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Radiation good for you: Dr. Boreham

Associate professor in the department of Medical Physics and Applied Radiation Sciences within the Faculty of Science at McMaster University, Dr. Douglas Boreham, during a Cameco-sponsored community meeting at the Cameco Capitol Arts upstairs theatre room dropped a few bombshells Monday evening.

Contrary to widely held beliefs, including the BEIR 7 report (The National Academy of Sciences report released in 2005) that exposure to any amount of radiation is bad, he says his experiments with rodents and flasks of skin cells growing in a medium indicate that low doses of radiation can have a therapeutic effect. A significant enough effect that exposure to higher doses can be significantly lessened by pre-exposure.

His conclusions suggest exposure to low doses of radiation such as CT scans, x-rays, and natural sources of background radiation can act as a vaccine to the effects of higher exposures.

An energetic speaker with a lot of humorous asides, he made his talk accessible -always confusing when citing units of radiation -using comparisons with air travel, caribou and the various radiation technologies to which most of us are exposed. For example, he said that two minutes of air travel exposes the human body to the same radiation as going through a full body scan at the airport. Equally challenging, he claimed exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation does not appear to compromise health or promote cancer cells.

From Boreham's own website comes this statement: "Extensive research is being conducted to determine if there are health benefits as well as adverse health effects from exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation. To date the assumptions remain that there is a linear relationship between the induction of adverse health effects and exposure to radiation regardless of the radiation dose. This assumption is the subject of active discussion in the scientific community, with some scientists suggesting that there are hormetic, adaptive or beneficial, effects that may decrease cancer risk below that predicted by the linear extrapolation from high doses. If such effects exist it could change the perception of risk associated with very low doses of radiation. "

When asked Boreham was asked by audience member John Morand that, given his conclusions about the possible beneficial effects of exposure to low level radiation, is it necessary to move Port Hope's low level radioactive waste, Boreham responded that perhaps it wasn't necessary. However, contrary to his opinion is the accepted view that low-level radioactive waste that has become an albatross around the neck of homeowners in town, his off-the-cuff comment was just that. He appeared to lack the specific numbers with regards to the amounts of radiation emanating from the town's radioactive soil.

John Miller, another audience member, felt that equal time should be given to an alternative viewpoint such as is contained in the BEIR 7 report. Boreham agreed, but claimed he was quite knowledgable about the opposite point of view, and reasserted that his conclusions contradicting the report.

Boreham's talk came after a presentation by Cameco's vice president of fuel services, Andy Thorne, who reported on Cameco's name changing plans for Vision 2010, interest in the property occupied by the municipality's 1930's water works facility to the west of the plant, and the results of a survey of a community poll funded by Cameco and released in June 2010.

tamsden@northumberlandtoday.com

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