were exposed to radiation doses about 400 times greater than background levels for five weeks, no DNA damage could be detected.

Current U.S. regulations require that residents of any area that reaches radiation levels eight times higher than background should be evacuated. However, the financial and emotional cost of such relocation may not be worthwhile, the researchers say.

“There are no data that say that’s a dangerous level,” says Yanch, a senior lecturer in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. “This paper shows that you could go 400 times higher than average background levels and you’re still not detecting genetic damage. It could potentially have a big impact on tens if not hundreds of thousands of people in the vicinity of a nuclear powerplant accident or a nuclear bomb detonation, if we figure out just when we should evacuate and when it’s OK to stay where we are.”

Until now, very few studies have measured the effects of low doses of radiation delivered over a long period of time. This study is the first to measure the genetic damage seen at a level as low as 400 times background (0.0002 centigray per minute, or 105 cGy in a year).

“Almost all radiation studies are done with one quick hit of radiation. That would cause a totally different biological outcome compared to long-term conditions,” says Engelward, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT.

How much is too much?

Background radiation comes from cosmic radiation and natural radioactive isotopes in the environment. These sources add up to about 0.3 cGy per year per person, on average.

Exposure to low-dose-rate radiation is natural, and some people may even say essential for life. The question is, how high does the rate need to get before we need to worry about ill effects on our health?” Yanch says.

Previous studies have shown that a radiation level of 10.5 cGy, the total dose used in this study, does produce DNA damage if given all at once. However, for this study, the researchers spread the dose out over five weeks, using radioactive iodine as a source. The radiation emitted by the radioactive iodine is similar to that emitted by the damaged Fukushima reactor in Japan.

At the end of five weeks, the researchers tested for several types of DNA damage, using the most sensitive techniques available. Those types of damage fall into two major classes: base lesions, in which the structure of the DNA base (nucleotide) is altered, and breaks in the DNA strand. They found no significant increases in either type.

DNA damage occurs spontaneously even at background radiation levels, conservatively at a rate of about 10,000 changes per cell per day. Most of that damage is fixed by DNA repair systems within each cell. The researchers estimate that the amount of radiation used in this study produces an additional dozen lesions per cell per day, all of which appear to have been repaired.

Though the study ended after five weeks, Engelward believes the results would be the same for longer exposures. “My take on this is that this amount of radiation is not creating very many lesions to begin with, and you already have good DNA repair systems. My guess is that you could probably leave the mice there indefinitely and the damage wouldn’t be significant,” she says.

Doug Boreham, a professor of medical physics and applied radiation sciences at McMaster University, says the study adds to growing evidence that low doses of radiation are not as harmful as people often fear.

“Now, it’s believed that all radiation is bad for you, and any time you get a little bit of radiation, it adds up and your risk of cancer goes up,” says Boreham, who was not involved in this study. “There’s now evidence building that that is not the case.”

(Full article at the link)

I have a feeling that the atomic bomb victims have a different take on this.

By the way, MIT is one of the 4 US universities that have received special grant for recovery and disaster prevention, from the Japan Foundation, a Japanese government fund to promote international academic and cultural exchange (the same one who are sending the US high school students to Tohoku Region including Fukushima to volunteer in cleanup).

MIT got about $70,000, Harvard got $83,000, University of California Berkeley got $62,000, and Randolf-Macon College got $100,000 (one of the graduates from this college died in the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami).

MIT's project, utilizing this grant, is "MIT Japan 3/11 Initiative - Disaster-Resilient Planning, Design + Reconstruction".


Nancy said...

The MIT study is pure BS. They created a study to come to a pre-determined conclusion. Yanch is also one of the big Fukushima deniers. There is a study they cite in there as proving their theory when if you actually read the other study it proves the MIT study wrong.

There is also a video with more information debunking the MIT study

What needs to become well known about this is the level of money influence and corruption in the scientific community that is going on in the US right now. MIT is beyond redemption IMHO, they are doing nothing to apply standards or oversight on people using the name to gain credibility. There are lots of other supposed experts that if you do some digging you will find out they are literally on the payroll of the nuclear industry.

Like studies and the science involved isn't complicated enough for most people, now you have to figure out if the scientist is on the take too.

Anonymous said...

According to the news report:

At the end of five weeks, the researchers tested for several types of DNA damage, using the most sensitive techniques available. Those types of damage fall into two major classes: base lesions, in which the structure of the DNA base (nucleotide) is altered, and breaks in the DNA strand. They found no significant increases in either type.

OK, well there are millions of HUMANS in Japan who have been exposed to low dose radiation for over a year. Why not try your ultra-sensitive DNA tests on them?

But maybe that would be too practical for an academic,

Get out in the real world MIT.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Methinks the "Simplyinfo" site has also reached some pre-determined conclusions.

Anonymous said...

1966: It Is Safe To Smoke" by Lloyd Mallan. "The scientific facts in the smoking vs. health controversy--and a startling, straight-forward conclusion." Mallan visits scientist after scientist, all of whom tell him smoking's not really dangerous, but just in case it is--the charcoal filter (then used on Lark cigarettes) would the best protection. The dedication reads: This book is for Rose Tinker Mallan, my lovely non-smoking wife, who worries with renewed emphasis every time she reads another scare headline in the newspapers "linking" cigarette smoking with disease, and for my son Lloyd Jeffrey, who fiendishly smokes the wrong kind of cigarette.

1967: 2nd Surgeon General's Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Public Health Service Review
William H. Stewart's Surgeon General's Report concludes that smoking is the principal cause of lung cancer; finds evidence linking smoking to heart disease

Above from

Lots of parallels with the low dose radiation health debate. Please understand that in spite of what this one MIT study claims, there are many other studies that show low dose radiation IS linked with negative health consequences. In fact there is so much evidence linking low dose radiation to negative health consequences that a prudent person would avoid it, just as anyone who was following the tobacco/lung cancer research during he late fifties and early sixties would have thrown away their cigarettes.

This comment provided only to illustrate that science can be influenced by big business. Please understand that RADIATION can be even more harmful than TOBACCO. And RADIATION, thanks to TEPCO negligence and the DPJ's ineffective control of contaminants after the fact, RADIATION is not a personal choice.

Anonymous said...

MIT has some radioactive skeletons in their closet. They were happy to conduct unethical human radiation experiments back in the day so excuse me if I don't just hop on their happy band wagon.

A front-page story in the Boston Globe on Sunday, Dec. 26, about the Fernald School studies, which were carried out by MIT and Harvard researchers, followed reports that US Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary had ordered a federal review of human radiation experiments.

According to the lawsuit filed by former Fernald Science Club member Ronald Beaulieu, MIT violated the civil rights of at least 54 institutionalized children at the Walter E. Fernald School in Waltham, Mass. The researchers fed children doses of radiation with their breakfast cereal for the purpose of studying the way the body absorbs calcium and iron. The experiments were often performed without the informed consent of the subjects or their families.

Professor of Physics J. David Litster PhD '65, vice president and dean for research, studied experiments performed on as many as 125 retarded residents of the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham, Mass., by the late Professor of Nutrition Robert S. Harris.

"So far I think we can make the statement that no one was harmed. Whether we would do those experiments today is a different question. My guess is probably not," Litster said.

Litster is still studying the results of two other experiments. In one experiment, pregnant women were given radioactive iodine. In the other experiment, subjects were given radioactive isotopes of iodine.

Anonymous said...

Read carefully [capitalization and bracketed comments added by me]:

"MIT study SUGGESTS [but does not prove] that at low dose-rate, radiation poses LITTLE [although not no] risk to DNA."
"The researchers ESTIMATE [but aren't sure] that the amount of radiation used in this study produces an additional dozen lesions per cell per day, all of which APPEAR to [but may not] have been repaired."
"Engelward BELIEVES [yet is not certain] the results would be the same for longer exposures."
"My GUESS [!] is that you could PROBABLY [and then again maybe not] leave the mice there indefinitely and the damage wouldn’t be SIGNIFICANT [although more than none]."

Granted, I didn't bother to read the linked full article, nor the study results themselves, but stuff like this really angers me.

How the mice were effected in this study and how people were/are effected in Japan and elsewhere are apples and oranges and not comparable. It's one heck of a stretch from 5 weeks of low dose exposure to IODINE (and only iodine) to Fukushima's radiation release and resulting long-term exposure of the population to all sorts of things. A little cesium, anyone?

To also conclude that, in case of a nuclear accident resulting in low dose radiation release, "relocation MAY [!] not be worthwhile" is imho beyond ridiculous. The study is about iodine, which is the least problematic radioactive substance due to its comparatively short half-life and the fact that one can take iodine pills to minimize the risks. Let's just not worry about all the other nasty stuff that comes out of a damaged NPP?

Way to go, MIT! Grant money well spent by the Japanese government.

Anonymous said...

If you check the linked abstract of the paper you can see that under Method: the research describe the use of 'flood phantom' to expose the mice. A flood phantom, as you can see following this link , is a double glass window where you can fill a 'radiative' solution (e.g. iodine dissolved in water) in between. Thus you will get a homogeneous field of radiation emitted by this 'plate'.

The researchers used I-125, which in essence gives off a gamma ray only (via Te-125) with 35 keV. In Fukushima and in cancer treatment I-131 is used which is a beta emitter (mainly 606 keV) followed by a gamma ray (mainly 364 keV).

Despite the considerable difference in the isotopes used, the main difference is that the research were just looking at external exposure - the least of all the worries in nowadays Japan. If you have an external radiation source with gamma rays, the emitted gamma rays can enter your body, but there is a high chance that they will leave your body again on the other side (just pass through). In contrast if you ingested (or inhaled) a beta emitter, 100% of the emitted radiation will be absorbed by your cellular tissue.

Therefore this study is of very limited use. People in Fukushima for example ingested and inhaled I-131, which got concentrated in their thyroids and thus selectively blasted 100% of their beta radiation on an extremely limited set of cells (same is true in case of Cs ingestion, there it is just mainly the heart). This is totally different.

If these researchers would have used I-131 in the water supply of the mice and then tested their Thyroids for DNA damage, the result would have been very different. But the art of making a biased study is to choose your experimental set up in a way, that your desired result will show up at the end. Sadly, in that regard these 'researcher' have done a good job.

Anonymous said...

False study, iodine goes for the thyroid and damages there. It is selective as to where it goes. These people at MIT need to do better science.

Chibaguy said...

Did the great people at MIT first expose the mice to a plethora of radionuclides and have them all wander around while it was falling? Probably not. Did they make them ingest radionuclides during the 5 month fast track study? Probably not. They have millions of subjects to test as anon 2:59 points out to but they chose this method!? Science meet money.

Anonymous said...

Well we can always check in on the High School students from US Schools that did volunteer work in cleaning up the radiation in Japan and see what happens to them in the next 7 years.

Anonymous said...

5 week study with desired results + MIT = $$$$$

Wish this was encouraging news about bright minds and higher education in this country.

Anonymous said...

Let's build a next nuclear power plant right on the MIT campus, steps from the main lecture halls.

That way, they can prove the soundness of their study through actual DNA samplings of their student and faculty. In fact, the authors of this study should volunteer to live within 5 miles of nuclear power facilities. Don't bother ordinary citizens from the snobby ivory tower.

Anonymous said...

go clean up fukushima plant/prefecture MIT MARBLE MOUTH COWARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Low dose rate? Japan? Externally?
It is to laugh. :(

Majia's Blog said...

As commentators have already pointed out, this study was systematically biased

It was biased not only because it was restricted to gamma, but also because it killed the mice after the 5 weeks of irradiation.

Bystander and delayed effects can take time to manifest

I recently came across a fantastic historical analysis of the systematic bias in the first BEAR study, completed in 1956:

Jacob Darwin Hamblin titled "'A Dispassionate and Objective Effort': Negotiating the First Study on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation, Journal of the History of Biology, 40(1), 147-177, 2007


In 1954 A. H. Surtevant, a prominent geneticist, wrote an essay in Science titled "Social Implications of the Genetics of Man.

Sturtevant argued that low dose radiation is indeed bad and external gamma is not the same as internal beta and alpha emitters.

The US Atomic Energy Comm. insisted on describing all fallout in terms of "sunshine units." Today they use bananas, CT scans, and dental xrays.

They have know the truth since 1956 when a panel of geneticists documented genetic effects of fallout.

TechDud said...

I wonder how they could have missed the mitochondrial DNA damage. Weren't they looking?

TechDud said...

"Three children were identified as undisclosed adoptions on the basis of the maternity test, leaving 988 individuals in the study. Without maternity testing, erroneous results would have been obtained, wrongly suggesting 25 full “mutations” instead of none. In the genetically related family members, we observed 22 partial (heteroplasmic) mutations in 595 high-radiation transmissions, and only 1 mutation in 200 low-radiation transmissions"
Quoted from

Ah, the wonder of "long-term" studies!

m a x l i said...

Well... if you lived in the vicinity of Fukushima after the nuclear catastrophe and
• had the opportunity to live solely from save imported food and water,
• had the opportunity to breath solely save imported air using diving equipment,
• left japan for antarctica at latest after 5 weeks,
• you are a mouse,
then you are just lucky. Then your risk of one day getting cancer does not "significantly increase" - whatever that means.

m a x l i said...

We had this discussion here before. But the nuclear psychopaths don't get tired to spread their lies, so we can't get tired to debunk their lies.
is a short readable article (offering a link to a study probably more scientific, I assume), that shows
• how such pro-nuke "scientific" studies get financed and by who,
• that the conclusions of such studies are preclusions.
We can read there:
"In contrast to the MIT 5 week study on 224 mice, this study has covered 86,611 human Japanese atomic bomb survivors, over a period of 62 years, carried out by a number of scientists in joint USA-Japan research."
It is pointing to evidence that any small amount of radiation is potentially harmful to health.

Anonymous said...

I believe this was the "study" debunked by Ian Goddard in his latest video.

Anonymous said...

And yet if Morphine and derivatives were to be banned in the treatment of cancer these scientific white papers would show startling new evidence.

Anonymous said...

Any of these studies are completely pointless because they only measure the relative risk.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing to realise here is THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK, and it's a risk that we shouldn't even need to take. They aren't even looking for alternatives. That's where the problem is.

They can pump out a billion studies claiming radiation is (relatively) "safe" or has "low" or "not immediate" health risk. It's still a risk. It still has the potential to screw all of us, especially in the long term.

No study can account for that... unless they have a time machine or a magical crystal ball.

Anonymous said...

Ian Goddard's excellent and easy-to-understand video totally debunks MIT's study.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't that fool Josef Oehmen from MIT ????

JAnonymous said...

You can stop reading the MIT article right from the point when they say that their study is a first... by Tanaka et al, studied 4'000 mices for 400 days until their natural death occured. Now that, sounded like sience (Didn't watch Goddard's video but it's probably cited in it as well)

I love how those phony scientists do some 'guesswork', I guess downwinders will be happy to learn that they have no significant risk. They must have one of those diseases induced by stress, like cancer. (I am being sarcastic, right).

Anonymous said...

Could this have anything to do with their recent DOE awards of $36.2 million, including funds for:

“Scholarship for Nuclear Communications and Methods for Evaluation of Nuclear Project Acceptability" will develop a model to characterize the factors affecting social acceptance of nuclear projects by potential stakeholders. The nuclear enterprise has long faced difficulties in gaining the broad social acceptance needed for success. The base of scholarship relevant to this problem is relatively small, and not much used within the nuclear enterprise. Reliance upon public education efforts continues to be the main, and largely unsuccessful, tactic to achieve acceptance. This project will develop a model for the social acceptability of nuclear projects, for use in assessment and refinement of their probabilities of success among essential stakeholders. The researchers expect that it will strengthen the ability to design and implement large projects more efficiently, leading to higher rates of success for future nuclear projects.

Anonymous said...

Here's another study idea. Why not take this sensitive DNA checking science to a prison in Fukushima? You know the prisoners have been getting the best low-cost local meet, produce and rice that Fukushima can offer. Cruel and unusual punishment in the extreme sense.

Anonymous said...

i don't know much about this, so please take this with a grain of salt.
the part where it says "400 times normal background radiation" sprang out at me.

consider this "experiment":
you have bunch of mice in a well ventilated cage in the garden. beside it you have carbon-monoxide canister (the POISON) venting to the air.
you have a bunch of mice in a poorly-ventilated garage. beside it you have a carbon-monoxide canister (the poison) venting to the air.

now: we substitute "the atmosphere" in above example for space-time. the stuff gravity and matter affects.
decaying atoms are matter in space and make gravity.

so is there a difference between lab rats being irradiated 400 times above "normal background radiation" in a confined space.
a Japanese speaking population being irradiated above "normal background radiation" over a space-area of ... dunno ... say ... 100x100 km = 10'000 square kilometer?

okay here's a hint: the atmosphere is like a fluid, so the rats in the open space get a whiff of carbon-monoxide and good air.
same with rats in a MIT lab. they get a whiff of "irradiation laden space-time" and regular (good) space-time.

not much of a good whiff you get if you're surrounded by "low-level" of radiation spreading all the way to the horizon.

(yes, i know radiation is not a gas :) use some salt)

Anonymous said...

Correct me if wrong, but didnt rodents survive some pretty nasty events on earth. And aren't rodents, AKA mice, the test subjects who showed a high resistance to radiation affects? HUM..guess humans are related to mice..billions of years ago. What makes MIT think a comparison of mice DNA and human DNA equals similar results? Agree with above comments on testing the Fukushima citizens with the tests needed to determine DNA damage! Of course neither government or TEPCO would welcome the resulting revelations of nuclear damage to DNA. It would mean more costs financially, and disprove the "SMILE" theory.

Anonymous said...

ACTG(u) adenin-c?-tymin-guanin (uracil) just happen to be the particles that make nice hydrogen bonds -and- then a nice form. hydrogen being special.
the DNA just a nice Chrystal starter. the resulting Chrystal (very water laden h2o, very hydrogen laden AGAIN), varies in sizes .. from frogs, to tulips, to blue whales to balking dogs?
tho rockets and TV-propaganda and printing presses are well understood, other things are not.
one of the things might be .. extinction.
again threading in unknown waters, but nevertheless still in boundaries, science might not have understood the concept of a "field" just yet.
just like in the movie "Independence day", where a mother ship creates the right "field" for the smaller ships to operate, maybe science is probing a source, with the result that we can understand, but at the cost that we have changed our possibilities(*).
nature is a delicate thing.
just saying that ACTG Chrystal forming molecules can and will exist in a high radiation environment, but it is most certain, that the beauty inherent to these molecules goes to waste in an environment that is made from unstable atoms.
if free-energy is available and mater is not involved, life of a different kind will win against ACTG. think ghosts. think paranormal activity. think heaven ... or hell.

(*)maybe! certain discoveries are NOT possible with even the slightest radiation around. "science, 90% unknown!(tm)"

holy batman beer!: in short there might come a time in evolution of life, where it realizes the confines of the the see-thru cage and it will have to decide, to either turn around and improve the cage or break the glass ... to get out :) get out of here.

Anonymous said...

Shut down ALL nuke plants NOW.

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