Lies of Our Times – High Level Omissions by Anna Mayo

This is an article from the 1994 issue of Lies of Our Times – the nuclear lies have continued and are accelerating …. this article exposes the same old lies told in 1994. The lies are being retold and beefed up in 2014 “radiation is good for you” “real environmentalists love nuclear” and so on again and again. Meanwhile the only wholly government sponsored industry pollutes us all.

Lies of Our Times - correcting the record

High Level Omissions - Lies of our Times by Anna Mayo 1994
High Level Omissions – Lies of our Times by Anna Mayo 1994

Lies of Our Times – High Level Omissions by Anna Mayo

from Lies of Our Times July 1994

If you find an outbreak [of illness ) occurring in a place

where there is an observed increase in radiation, then

alarm bells should ring.

-Alice Stewart. M.D., quoted by R W. Apple, Jr.,

“Scenic Suffolk, Land of Saxons, Sizes Up the Atom,”

New York Times, February 1, 1984, p. A2

A March 8, 1994, New York Times article, “Nuclear Plant

Cleared In Leukemia Cluster,” focused on the release of

A new report by Sir Richard Doll (James Younger, p. C1).

It challenges a 1990 study by Dr. Martin Gardner that linked the

higher than normal incidence of childhood leukemia in Seascale,

a village near Britain’s Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, to

radiation exposure among fathers who worked there.

Younger’s “Science Times” piece brings to 42 the number of

Times articles since 1970 dealing wholly or in part with Britain’s

largest nuclear complex, which was originally known as Windscale.

Its name was changed to Sellafield in 1980 as part of an

attempt to polish its tarnished public image.

Sellafield/Windscale has been written about in a full gamut of

styles-pseudo-scientific, wry, quaint, harsh, and informative by

a legion of Timesmen including Walter Sullivan, John Noble

Wilford, R.W. Apple, Jr., Francis X. Cline, John Leonard, James

Markham, Paul Lewis, and Joseph Lelyveld (who is now the

Times executive editor). Why so much fuss over this particular


What Links?

Younger opened his report by referring to the British television

documentary on the Seascale leukemia cluster that appeared in

the 1980s, saying, “Most people wasted no time pinning the

blame on Sellafield.” He was quick to add, however, that “despite

some evidence of a statistical correlation, scientists were unable

to prove that the plant was responsible

for the leukemia cases”; “every study has concluded that the

‘environmental’ radiation that people

living near Sellafield are exposed

to is only marginally more

than the normal background dose

that other Britons get”; and the link

between leukemia and low-level

radiation “is not at all certain.”

Despite four major studies to the contrary “Science Times”
continues to discount the connection between low-level radiation and cancer

In fact, the link has been demonstrated

in a 1976 study of employees at the DOE’s Savannah

River Plant, which found a 114 percent excess of leukemia

incidence among male blue-collar workers; in two independent

1978 studies of the Navy’s nuclear shipyard workers in Portsmouth,

New Hampshire; in a 1984 Oak Ridge Associated Universities/

University of North Carolina report on workers exposed

to uranium dusts; and in a 1991 study of Oak Ridge

National Laboratory workers (49 percent excess death rate from


“Marginal” Radiation

As for the “only marginally” higher levels of background radiation,

one wonders what would be considered “significantly higher”

levels. After years of plutonium production, nuclear power

generation, reprocessing, and a succession of accidents, including

a fire in 1957 that released 10,000-20,000 curies of radiation,

Cumbria and the sea alongside it have become seriously contaminated.

The Irish Sea has been called “the most radioactive sea in

the world” (Joseph Lelyveld, “On Coast of England, Jobs vs.

Atoms,” New York Times, April6, 1986, p. A3), and the government

has removed tons of radioactive sand from beaches as far

as 25 miles from the site. “Normal background radiation,” according

to a 1984 Multinational Monitor report, “measures ten

counts per second. By contrast, the contaminated beaches near

Sellafield had counts above 1,000 per second for over nine

months” (Jason Adkins, “Trouble at the Nuclear Dustbin,” July

1984, p. 14).

Nevertheless, according to Younger, Gardner’s 1990 thesis

about paternal radiation exposure was the only postulation of a

direct link between Sellafield and the cancers. Now that Doll,

whom Younger refers to as “one of Britain’s foremost epidemiologists”

and “a cancer epidemiologist at Oxford University,”

has published evidence that seems to refute the linkage, Younger

suggests that more weight will be given to claims by Dr. Leo J.

Kinlen, another Oxford epidemiologist, that attempt to link the

cluster to a hypothetical virus.

The Times did not mention, however, that Sir Richard has

close ties to industry and that until his recent retirement he served

as warden/director of Oxford University’s industry-financed

Green College, established as a “special point of entry for industrial

interests wishing to collaborate with university departments in research”
(I Hermann, “Oxford medicine gains a college” New Scientist, March 9 1978)

And nowhere did the article cite Doll’s most formidable opponent, epidemiologist
Dr Alice Stewart, the environmentalists’ star witness in the British government’s inquiry
on the future of nuclear power in England.

Instead extensive space was awarded to Kinlen’s case for blaming a virus, which goes as follows:

Sellafield workers are said to resemble cats confined in large numbers by “pet fanatics”
perhaps the hypothetical human virus is passed around among workers’ children the schoolrooms
of the nearby village of Seascale just as the feline virus (identified) is passed among
kittens of infected cats.

Curiously the Times did not say that feline leukaemia is carried in cats’ faeces and blood
(cats and kittens scratch one another) and through fetid air. Are conditions at Sellafield
and in the Seascale schools really that bad? Also, at one point Younger quoted
Kinlen as saying that “there is no place in England like Seascale.”

If conditions at Seascale are unique, what accounts for the appearance of leukaemia
clusters at other nuclear installations such as the Dounreay facility in neighbouring

What About Three Mile Island?

The mainstream media have consistently maintained

that the 1957 Windscale fire was the worst nuclear accident

ever until the 1986 Chemobyl disaster. Younger parrots

this line, saying the fire released “far more radiation” than

the 1979 “incident” at Three Mile Island. Believe this and

believe further that Windscale had no effects on public

health and it follows that Three Mile Island radiation was


In fact Younger’s and the Times’s repeated assertions

that Windscale released more radiation than Three Mile

Island are without substance: The amount of radiation that

escaped at Three Mile Island is unknown. Outdoor radiation

monitors were spaced too far apart to capture plumes

of radiation. Monitors within the reactor building were out

of order. Traps for radioactive iodine had been inexplicably

removed. All one has to go on are the health and

environmental effects: the clouding over of dentists’ films,

the unprecedented number of forced-and unsuccessful animal

Caesareans, the livestock keeling over, the one eyed

kittens, a parrot breeder’s dead birds, vanished insects,

a gigantic mushroom, squashed dandelions, tulips

with buds on their stems, the metallic taste experienced by

many Three Mile Island area residents-an effect experienced

at Hiroshima and Chemobyl-and cancers and cancers

and cancers.

Martin Forwood

Martin Forwood, campaign secretary for Cumbrlans Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, walks near the Sellafield plant In 1990.

Martin Gardner’s study on high leukemia rates In the area had just been published.

The Safety of Nuclear Facilities Is the Real Issue

All this stuff about cats and kittens and hypothetical viruses

distracts from the question of the leukemia cluster. Moreover,

debunking Gardner’s leukemia cluster data is itself a diversion

from the larger issue of the safety of nuclear facilities.

Near the end of the article, Younger noted that nuclear wastes

from the fabled complex have contaminated lobsters in the Irish

Sea. He might have added, but did not, the harmful effects to

other seafood, vegetables, water, and air. Nor did he mention that

there is also concern over mutations in insects and flowers, the

widespread death of birds-one species of gull seems to be

extinct-and fish in the Irish Sea (Yorkshire television [BBC,

November 1, 1983]; articles: e.g., the Observer [October 23, 30,

November 6, December 11, 1983; June 26, July 2, 1987]; the

Guardian [July 27, 1984]; the Sunday Tribune of Ireland [February

14, 1993]; and Radioactive Roguery, a citizens’ study by

Sydney Quance [Oxford, September 1993]).

In fact, in both England and Ireland there is alarm over

increases in other forms of cancer besides leukemia- England

has the world’s highest rate of lung cancer -and in other diseases

in whose etiology weakening of the immune system is known to

play apart.

Hewing the Industry Line

In framing opposition to Sellafield merely as a response to a few

cases of leukemia, the Times hews to the industry line. Does

anyone suppose that Sweden and Denmark would raise official

protest or that Ireland would go to the European Parliament to

request that the plant be shut down on account of 11 cases of


By limiting discussion to leukemia alone, the New York Times

covers up.

How Low Can You Go?

On May 3, 1990, antinukers were on the phone to one

another, relaying the news that an article about Britain’s

Dr. Alice Stewart, who is often credited as the inventor

of modem epidemiology, had appeared in that morning’s New

York Times (Keith Schneider, “Scientist Who Managed to

‘Shock the World’ on Atomic Workers,” p. A20). Schneider told

how-after 14 years of prodding by Stewart-the U.S. Department

of Energy had finally restored to researchers access to the

health records of atomic workers.

Access to the records had been revoked in 1976 when she,

British statistician George Kneale, and American researcher

Thomas Mancuso published preliminary results of a study of

workers at Hanford Reservation, a nuclear weapons plant in

Washington State. The research, funded by the U.S. Atomic

Energy Commission, showed that the workers had higher than

normal cancer rates. According to Schneider, Stewart

was astonished. It was the first time researchers had found

elevated levels of cancer in weapons workers exposed to

low levels of radiation. “It came at me all of a sudden that

what we were going to say would shock the world,” she

said in a recent interview. “Not even I had thought that the

effect of such a small dose on an adult would be as great

as it was.”

What was going on here? For nearly a half-century, the Times

had repeatedly reported that low-level radiation “was generally

considered harmless.” Now here was this high-toned British

medical doctor- “exquisite courtesy … packaged with plenty of

iron determination” said the teaser-saying that low-level radiation

caused cancer and lots of it.

In the Face of Hostility

The world radiation community’s outrage in 1976 over Stewart’s

preliminary findings about atomic workers was just one of a

succession of challenges Stewart has faced during her long and

distinguished career.

The same kind of hostility had greeted her in 1958 when, as

head of Oxford University’s Department of Preventive Medicine,

she led research that found that X -rays of pregnant women

increased the danger of childhood cancer. Stewart was vindicated

in 1962 when Dr. Brian McMahon at the Harvard School

of Public Health replicated her results. In the case of her research

on workers at weapons plants, however, greater persistence on

Stewart’s part was required-including appearances before congressional

committees and at scientific conferences-before the

DOE, a successor to the AEC, finally changed its policy in 1990

and reopened the records. By this time, Stewart had obtained

independent funding from the Three Mile Island Public Health

Fund, set up after the 1979 nuclear accident near Harrisburg,


In December 1992 Matthew Wald reported on Stewart’s completed

study of the health records of 35,000 workers at Hanford

Reservation (“Pioneer in Radiation Sees Risk Even in Small

Doses,” New York Times, December 8, p. A1). There was one

particularly striking passage:

Explaining why many smaller doses [of radiation] could

be worse than a single large one, Dr. Stewart said: “Why

is mutation dangerous? It is only dangerous if the cell

survives.” Given a large dose, she said, the cell dies.

This explanation of why radiation delivered in small doses

over time may carry a higher risk of cancer than radiation

delivered in a single high dose had not been featured before in

the Times simply because the researchers who have developed

the small-dose theory are personae non grata in its pages. For

example, Dr. John Gofman, chairman and spokesman for the

prestigious Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, is not consulted

for his opinions on nuclear issues. Thus, while readers of

the Wall Street Journal had the benefit of Gofman’ s estimates of

the effects of radiation released in the 1986 accident at Chernobyl,

Times readers did not. Nor did the Times review his definitive

908-page tome on the effects of low-level radiation, Radiation

and Human Health (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books,


Gofman has been unpopular at the Times since 1970, when the

AEC cut off his funding at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,

where he was associate director, because he refused to

keep secret his predictive studies of the health and environmental

effects of low-level radiation from U.S. nuclear power programs.

When the AEC withdrew support from Gofman, colleagues told

him he was lucky he wasn’t being sent to Siberia. In a sense he


Environmentalists might have thought that Wald was going to

explore the implications of Stewart’s statement on the greater

risks of low-level radiation. What did this imply for the future of

nuclear power? Alas, Wald operating under the rubric of Times

objectivity, devoted much of the rest of the article to Stewart’s

critics, including a DOE hack who said that the data used by

Stewart actually led to lower cancer risk estimates and that

radiation might even offer some protection against cancer; and

Dr. Ralph Lapp, described as a “prominent radiation expert.”

Lapp maintained that if low-level radiation were dangerous,

people living in high-altitude Denver, Colorado, would have

higher than average cancer rates as a result of exposure to cosmic

rays, a form of low-level radiation. This is an argument that

Gofman has addressed at length in Chapter 18 of Radiation and

Human Health. (He calculates that there are 80 excess cancer

deaths in Denver each year as a result of cosmic ray exposure but

that this excess is masked by factors that raise rates in other

locales such as doctor/patient ratios, toxic wastes, etc.) Furthermore,

Lapp is not an epidemiologist. He is an atomic physicist

who has earned a bundle lecturing for the nuclear power industry

and writing for the New York Times.

Neither the “Science Times” nor the Times editorial pages

have followed up on the issues Stewart raises.

Anna Mayo’s articles have appeared in Liberation, Kursbach, and numerous

other European and Latin American publications, as well as in the Village Voice,

where she was a staff writer.

4 thoughts on “Lies of Our Times – High Level Omissions by Anna Mayo

  1. Reblogged this on Mining Awareness Plus and commented:
    Notice especially: “The same kind of hostility had greeted her in 1958 when, as head of Oxford University’s Department of Preventive Medicine, she led research that found that X -rays of pregnant women
    increased the danger of childhood cancer. Stewart was vindicated”. Is the pro-nuclear lobby going to start recommending xrays to pregnant women again? The information on Three Mile Island is especially important as so little seems to have been written.

    1. Your welcome! all the lies and cover up are ongoing. If the truth was widely known and properly reported about nuclear, this article would be a matter of interesting historical record and all nuclear plants would be closed down with the waste and contaminated buildings etc being looked after into eternity on the existing sites. Instead the crap is being dispersed to the environment in order to make room for more.

  2. Jo M Brown

    Thank you, Marianne

    As you point out, the same old lies are currently being raked up yet again but the number of surviving public victims down here in Somerset are aware that they are again guinea pigs for being conned into accepting lethal emissions from MOX fuelled new Hinkley C reactors just to provide a means of sending all Sellafield’s plutonium stocks off site and distributing them around UK.


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