Posted by: M. Walgenbach | January 2, 2011

Low Doses of Radiation Keep the DNA Repair Mechanisms in Good Working Order

I had to post this.  Excerpted from a very good article on Art Robinson and “Hormesis.”

Now we have the “hormesis” data, gathered in the last 20 years, and that’s what interests Robinson. The graph does not go straight back to zero. It goes down to about 700 millirems a day, then heads back up again, like a hook. Low background levels of radiation seem to be good for you. The evidence that the “linear extrapolation to zero” is wrong, accumulated by Bernard L. Cohen, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh, comes from many sources. Bad for you in large doses, radiation does some good in small doses. It seems to keep the DNA repair mechanisms in good working order. The same principle is observed with alcohol, and a number of other poisons. Very heavy drinking will kill you, but a glass of wine a day is a tonic.

With radiation, nonetheless, the operative principle has been “zero tolerance,” permitting environmentalists not just to stop nuclear tests, but to demonize nuclear power and to stymie the disposal of nuclear waste as well—with little discussion of the evidence. As the recent energy problems on the West Coast suggest, we are going to have to start building nuclear power plants again. Meanwhile, Art ruefully points out, the hormesis data show that Oregon is not a particularly good place to live. Its background radiation levels are below the national average, and its cancer rates are above average. There’s less cancer risk in Denver, where the background radiation levels are much higher. That inverse relationship holds all over the country.


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