In 1983 a group of 180 apartment buildings was completed in Taiwan. Somebody had made a serious mistake. They had mixed into the concrete a considerable amount of highly radioactive cobalt 60.
This meant that ultimately 10,000 people lived in buildings for from 9 to 20 years so radioactive that they received an average of 74 mSv of radiation per year in 1983, declining thereafter as cobalt 60 has a half life of 5 + years. This compares with a rate of 0.5 mSv above background which is the normal maximum exposure for radiation workers & total of 15 mSv maximum safe limit for land fit for habitation according to US government standards.
According to the linear no threshold (LNT) theory currently in use world-wide for assessing nuclear risks there is no lower limit to the level at which radioactivity kills (hence the term “no threshold”) & this, inhabited for a decade & a half before the radioactivity was traced & measured, should be the site of a truly massive cancer death rate.
A thorough & methodical tracing of all the 4,000 families by a team led by W. L Chen of Taiwan’s Director of Medical Radiation Technology of Taiwan’s National Yang-Ming University (the full report is available in English on
) has resulted in an unequivocal & spectacular result. Cancer rates in that highly radioactive building are down to 3.6% of prevailing Taiwanese rates.
For many years there has been an unfashionable alternative to the LNT theory called hormesis. This is an effect, long observed in plants & cultures, whereby intermediate level radioactivity actually stimulates life & improves health. There has been significant evidence for> this (the deaths at Hiroshima did not appear to fit the LNT pattern, there are places in India & Iran with background radiation of 15mSv or higher with no observed increase in cancer & numerous studies of radon in homes have found a reverse correlation between radon levels & cancer). Nonetheless, such has been our fear of all things nuclear that the LNT theory has been absolutely accepted despite the fact that there has NEVER been any actual evidence for it.
This study, however, is so detailed, has such well-defined boundary conditions & in proving a reduction in cancers of 96.4% has such a clear result that there can no longer be any intellectual doubt whatsoever. Radioactivity, up to 50mSv, is good for us.
This is reminiscent of the time when Gallileo turned his telescope to the skies & for all time disproved the, then politically correct though scientifically shaky, theory that the Sun revolved around the Earth. True the Pope of the time forced him to recant or be dealt with as heretics then were. True it took a long time to bury. However from the time of Galileo’s observations the official theory was dead. Unlike normal life, in science the truth always wins in the end though sometimes the end can be a long time coming & much pain may be caused in the interim. This is because while opinions change repeatable science results remain the same – that is the nature of the universe.
The effect of this proof on our nuclear power industries can hardly be underestimated since with the collapse of the theory go most of the fears that have so crippled it. The effect on medicine however cannot even begin to be estimated as the way is now open for serious research on how hormesis works & how it can be used to serve mankind. It is interesting to note that the healing water from the world’s great spas has always been mildly radioactive & medicine has heretofore been unable to find out why – I wonder what the future holds for such places.