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Comments on the History of
Permissable Dose Standards

by Dr. Rosalie Bertell

In October 1945, after the US Occupation Force had taken over Japan, it was officially announced that there would be no more deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to the atomic bombs. Under the Occupation Force direction, no Japanese physicians or scientists were allowed to study the atomic bomb survivors, and no reporting about the survivors was allowed until the 1951 treaty was drawn up and signed in Tokyo.

In spite of these prohibitions and difficult circumstances, a Japanese Haematologist discovered the increase in leukemia among the survivors. It began within a year of the bombing. He reported this at a professional meeting and was roundly denounced by the US researchers in Hiroshima and Atomic Bomb Casualty Commissiion (now called the Radiation Effects Research Foundation).

The physician was sure he was right, and he persuaded a medical student to take two years off from his studies and document all of the atomic bomb victims with leukemia. This was a difficult job since they were being treated at many different hospitals. The student obtained blood slides for each patient and also verified where they were when the bombs were dropped. After two years of study (it was about five years after the boming at that time) the results of this study were released. The US researchers could no longer deny the fact, and they turned around and claimed credit for the research.

When the atomic bomb studies were actually set up, using persons identified in the 1950 Japanese census, they omitted counting these early, significantly increased number of cases. The Atomic bomb studies were not actually published with dose information until after the 1965 doses were devised by John Auxier of Oak Ridge Labs. These doses were, in 1980, denounced as wrong, and a new set of doses constructed in 1986. Although the justification for the new doses was improvement of the science, the journal Science gave a wonderful description of John Auxier's inability to produce the worksheets which showed the derivation of the dose estimates he had assigned. It seems that he lost these work sheets accidently to a shredder when he moved offices. This lead to the unanimous recommendation to lower permissible doses of radiation by the ICRP in 1990.

The US has still not lowered the permissible doses, and it also claims wrongly that its radiation protection standards, set in 1952, were based on Atomic bomb studies. This of couse is absurd. Most people in the nuclear industry equate "legal" with "safe", and if you try to explain that even within permissible levels of exposure there is significant risk of radiation damage, they think you are "emotional" and "unscientific".

The US appears to have used its 1952 estimates of permissible doses for nuclear workers for the DU exposure in the Gulf War.

More about this history can be found in my book: No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth. The Women's Press, London UK, 1985. There are still copies around in libraries, but it was taken off of seller's shelves in 1995 because I hope to update it. I have copies available for $12.50 US if anyone would like one.

Dr. Rosalie Bertell

For more on the study of the Atomic Bomb Survivors of Japan see
Section 2: The Atomic Bomb Survivors -- A Study and Its Alteration:

  1. Overview of a Uniquely Valuable Database
  2. A Growing Problem: Retroactive Alteration of the Study
  3. What Will Happen to the A-Bomb Database? A Pending Proposal
from Radiation-Induced Cancer From Low-Dose Exposure, An Independent Analysis, by John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph. D., (1990).

For more on nuclear workers exposure to DU in recent Wars see the section on:

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