Press Statement

International Conference Criticisms and Developments in the Assessment of Radiation Risk
5th and 6th May 2009
Molyvos (Mithymna) Island of Lesvos, Greece

The purpose of the Conference was to critically examine the current radiation risk models epitomised by recent reports of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and the US BEIR VII Committee.

In convening the International Conference and in establishing the Edward Radford Memorial Award, the Committee has recognised that the purely scientific issues of radiation risk stand in a politically charged context. Nowhere is this better exemplified than by the persecution of Dr. Radford by the international radiological community and the prosecution and imprisonment of Professor Yuri Bandazhevski after he insisted on publishing his results. This is not to deny the courage and experience of other workers whose careers and professional standing have been attacked. Professor Alice Stewart, the Committee’s first Chair, is an outstanding example. It would be invidious to attempt a complete list of scientists who have challenged the orthodox view of radiation and its health effects.

The orthodox view represented by ICRP is crumbling in the face of challenges to its theoretical basis and epidemiological observations which falsify its predictions. In 2004 the crucial quantity of “absorbed dose” was reported to be virtually meaningless by the UK CERRIE committee in exposure circumstances which the ICRP itself has analysed. In 2005 the ICRP’s pivotal epidemiological basis in the Japanese survivors of the American A-bombs was declared invalid by the official French risk agency IRSN. In the days running up to the Lesvos Conference the application of the ICRP risk model to post-accident exposures was admitted to be wrong by Dr Valentin, the recently retired Scientific Secretary of ICRP, and by Dr. Larsson, the Deputy Director of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority SSM(1). The Committee’s own 2006 publication Chernobyl 20 Years On (recently updated and reprinted) summarised hundreds of epidemiological and laboratory studies showing effects far graver than can be accounted for using ICRP’s model. The Conference received further presentations on a number of health related phenomena which are outside the ICRP paradigm. These included illnesses – largely of the cardio-vascular system – associated with Chernobyl fallout in Belarus, bystander effects induced by radiation exposure in vivo, and low dose radiation-induced genetic effects across Europe.

Presentations on cancer topics including the recent official German study of childhood leukaemia near nuclear power plant showed effects far greater than predicted by ICRP.

Presentations on photoelectron enhancement of gamma and X-rays, the unreliability of UNSCEAR estimates of population doses following Chernobyl, and the assessment of risks following in utero exposure all revealed knowledge gaps in the ICRP approach. Professor Shoji Sawada’s paper on the estimation of residual effects in Hiroshima survivors showed that it is possible to use ABCC / RERF data to calculate that ingested and inhaled fallout, residual contamination and neutron activation products caused substantial health effects in the population outside the 1.2 kilometre zone, and that these effects exceeded the effects of the acute external irradiation. He showed that the peak effect from exposure to fallout was comparable to 1 Gray of acute external irradiation.

In common with other radiation risk agencies, the Committee recognised that the present state of knowledge demands a thorough programme of research. The Committee differs from other agencies, however, by urging national competent authorities that the existing ICRP model should be abandoned, and that the Committee’s own Recommendations provide a precautionary means of continuing to regulate existing situations which might give rise to radiation exposures. It should be noted that the Recommendations were formulated specifically to enable historical dose data to be modifed

The Committee considered that it is a human right for individuals to know the level of radiation they are exposed to, and to be correctly informed as to the potential consequences of that exposure.

Considering the escalating use of radiation for medical investigation and other general applications, the Committee urged significant publicly funded research into medical techniques which do not involve radiation exposures to patients.

Contributions and recorded discussions at the Conference will be peer-reviewed and collected into a volume of Proceedings which will be published.
The expected publication date is October 2009.

For further information contact the Scientific Secretary, Pr. Dr. Chris Busby through the Office Manager at this email link.

To express an interest in the Proceedings, email the Office Manager or write to

Mireille de Messieres
Secretary of the Organising Committee,
European Committee on Radiation Risk
Castle Cottage
Sea View Place
Aberystwyth
SY23 1DZ.


References

1Link to a transcript of conversations between Professor Busby and Drs Valentin and Larsson which was provided to the Conference.

The Lesvos Declaration