Radioactive Fallout (Iodine) Increased Thyroid Cancer in U. S.
NCI's record of denial of Right-to-Know
has, on occasions, extended to what amounts to frank suppression
of data on avoidable causes
of cancer. This is well illustrated with regard to the relation
between atom bomb tests and thyroid cancer.
In 1983, responding to public protests and demands,
Congress enacted Public Law (97-414). This directed the Department
Health and Human Services (DHHS)
to investigate the risks of thyroid cancer from Iodine-131 (I-131) radioactive
fallout following atom bomb tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) in the 1950’s
and early 1960’s; DHHS delegated this investigation to the NCI. Fourteen
years later, in October 1997, NCI published its report; this was based on data
which had already been available in 1989, eight years previously.
This report showed that, depending on age at
the time of the tests, site of residence, and diet, particularly
amount of milk consumption by children, the
public was exposed to varying levels of I-131, for some two months following
each of the 90 tests. In 1997 Congressional testimony, Dr. Klausner estimated
that the overall average thyroid dose to 160 million people was about 2 rads.
Based on these data, it was further estimated that from 11,000 to 212,000
thyroid cancers would be expected. However, no attempt was made
to communicate this
critical information to the approximately 160 million people exposed. Had
they been so informed, they could have readily reduced their risks
by simple thyroid
At a September, 1999 hearing by the Senate Subcommittee
on Investigation of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, former
Senator John Glenn (D-OH)
that the NCI investigation was "plagued by lack of public
participation and openness." Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) charged that
. . . since the NCI report was put out last October, there
still has been no concerted effort to release this information
(to the general public.) This
is a travesty." More specifically, a Committee staff report concluded:
" 1. Researchers at the NCI substantially delayed the release of the I-131
report, despite data that showed that significant numbers of children received
of radiation that were much higher and posed greater health risks than previously
" 2. The NCI neither involved the public in its study nor adequately responded
to governmental requests for information developed through the study.
" 3. . . . NCI management performed little oversight or tracking of the
project. As a result, they failed to ensure that the report was completed in
fashion and that important issues were addressed in an open manner.
" 4. The report does not meaningfully inform the American public of the
impacts of the radioactive fallout from the weapons testing program.
" 5. The failures of the I-131 study have
been repeated in a NCI-lead international effort to study the effects
of radioactive iodine releases on thyroid cancer
in the areas surrounding Chernobyl."
In January 2003, 13
years after NCI concluded its risk estimates from I-131 weapons
testing fallout, it released a new publication,
from Fallout, to health care providers and advocacy groups,
but still not to the
general public. It should be emphasized that the incidence
of thyroid cancer has escalated by 71% from 1973 to 1999. (See
Table for statistical data)
Before it Starts: How to Win the War on Cancer,
2003 by Samuel S. Epstein, M. D.