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The Controversy Over Low-Dosage Harm

GOFMAN: Having gotten to know about this problem [of no harmless level of radiation], I take it very seriously, because I believe how this controversy settles out [is important] and I'm not optimistic. I'm a little more optimistic because of [journalist] Eileen Welsome and [Energy Secretary] Hazel O'Leary. [But] I think the chances are pretty good that the deceptive position that radiation isn't harmful, may win out by default, because so much money goes into it.

If it wins out by default, the textbooks will be wrong. Once you can get the database altered so the textbooks are wrong, there is no way you'll recover that. An army of Einsteins will not be able to fix it. So the textbooks will say, "[In] 1992 to 1994, it was proved that low doses of radiation don't hurt you."

That will open the floodgates toward, "Don't worry about the waste disposal, because even if everybody gets 10 millirads or a 100 millirads a year, it won't hurt anybody." What I see there is that millions, tens of millions, or hundreds of millions of people are going to suffer. There are going to be a lot of extra cancers. There are going to be a lot of genetically deformed children.

I consider that a personal tragedy that should [not] be allowed to happen without trying to counter it. I feel, though I don't feel too optimistic, it's essential to try to do something to prevent that from winning out. But I'm not optimistic. I would almost say I was never really ready to throw in the towel and just go away.
HEFNER: You and Alice Stewart have some similar concepts, some similar concerns. Have you corresponded, talked with Dr. Stewart?
GOFMAN: Yes, we're good friends. I talked to her the last time, about two months ago, when she was at a symposium at Spokane. I was one of the invited speakers. Apparently when they originally planned the symposium, the Hanford Health Information Network thought they were not going to have any money to have people from overseas come. They didn't invite Dr. Alice Stewart [from the United Kingdom]. I had an invitation to fill about three slots. I insisted [that] I show my CNN tape for an hour and 10 minutes. Bea Kelleigh arranged everything, it was all set.

We were talking one day, [and] she said, "Good news: We got permission to spend the money to get someone from overseas. We're going to invite Alice Stewart." I said, "Bea, how are you going to invite Alice Stewart when you've got the program filled?" "We checked with Alice and she'll be happy to talk to people in the hall." I said, "Bea, that's nonsense, you cannot do that. You don't invite Alice Stewart to come to a major meeting and not have her talk." So I said, "You got to do something about it, and I'd like to know about it." She didn't have an answer.

Five days later, I called her up and said, "Since you haven't figured out a solution, I have. I'm going to give my speaking openings to Alice Stewart and you can still show my videotape." That's how Alice Stewart came to that meeting. I talked with her on the phone after that. I didn't go to the meeting myself but my videotape was shown. Apparently it's quite popular, my videotape.

No, Alice is a very fine person and have a lot of respect for her. I disagree with her on some of the technical points, but technical disagreements are standard. She's a good person; she's taken a lot of flack from the establishment. There are many people who don't believe her work today. I think that thing on the children in utero is correct.

The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission originally said they didn't see this excess leukemia or cancer in the children in the first 10 years of life that were expected from Alice Stewart's work. When I wrote Radiation and Human Health[48] in 1981, I analyzed why they might not see it. I didn't think that the absence of the finding of Hiroshima/Nagasaki disproved her work.

The interesting thing is that in the last few years Yoshimoto in the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, or what's called RERF[49] now, has analyzed the kids that were in utero and have a big excess of adult cancers. They are showing, even though they disagreed with the early effect of Alice Stewart, that 30 and 40 years later they're seeing a big excess. The children radiated in utero are as sensitive as the next group to them, the 0- to 9-year-olds, and maybe more sensitive.

Alice Stewart made a very big difference. See, Alice Stewart's work on those children in utero in '56 and the more definitive paper in '58, was the thing that broke the back of this. I was telling you [that] from 1910 to 1945, people [were] saying "200 rads, 400 rads won't hurt anybody." Then she comes out and says one rad will give a 50 percent increase [risk] in cancer and leukemia. This is just a world of difference in thinking.

I'm pretty hard-nosed; I don't like work that I don't respect [even though it] makes my point in spades. I consider [that] it detracts from the truth and it hurts everybody. There are lot of people who have claimed things that just aren't so. I don't admire [that]. That's not Alice Stewart.
HEFNER: Who's following behind you and Alice Stewart, the next wave bringing up these issues?
GOFMAN: I wish I knew that. I know some. There's David Rush at Tufts, who is very good. He just wrote me a letter. He wrote the book with Jack Geiger, called Dead Reckoning, on all the things that are wrong with the Department of Energy studies of health effects. David is 60 years old and he's thinking of whether he should stay at Tufts in his professorship or maybe try to do something and try to pull together whatever information can come out of the ex-Soviet Union. There is Boris Gusev, I think he's in his sixties, in the Soviet Union. He's the one that I was telling you that the United Methodist Ministry is trying to help get his material over here translated. There are not too many: Steve Wing, [University of] North Carolina, published a paper on the Oak Ridge people; he looks pretty good.
HEFNER: He used to be at Argonne,[50] didn't he?
GOFMAN: Wing? Was he? I didn't know that.
HEFNER: I think he might have.
GOFMAN: I suspect there are a number of people that I don't know, that don't all communicate with me. I get some nice letters from some people around the world.
HEFNER: Have there been politicians or certain Congress people or certain social action groups that have been more supportive of you?
GOFMAN: Mike Gravel, who was a Senator from Alaska at the time; he later lost his seat. He made a hell of a difference, [be]cause he got a lot of our things in the Congressional Record. He was friendly.
GOURLEY: There's a special problem with the things above the Arctic Circle, isn't there? Radiation levels.
GOFMAN: In what way?
GOURLEY: Elevated levels?
GOFMAN: Gee, I don't even know.
GOFMAN: Part of my ignorance file. Howard Metzenbaum [(D., Ohio)] in the Senate has been a great friend of mine. We were high school classmates together. He has asked me many times, "What can I do in the Senate to help?" I don't like to have Howard do things for me that are based on our friendship, but I have asked sometimes to put something I've written into the Congressional Record. A way of getting it in. He'll usually write something about me. He's retiring now, but he's been there, and been willing to help. That's about the extent of my Congressional favors. [From] the U.S. Supreme [Court, there was] William Douglas; but he died, unfortunately. He was [a] very good [friend].
HEFNER: Any social action groups and environmental groups?
GOFMAN: I have very good working relations with the Natural Resources Defense Council; Tom Cochran there. I told you I prepared that [Belarus] manual, which later became that book. EDF,[51] I don't know. Henry Kendall at the Union of Concerned Scientists [and I] were very friendly and I think he would always say nice things about me. I have some friends in Germany; some in Russia. I got this letter in yesterday, some comments of people who got a hold of the book. One geneticist said, "That's the most beautiful piece of scientific work I've had my hands on."
HEFNER: This was your Chernobyl book?
GOFMAN: I didn't think it was that good! I get letters from some people who say they've followed or they've read what I've written. I think I have more friends out there that I don't know well. But I have a lot of people who hate my guts. I know that.
HEFNER: All over the controversy?
GOFMAN: Yes. I don't have any quarrel with atomic power other than I don't believe it's consistent with health. I don't have a hidden agenda, except I have an agenda about health: It matters.

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