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John Gofman has a Ph.D. in nuclear/physical chemistry and a medical degree. Now 74 years old, he is Professor Emeritus in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley. While a graduate student in physical chemistry in 1942, Gofman proved the fissionability of uranium 233 and developed the process with which he and his co-workers successfully isolated the first workable quantity of plutonium and discovered several radioactive isotopes of uranium and protoactinium. His subsequent pioneering work on the chemistry of lipoproteins and their relationship with heart disease has received several medical awards.

In 1963 Gofman joined the Atomic Energy Commission's Lawrence Livermore Laboratory as an Associate Director, and was the founder and Director of the Laboratory's Biomedical Research Division. There he gradually became concerned about the health effects of low-level radiation and broke with the Laboratory after intense pressure on him and a colleague, Dr. Arthur Tamplin, in 1969 not to reveal the results of their research in this area. Their subsequent book Poisoned Power: the Case Against Nuclear Power Plants (Rodale Press, 1971, 1979) was a key stimulus to the early anti-nuclear movement.

In 1971 Gofman founded the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, a small, non-profit, public interest association with three Nobel Laureates on its Board. His subsequent work on low-level radiation has been published in three important books, which received outstanding reviews in the journals of the medical profession:

Radiation and Human Health (Sierra Club Books, 1981): `Gofman not only demonstrates his mastery of this complex subject but carefully explains the basic concepts'. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 19.3.82).

X-Rays: Health Effects of Common Exams (with Egan O'Connor, Sierra Club Books, 1985): `It is destined to represent a watershed in the controversial field of low-dosage radiobiology (New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM, 6.2.86).

Radiation-Induced Cancer from Low-Dose Exposure (Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, 1990): `excellent and timely book.' (NEJM, 14.2.91). This book will be published in Russian in 1993.

Gofman's next book in English, Radiation Consequences from Chernobyl and Comparable Exposures: Current and Heritable Health Effects, will be published in 1993.

Some of the basic messages of Gofman's work on low-level radiation are that official permitted levels of exposure are too high, that there is no safe level of exposure, and that such radiation may account for one out of every four cancers and be the single most important carcinogen to which very large numbers of people are exposed. Gofman is very critical of the way in which much current research in this area is conducted, including the Chernobyl research carried out by the International Atomic Energy Authority and the World Health Organisation. He has also expressed grave concern about the retro-active alterations to the data on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims by the responsible organisation, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation.

To counter such scientifically questionable practices Gofman has called for an independent `Watchdog Authority' to oversee the next generation of Chernobyl studies, and particularly to enforce nine essential rules (many of which were broken by the IAEA and WHO studies mentioned earlier) of good scientific practice: comparable groups, a real difference of dose, a sufficiently big difference of dose, careful reconstruction of dose, `blinding' of dose analysts, `blinding' of diagnostic analysts, no changes after results are known, no excessive sub-division of data and no prejudgements.

The Right Livelihood Award fully associates itself with Gofman's demand for a `Watchdog Authority' to ensure that these rules are observed in Chernobyl and other important radiation studies.

`In radiation research, nearly all the work is sponsored by the governments which are defending and promoting nuclear power . . . Ionizing radiation may well be the most important single cause of cancer, birth defects and genetic disorders . . . The stakes for human health are very, very high in radiation matters. It is essential that people take no chance that conflict-of-interest is producing radiation databases which cannot be trusted.'


John Gofman, Committee for Nuclear Responsibility
P.O. Box 421993, San Francisco, CA 94142, USA

Printed on recycled paper                                                                RLA/1993

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