Saturday, December 17, 2011

Vanity Fair: US Medical Researcher Robert Peter Gale Reassures Fuku-I Workers "Nothing to Worry About"

Following Dr. Wade Allison (1 sievert/year is safe) and Dr. Theodore Rockwell ("Let people of Fukushima return!") here's Dr. Robert Peter Gale, who actually went to Fukushima Prefecture at least and told the workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant not to worry too much and not be caught in a radiation "hysteria".

Dr. Gale tells a worker who's getting 1.67 millisievert every 2 hours that it's OK up to 250 millisieverts under the circumstances.

The Vanity Fair magazine article doesn't say under what circumstance Dr. Gale went to Fukushima. I can't figure out the reason why Vanity Fair wrote this article either.

From Vanity Fair January issue "Heroes of the Hot Zone" by Pico Iyer:

Ever since the tsunami triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last March, Japanese workers—some 18,000 to date—have been heading into the radioactive exclusion zone to work on the cleanup. Pico Iyer trails radiation expert Dr. Robert Gale, a veteran of Chernobyl and nearly every major nuclear disaster since, to learn who these anonymous heroes in HAZMAT suits are, what motivates them, and the danger they calmly accept. In addition, photographer James Nachtwey gets rare portraits of some of these brave workers.

he three men, all in their 30s, might be any construction workers knocking back Sapporos at a tiny izakaya, or neighborhood bar. Around them is the friendly clutter of any small, working-class drinking place in Japan. Fading calendar portraits of a favorite singer fill every last inch of wall space not given over to bright posters for ocean resorts, photos of kimonoed actresses striking classical poses, or plaques on which celebrities have inscribed their autographs. There’s even a framed snapshot of the old-broad proprietress next to the celebrated tough-guy director and TV star Beat Takeshi.

One patron is missing many of his teeth and has the intense, staring eyes of the slightly too ferocious guerrilla in a samurai movie. Clad in a blue tracksuit and tennis shoes, 34-year-old Hideyaki Kusumoto leans forward and addresses practically the only foreigner to be seen in the town—a small, trim man, dressed in a summery pink sweater and Stabilicore running shoes, with a deep tan and gray appearing along the sides of his thin reddish hair.

“Doctor, I know about the workers in Chernobyl who’ve suffered. Am I at risk?”

“It takes about 30 or 40 years to get cancer from radiation, except among children,” the visiting American says in the calm, clarifying tones of a seasoned physician. “So if workers from Chernobyl have cancer now, it’s probably not because of radiation.”

“But I’m working in a place where the radiation is really high,” says a colleague in thick black glasses, 30-year-old Masaya Ishikawa. “I work two hours a day. I get 1.67 millisieverts every two hours.”

He pulls from his wallet a sheaf of tiny white receipts on which his daily radiation dose at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, crippled by the earthquake and tsunami of last March, is given to him every day. “I know that cancer will appear only 30 or 40 years later, but what about other diseases? What’s the maximum exposure I should get? At what levels of radiation do the white blood cells start decreasing?”

“About 1,000 millisieverts,” says Robert Gale, a hematologist, oncologist, and expert on bone-marrow transplants who has become one of the strongest voices for the controversial position that fear about radiation at Fukushima is overblown.

“So, 250 millisieverts is O.K.?”

“It’s O.K. under these circumstances. But it’s best not to go over that.”

The doors slide open, admitting the warmth of a late-October evening, and two older men dressed all in black, with white shirts and black ties—the kind of dress the Japanese usually favor only for funerals—come in, take the last two seats at the bar, and order Kirins.

Kusumoto leans forward again, well into his third or fourth beer, and says to his new friend, “When you were at Chernobyl, were they wearing protective suits? Should we?”

“You need a balance,” replies the doctor, who has come today for the first time to the hot-springs resort of Iwaki Yumoto, just outside the “exclusion zone” that encircles the nuclear plant with a radius of 12 miles now. “We started out wearing the radiation-protective suits in Chernobyl, but it made us move very slowly, because they’re so heavy. So people ended up getting more radiation because they were wearing these heavy clothes. It was better to work very fast, without protection, than very slowly with protection. In the end, we didn’t wear any protective clothing.”

Ishikawa has already said that he’s come up to work here, helping to clean up the stricken plant, in part because he remembers the earthquake that hit his hometown of Kobe in 1995, killing more than 6,000 people. “Of course the salary is good,” he says, “but I also felt, as a former victim of an earthquake, I should help.”

Now he eyes the doctor again.

“Can my work here affect my family members and friends?”

“A good question. The answer is no.”

“Good. I have four children.”

“The radiation goes through you,” Gale explains. “So when you go home, none of this will affect them. They’re completely safe.”

He pauses for a moment. “We have to think of two kinds of radiation,” he goes on. “This mug of beer is radioactive. Radiation is coming from me. That’s one kind, the most important kind, which is internal. There’s another kind that gets on our skin and is only external. That’s not so important, though it looks as if it should be.”

“It’s like these clothes, right?”


“Great! I’m sorry to ask you this. But some friends of mine from Osaka are coming up here to work, and I feel responsible for them.”

(The article continues at the link.)


doitujin said...

this is kind of really scary... and why vanity fair?

Anonymous said...

God-damned a**hole. Is it stupid or evil?

Anonymous said...

Right, what would a trained physician with experience working in the field in Chernobyl know about radiation.

Anonymous said...

You mean like Dr. Yamashita? Smile and radiation will go away?

Anonymous said...

This 'trained physician with experience working in the field in Chernobyl' disagrees with the comprehensive medical report of the physical impacts radiation from Chernobyl has had on the victims of the disaster.
Regarding this comprehensive report, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, Wikipedia says: "The book presents an analysis of scientific literature and concludes that medical records between 1986, the year of the Chernobyl disaster, and 2004 reflect 985,000 premature deaths as a result of the radioactivity released. The authors suggest that most of the deaths were in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, though others occurred worldwide throughout the many countries that were struck by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl.[1] The literature analysis draws on over 1,000 published titles and over 5,000 internet and printed publications discussing the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster."
Here is the report itself:

Anonymous said...

Yes - now I understand. This trained physician is a nincompoop. Crystal clear. He has nothing on the medical experts that post here.

Anonymous said...

I would also point out that he isn't the only person who disagrees with Yablokov. The controversies surrounding Yablokov's work are all well-known, and well-debated in a number of forums, except for this one here, where anyone who deviates from the party-line is labeled a Tepco shill.

kintaman said...

paid for by TEPCO.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha - how convenient for the Rense crowd. Every statement by Tepco is a lie, every statement by any doctor (who doesn't believe all radiation kills) is a lie, every bit of data that might suggest this isn't Armageddon is a lie. In Japan we would call you guys "shinja" (believers), meaning; it doesn't matter what evidence is in front of you, you will choose to believe what you wish to believe, regardless of what the reality is. Ironic since you all love the word "sheeple" so much.

Atomfritz said...

"...but what about other diseases?"

This is the crucial question, quietly evaded by Gale and the other pro-nuclearists.

Cancers only are the small tip of the giant iceberg of radiological effects.
Concentrating on cancers greatly helps to produce the impression that only a marginal number of people's health will be damaged by the radiation.
Exactly this focusing on cancers only is a central part of the nuclearists' lies and gets repeated over and over.

The vast majority of radiation damage effects to the health are non-terminal by themselves, but can greatly reduce the quality of life of these who suffer from (and their offspring).

It is like suggesting that the Minamata victims are only those who died, and to exclude all the others suffering, many of them for their whole life, instead of dying in short time.

DD said...

@Anonymous: sarcasm, rhetoric, denigrating, overplaying your hand; hectoring: all hallmarks of the defensive, conceivably paid-for, hit-'n'-run hack.

Would that your statement have been composed with the outcome of adding to the debate rather than an attempted stifle.

On other sites, "anonymous" is often convolved with "coward". Names Please?

DD said...

From the original post

At what levels of radiation do the white blood cells start decreasing?”

“About 1,000 millisieverts,” says Robert Gale, a hematologist, oncologist, and expert on bone-marrow transplants who has become one of the strongest voices for the controversial position that fear about radiation at Fukushima is overblown.

“So, 250 millisieverts is O.K.?”

“It’s O.K. under these circumstances. But it’s best not to go over that.”
Here is the list of damage at the lower limit of ARS, source Wikipedia, references via source
Symptom Exposure (Gy)
Nausea and vomiting 5–50%
Time of onset 2–6h
Duration < 24h
Diarrhea None
Headache Slight
Fever None
CNS function No impairment

Latent period
28–31 days
Mild to moderate Leukopenia

Without care 0–5%
With care 0–5%
Death 6–8 wks

For electron and photon radiation (e.g. gamma), 1 Gy = 1 Sv
to exceed 250mSv in one tour of duty, with the precautions against excessive dosimetry noted in Ex-SKF's other post at
would seem reasonably likely to bring the worker into the 1-2Gy band [one tour of duty being 2 hours and the dosimeter obscured from the rad source being assumptions here].

The good doctor's assurances, in this hypothesised scenario, would seem disingenous at best.

Doctors are not always healers!

Anonymous said...

The doctor likes money and he likes being comfortable.

He also likes doing case studies, treating people as particles or inert objects.

There is no reason for him to be confrontational with powers that be, so he goes along with "feel good" and "don't talk about uncomfortable things." That makes sense culturally to both Americans and Japanese.

All of that spells out status quo.

Hence, my verdict at 9:54 above still holds true, whether expressed in couched language or more explicitly.

Anonymous said...

"... it doesn't matter what evidence is in front of you, you will choose to believe what you wish to believe, ..."

LOL Really? And what is the evidence before me? Precisely that TEPCO and the Japanese government are lying criminal SOBs. And, so, what I subsequently believe is based on that fact.

Anonymous said...

My dear DD
The doctor apparently said "250 mSv is OK under these circumstances. Its best not to go over that." I do hope I have quoted him correctly. Nowhere did he say 1 sievert or 1 Gy was OK. Nowhere did he suggest that repeated exposures of 250 millisieverts was OK. His advice was accurate and people would be well advised to listen, rather than to treat him and the article in Vanity Fair with sarcasm, as the original post does (would you not agree)? Or perhaps calling him "evil" and an "a**hole" somehow adds to our sum of knowledge, as the second poster does. This doctor traveled to Chernobyl to help victims. He is doing the same in Japan. Compare the value of this doctor's service to the value of the posters here who see radiation damage in every nosebleed, every dead tree, every sore throat.
Regarding evidence, it exists in abundance if you care to look for it. I suggest Google.
I would be curious to know Atomfritz's credentials in this field. Perhaps he knows more than Dr. Robert Gale in this arena. At minimum, perhaps Atomfritz could provide support to his claim that Gale is a pro-nuclearist. It would seem that after visiting Chernobyl and Fukushima helping victims, Gale might not be as pro-nuclear as some would wish to believe. Or, let's put this test in reverse - if we are to discount the opinions of pro-nuclearists due to bias, let us also discount the opinions of anti-nuclearists due to similar bias.
Furthermore, I find the online name of "DD" to be every bit as anonymous as the name "anonymous" itself, but if you wish to call me something, you may call me "Sir".

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for where the doctor said "nothing to worry about". Did he really say that?

Atomfritz said...

@ anon 2:20

Mr. Gale surely knows more than I, but I at least know enough to see what Mr. Gale tries not to speak about, and this is revealing.

If he were honest, he wouldn't evade the answer, being asked about health consequences aside of cancer. He wouldn't have tried to make people believe that below 500mSv there are no blood changes. Etc.
Depending on their lies, or what people do not tell about, you can guesstimate which side they are of.

Btw, I really doubt that Mr. Gale did help any single victim.

The Russians allowed him in only because of Glasnost. He learned much in the 5th Moscow clinic which is specialized on nuclear accident victim therapy. As they had many hundreds of clients from the numerous accidents and contamination zones in the Soviet Union, they are very experienced.
Gale was of course eager to learn a bit of practical hands-on knowledge.

The Japanese let him in because they were happy to have an american doc with "credentials" who was willing to help them to curb "baseless rumors".

He just says what his fundgivers and their spin doctors want him to speak.

He is just like the doctors that, being paid by the cigarette industry, tried to prove that smoking is harmless and does not cause lung cancer.

Better not believe such guys.

Yosaku said...


You've asserted that Wade Allison thinks 1 Sv per year is safe, but you've linked to an article in which he made no such recommendation. Help!

DD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DD said...

Referring to Anonymous [at DECEMBER 18, 2011 1:45 PM] and without wishing to prolong this argument between two fools any further from my end:

First of all, DD is not anonymous. I can easily be traced from cross postings here and elsewhere. I do this recognising that, while potential threats arise from traceability, the credibility of what I say, AS A RECOGNISABLE PERSON WITH CONSISTENT POSTING HISTORY, is thereby enhanced.

Posters who satisfy themselves with the anonymous label are widely seen as reluctant to be traced and do so, therefore, with reduced credibility.

The good doctor Gale has established a history of visiting the sites of nuclear disasters with dangerous levels of contamination over a wide area. Whether his intention to help the victims was from genuine humanitarian motives or from professional curiosity, or from somewhere in between, I do not care to speculate but I do offer the valid and experienced judgement that very few people on this earth have motives that stand a brief examination for purity and consistency.

I do not believe the good doctor to have exhibited anything exemplary in this respect.

Let us suppose ourselves a worker at a nuclear mitigation exercise such as the current one in North Eastern Japan.

A doctor experienced in nuclear medicine and with a world reputation in the field arrives at the site.

What I would want to know is: how well will I be treated should I fall ill as a consequence of my work in an area of dangerous radiation?

I might phrase my question more specifically, hoping to draw out the doctor, but that is the key question.

However, the good doctor is short of time and deals briefly with my anxiety in a formulaic manner, not only that, but phrased with insurance and legal claims in mind. We can follow the conversation that way.

We know that radiation is ruled by statistics, that decay products are produced statistically, that the various forms of biological injury from ionising radiation are ruled by statistics. The worker would be aware of this. He would also be aware that when in future the injurious effects of radiation sickness affects larger numbers of people then the resources for treatment and palliative care could run short.

That is what I believe would be in the minds of many working at the site, and in the minds of their friends and family.

As I begun with the intention of myself not prolonging this thread further, I will leave it to yourself and others to continue the debate.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the doctor has some expertise in this field, regardless of his support, or lack thereof, of nuclear power. I have yet to see any evidence that he is in favor of nuclear power, despite already being smeared with that very broad brush. Be that as it may, he has given his advice as a professional in this field, and he has given his time, and has put himself in the midst of the hot zone, so to speak, to assist others. Dismissing he efforts as formulaic requires a certain arrogance that I do not have, but it is strange indeed that the charity of a visiting physician should be so politicized.

Post a Comment