No, a Little Radiation Is NOT Good For You

George Washington's picture

Government scientists and media
shills are now "reexamining" old studies that show that radioactive
substances like plutonium cause cancer and arguing that exposure to low
doses of radiation is good for us (a theory called "hormesis").

It is not just bubbleheads like Ann Coulter and pro-nuclear hacks like Lawrence Solomon
are saying it as well. In virtually every discussion on the risk of
nuclear radiation, someone post comments arguing that a little radiation
makes us healthier.

However, the official position is that there is insufficient data to support the hormesis theory: As Wikipedia notes:

reports by the United States National Research Council and the National
Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the United Nations
Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) have
upheld that insufficient human data on radiation hormesis exists to
supplant the Linear no-threshold model (LNT). Therefore, the LNT
continues to be the model generally used by regulatory agencies for
human radiation exposure.


The notion of radiation
hormesis has been rejected by the National Research Council's (part of
the National Academy of Sciences) 16 year long study on the Biological
Effects of Ionizing Radiation. "The scientific research base shows that
there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing
radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial.

See this, this, this and this.

Most proponents of the hormesis theory claim
that data from the residents of Nagasaki and Hiroshima shows that
residents exposed to low levels of radiation (i.e. some miles from the
bomb blasts) lived longer than residents who lived so far away that they
were not exposed to any radiation.

However, as Reuters noted in 2000:

survivors of the atomic bomb have their life expectancy reduced by an
average about 4 months, which does not support claims that survivors
exposed to low levels of radiation live longer than comparable
unexposed individuals.

To clarify the question of whether atomic
bomb survivors have enhanced or reduced life expectancy, Drs. John B.
Cologne and Dale L. Preston from the Radiation Effects Research
Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan, studied 120,321 survivors and estimated
their radiation exposure and mortality rates after 45 years of follow

They report in the July 22nd issue of The Lancet that median
life expectancy fell by about 1.3 years per Gy of estimated radiation
dose, and declined faster at higher doses. At doses below 1 Gy, median
life expectancy fell by about 2 months, while exposures of greater
than 1 Gy resulted in a median loss of life of 2.6 years.

Cologne and Preston estimate that at a dose of 1 Gy, 60% of those
exposed died from solid cancer, 30% from illnesses other than cancer,
and 10% from leukemia.

"These results are important in light of
the recent finding that radiation significantly increases mortality
rates for causes other than cancer," they write.

A large study of bone cancer in survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima published in March of this year also showed no hormesis, but rather increased cancer risk even at low doses. (See this and this for more evidence that low levels of radiation can cause cancer.)

data has also been misinterpreted by those who advocate that a little
radiation is good for you. For example, the above-quoted Wikipedia
article notes:

In popular treatments of radiation
hormesis, a study of the inhabitants of apartment buildings in Taiwan
has received prominent attention. The building materials had been
accidentally contaminated with Cobalt-60 but the study found cancer
mortality rates more than 20 times lower than in the population as a
whole. However, this study compared the relatively young irradiated
population with the much older general population of Taiwan, which is a
major flaw. A subsequent study by Hwang et al. (2006) found a
significant exposure-dependent increase in cancer in the irradiated
population, particularly leukemia in men and thyroid cancer in women,
though this trend is only detected amongst those who were first exposed
before the age of 30. This study also found that rate of total cancer
cases was lower than expected.

Even If Hormesis is Real, We've Got Too Much of a Good Thing

Even if the accepted scientific consensus is wrong and hormesis is real, we're getting too much of a good thing.

As I've previously noted:

There Are NO Background Levels of Radioactive Caesium or Iodine

Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:

amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the
environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear
accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster. As of 2005, caesium-137
is the principal source of radiation in the zone of alienation around
the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Together with caesium-134,
iodine-131, and strontium-90, caesium-137 was among the isotopes with
greatest health impact distributed by the reactor explosion.

mean contamination of caesium-137 in Germany following the Chernobyl
disaster was 2000 to 4000 Bq/m2. This corresponds to a contamination of
1 mg/km2 of caesium-137, totaling about 500 grams deposited over all
of Germany.Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic.
Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began.
By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope,
it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed
container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb
explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the
authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported
"Jefferson bottles".

As the EPA notes:

is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all
other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.

So there was no "background radiation" for caesium-137 before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl.

Similarly, I've pointed out:

The Argonne National Laboratory notes:

all the plutonium on earth has been created within the past six
decades by human activities involving fissionable materials.


testing of nuclear weapons, which ceased worldwide by 1980, generated
most environmental plutonium. About 10,000 kg were released to the
atmosphere during these tests.

Average plutonium levels in surface soil from fallout range from about 0.01 to 0.1 picocurie per gram (pCi/g).

Accidents and other releases from weapons production facilities have caused greater localized contamination.

like radioactive cesium and iodide - which I discussed yesterday -
plutonium doesn't exist in nature in any significant quantity, and so
"background radiation" is a meaningless concept.

In other words, even if a little radiation is good for us, we have already been
getting exposed to a lot more radiation - from nuclear weapons tests,
Chernobyl, Japan and other sources - than our ancestors were ever
exposed to.

Indeed, even if the studies did show that low level
exposure by the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped them live
longer, background radiation in 1945 was much lower than after
above-ground nuclear tests, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Other Toxic Exposures

It's not only apologists for the safety-averse
nuclear power industry which is trying to convince us of hormesis.
Apologists for all big polluters are arguing hormesis as well.

Wikipedia describes the general theory:

Hormesis ... is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors.

Even if radiation hormesis is true, we are exposed to a wide range of toxic chemicals, including BPA in our cans, rocket fuel in our drinking water, mercury in our fish, and many others.

if any toxic substances might have a hormesis effect in a vacuum, we
are not exposed to chemicals in a vacuum ... we are exposed to several
chemicals at the same time. Indeed, scientists long ago demonstrated the "synergistic effect" of toxins, where:

combined effect of the substances acting together is greater than the
sum of the effects of the substances acting by themselves .

For example, smokers are much more likely to get cancer from exposure to radioactive radon gas than non-smokers.

even if there is hormesis from a chemical at low doses (hormesis
promoters claim that low level exposures cause our body to produce a
wave of antioxidants and other cancer-fighters), by the time we get
swamped with the myriad of toxic chemicals and radiation exposures
present in modern life, our body's defense mechanisms become so
overextended that any hormesis effect is lost.

The bottom line: Some more radiation from Japan or a new nuclear power plant will not be good for us.

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majia's picture

Radiation doses and risks from internal emitters. Journal of Radiological protection.

John Harrison1 and Philip Day2

1 Health Protection Agency, Radiation Protection Division, CRCE, Chilton, Didcot,

Oxon OX11 0RQ, UK

2 School of Chemistry, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

E-mail: and

Received 26 March 2008, in final form 17 April 2008, accepted





External exposure cannot be compared with internal exposure.

Type of radiation is very important when predicting effects.

Radioactive elements inside the body don’t evenly distribute energy and may have higher outputs towards the end of their track


It is absurd to compare the epidemiological significance of Fukushima with the cancer rates of populations living at high elevations!

It is absurd to compare X-Rays with consumed Iodine, Cesium, or Plutonium.


Yancey Ward's picture

I don't know about that- if, for example, Little Timmy Geithner got a lethal dose of radiation, I don't see that as bad for me- or anyone else, for that matter.

New_Meat's picture

"... that radioactive substances like plutonium cause cancer..."

no, acutually Pu causes chemical death, don't cha' know.

with a half-life of like 25,000 years, well, I doubt that GW can do the math.  but it does make for a scary post !!!!

- Ned

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Don't even give hormesis a micro-sievert of respect by bringing it up.  When someone says "hormesis", I say "f#ck you."

Kassandra's picture

In the '60's I lived downwind of Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant. I was a child then and 20 years later had a Thyroid that does not function. Same with siblings. Mother died of a rare form of cancer of the heart. There is no genetic predispositon for this. Not hard to figure out.

New_Meat's picture

please post your case number(s) and we can figure this out.  If it were Pu, well, you tell us how you eventuated to your current situation.

I'm eagerly anticapating your response.

GW is -------

- Ned

anonnn's picture

FYI--It is widely recognized that even low dose radiation is harmful, particularly during pregnanct, to infants and children. Also, that there is no "safe threshhold" below which it is not harmful.

 Now, there is some recognition that it is myth that radiation effects increase linearly with dose...that at extremely small dose it can be harmful to cells without involving the DNA.

"... Dr. Abram Petkau. Dr. Petkau [[ re Health Physics March of 1972, a scientist at Canadian Atomic Energy Labs]] had been examining the basic processes whereby chemicals diffuse through cell membranes. In the course of these studies, he had occasion to expose the membranes surrounded by water to a powerful X-ray machine, and observed that they would usually break after absorbing the relatively large dose of 3500 rads, the equivalent of some 35,000 years of normal background radiation."

[[A rad is generally equal to a rem , except for neutrons and heavy particles like alpha particles. One rem = 0.01 Sievert.]]


"...[[But then ]] Dr. Petkau did something that no one else had tried before. He added a small amount of radioactive sodium salt to the water, such as occurs from fallout or reactor releases to a river, and measured the total absorbed dose before the membrane broke due to the low-level protracted radiation. ...

See  Dr. Ernest Sternglass Deadly Deceit

Also, this long interview from 1992:

              ...To his amazement, he found that instead of requiring a dose of 3500 rads, the membrane ruptured at an absorbed dose of three-quarters of one rad, ... ."

Landrew's picture

This shows you what a small amount of radiation can do.

CustomersMan's picture


     There Has Been A Sustained Effort


      New Energy Devices: It Needs To Be Stopped NOW

Here Is One Example, A Very Positive Development

******************* Media Ignores Energy Breakthrough: Worry-Free Nuclear Power 461Share

Rossi (R) and Focardi demonstrate an Energy CatalyzerThe mainstream media has all but bypassed a truly remarkable development that could potentially be the biggest breakthrough in energy production since the discovery of fire: the Low Energy Nuclear Reactor, also called the Energy Catalyzer, invented by Italian engineer and inventor Andrea Rossi and his colleague, Sergio Focardi.

The Energy Catalyzer, or E-Cat, is essentially a small-scale cold fusion nuclear reactor about the size of a large suitcase that generates huge amounts of power very inexpensively, and without significant environmental drawbacks.

How Does it Work?

The E-Cat combines a small amount of the abundant and safe element nickel with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst (the name of which is proprietary for now) under pressure in a sealed chamber. When a small amount of heat is applied to the chamber, it starts a nuclear reaction that generates more energy -- over 30 times more -- in the form of heat.

What happens inside the E-Cat is a low energy nuclear reaction (LENR), or "cold fusion" -- a nuclear reaction, but not like the ones in traditional nuclear reactors like those at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. Nuclear power plants employ nuclear fission reactions, in which atomic nuclei are split, or broken, to create energy. Nuclear fusion is just the opposite. It joins atomic nuclei, which results in the production of another, third element, and in the process releases enormous amounts of energy. It's the same atomic reaction that the sun and stars use to create heat and light, but in the E-Cat, it takes place at far lower temperatures, hence the term "cold fusion." The E-Cat can produce huge amounts of energy safely, reliably, and much more easily and cheaply than coal, natural gas, or "traditional" nuclear power plants -- without danger to humans or environmental degradation.

Lots of Cheap Power; No Dangerous Waste or Human Hazards

The E-Cat Rossi demonstrated is designed to produce 10 kilowatts (kW) of electricity, and it's very small. The volume of the reactor chamber is only one liter, and the unit's auxiliary components -- control mechanisms, piping, lead shielding and other parts -- can easily fit on the top of a medium-sized table. The E-Cat consumes just a tiny amount of fine nickel powder to make the reaction. Just one hundred grams of nickel can power the unit for six months. After six months, 90 percent of the nickel still remains. The small amount of nickel consumed in the reaction is transformed into non-radioactive isotopes of copper and trace amounts of other safe and stable, non-radioactive elements, like zinc. While the E-Cat relies on a nuclear reaction to produce energy, it does not use any radioactive materials to create the reaction, and does not generate any radioactive waste. Within a few hours after the system is turned off, it can be opened and no radiation can be detected.

This "cold fusion" reaction is far less dangerous than the nuclear fission that occurs at existing nuclear plants. If a catastrophe occurs and the reactor chamber breaks and spills its contents, the device would turn off immediately and the reaction would simply cease. Since there are no radioactive materials or radioactive waste, nothing bad would be introduced into the environment and no danger would be posed to humans or the environment by the device's failure.

Another important point is that these units have the potential to decentralize power generation. In other words, instead of tens of thousands of people relying on a single electrical power plant linked by miles of transmission lines, each individual household could potentially be powered by a relatively small E-Cat device which could fit in a space the size of a closet. (Continues)


palmereldritch's picture

Another important point is that these units have the potential to decentralize power generation.

Decentralization from the collective borg hive into individual free energy, or money, unharnessed from the grid is a threat to TPTB.

Expect lots of skepticism and attacks from the programmed and statist mindset on this issue as well as propaganda trolls.  It is tho, the future.  There is safe energy abundance worth exploring outside of the limits of established sources.

medicalstudent's picture

hormesis is bunk with internal emittors.


the cells in close proximity get torched and apoptose, marginated tissue is surviving but defunct and likely tumorigenic due to cell cycle regulatory gene mutations.

George Washington's picture

Sounds like you know what you're talking about ... can you provide links/footnotes/evidence?

Fred Hayek's picture

Having just gone through radiation treatment for cancer, I can definitely say that no, you don't want radiation, not even a little of it.  The effects, even at the very periphery of the areas exposed to treatment are not fun. 

sun tzu's picture

We all get a dose of radiation from the sun on a daily basis. Cell phones, WiFi, microwave ovens, and coal all emit radiation. Chernobyl happened and we're all still alive

Bansters-in-my- feces's picture

The Goverment is NOT....I repeat...NOT...your friend.

You are a number that gives them money willingly,and once you feed a bear it is hard to take thier food away.


Mae Kadoodie's picture

Great, so I say to Ann Coulter and the rest....put your money where your mouth is.  Real estate is real cheap in the fallout zone.  Put a bid in.

sun tzu's picture

The sky is still falling for you and GW. The rest of the world has move along.

palmereldritch's picture

I say put unconstitutional rendition to good use for a change, grab Anne Coulter and George Monbiot (both pro radioactivity shills) and drop them blindfolded from a helo over Fukushima with nothing but a parachute and helmets embedded with live feed TV cameras.

Then they can broadcast a new 24/7 reality show documenting for all to see the benign affects of living with radioactivity.

They can call it Adam and Evan 2.0...or The Seeds of Mothra

sun tzu's picture

doctors tell us a little bit of sun is good for you. They say it helps boost the production of vitamin D in your body. Maybe we should take all those doctors and put them on the space shuttle and launch them into the sun and we'll see if it's good for them

palmereldritch's picture

Sunblock is a healthy and important topical protective cover from the damages of the sun’s UV radiation.

I would advise that you should stop adding it to your drinking water along with all that fluoride you’re consuming to protect your teeth.

TaxSlave's picture

The logic:

A consensus disagrees with and can't explain the evidence, except to discount a flawed study or two.  On finding a study or two is flawed, you can discount all the rest of the evidence.  So the model is true, you can just take it on faith, because the Experts said so (never mind that they are all Tax Pigs always rooting for more funding, we all know they never scream that the sky is falling).  So what about the studies that gave rise to this suspicion because they were completely unexpected?  Blank-out.

Cesium-137 and plutonium are man-made, therefore we're getting too much exposure to them.  How much exposure?  How much harm is done by the unstated amount of exposure?  Blank-out.

 The one amazing thing to me out of the real data presented here is how little effect radiation does have on people below a certain threshold.  Months of shortened lifespan?  That much can get lost in the noise of complicating factors.

It is the same brand of idiot-savant government-paid experts that always preach the 'truth by consensus' argument who are now being suspiciously silent about the actual exposure to fallout from Fukushima, likely because they are scared to cause a panic in the populations they've been trying to scare their whole lives.  They honestly believe you are too stupid to handle the truth.  And the tilting-at-windmill folks prove the can't, with their own panic.

Moral of the story: Never trust anyone who gets their money at the point of a gun.  Government power corrupts, and government money has corrupted science.

No, it's not OK, the releases at Fukushima.  And no, the cover-up and serial lies and retractions by the stooges in charge are not OK.  And it's not OK that real measurements of fallout in the U.S. are not being reported.  But holy crapola, how about some hard evidence, or at least show real data to back up any claims made.  The implication is that we should be in a panic about the fallout raining on us based on the linear no-threshold model.  So what should we do?  Stay indoors, don't get rained on, don't eat, don't drink water, what?  Avoid bananas?

Look, if people who survived a nuclear bomb managed to live to amidst the resultant fallout and survived to within four months of expected lifespan, there's probably no reason to panic if you live in the U.S. , just yet (I'd get the hell out of Tokyo).  Anyone who considers themselves able to handle the truth can download the free ebook Nuclear War Survival Skills.  It's not pretty, but it's pretty realistic about what the dangers are and how to protect yourself.

Sorry if this was impolite, GW, but there is some illogic in your message.

Cistercian's picture

 The great thing is will consume more radioactivity because of this accident.Get back to us in 30 years and tell us how you feel.


  IE:even shills will get cancer from it.Enjoy your now more limited future!

chunga's picture

What about bribery?

AZ Rep. Seel Drops Amendment Requiring Pre-Foreclosure Chain of Title, 2 Days After Servicer Grants Principal Reduction

This ass-hole needs to answer some questions...under oath. As well as all the players from OCWEN.

Folks -- we are being taunted. We are being provoked.

Sorry about the hijack GW...

flattrader's picture

Make certain

gets it too.

I see our gal at has it already.

Fred Hayek's picture

And where are ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Fox while this is going on, while a story that they could blow the lid off like shooting fish in a barrel is right there for them?  Serving their sponsors like Bank of America and JP Morgan and sipping champagne at soirees in New York and DC.

They could not care less.

chunga's picture

We need to raise some hell on this. There is a similar ZH thread going now

I read the damn Seel thing and got all revved...didn't mean to dilute the radiation thread.

Brother can you spare a dime's picture

C'mon GW, think of all they New and improved people that will be created. Those of us with only 2 eyes will seem so quaint to our future 3 eyed children.

falak pema's picture

a little radiation would do a lot of good to the bankstas it would make them feel less immortal!

Drag Racer's picture

good info GW, thanks.

Relatively high levels of radioactive cesium have been detected in the sludge from a waste water treatment plant in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture.


williambanzai7's picture

What about Hormesexualism?

Akrunner907's picture

Marie Curie would be proud of this article.

MrBinkeyWhat's picture

How about Godzilla?

Ah, those beautiful cesium blue skies!  Makes me nostalgic for my childhood in the '50's.