Were U.S. nuclear tests more harmful than we had thought?

by on December 21, 2017 at 1:21 am in Data Source, History, Medicine, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

So says Keith A. Meyers, job candidate from University of Arizona.  I found this to be a startling result, taken from his secondary paper:

During the Cold War the United States detonated hundreds of atomic weapons at the Nevada Test Site. Many of these nuclear tests were conducted above ground and released tremendous amounts of radioactive pollution into the environment. This paper combines a novel dataset measuring annual county level fallout patterns for the continental U.S. with vital statistics records. I find that fallout from nuclear testing led to persistent and substantial increases in overall mortality for large portions of the country. The cumulative number of excess deaths attributable to these tests is comparable to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Basically he combines mortality estimates with measures of Iodine-131 concentrations in locally produced milk, “to provide a more precise estimate of human exposure to fallout than previous studies.” The most significant effects are in the Great Plains and Central Northwest of America, and “Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest that fallout from nuclear testing contributed between 340,000 to 460,000 excess deaths from 1951 to 1973.”

His primary job market paper is on damage to agriculture from nuclear testing.

1 Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 1:28 am

How is this economics?

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2 Anon December 21, 2017 at 1:32 am

Last page : The social costs of these deaths …….$ …..Billion

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3 Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 2:00 am

That does not make it economics.

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4 dan1111 December 21, 2017 at 2:06 am

Is the fact that it is not economics somehow a problem? I don’t get it.

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5 Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 3:28 am

It is work done in an economics department, as part of getting a PhD in economics. As I am an economist, this bothers me. It could still be fine and important work, of course. I just feel economists should be doing economics, because if not, who else will?

6 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 6:55 am

If not them, who? If not now, when?

7 Careless December 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

I just feel economists should be doing economics, because if not, who else will?

I do not feel that we’re experiencing a shortage to be worried about

8 Mulp December 21, 2017 at 9:33 am

“It is work done in an economics department, as part of getting a PhD in economics. As I am an economist, this bothers me. It could still be fine and important work, of course. I just feel economists should be doing economics, because if not, who else will?”

So, taking away years of your life costs nothing to you or family?

One reason for above ground testing was it was cheaper. Doing it in the West was it was cheaper.

If I dump toxic waste on you because its cheaper but the harm done to you is irrelevant economically and morality is not economics, killing you, the purist economist, to save money and boost profits is justified by you the economist.

Right?

9 GoneWithTheWind December 21, 2017 at 9:48 am

It looks like a classic hit job. A statistical search of data that supports a bias and a presentation of it as “proof”. During that same period the life expectancy in those areas increased. Using the authors methods one could conclude that atomic tests lengthened life and was a good thing. This paper smacks of the same biases found in “Silent Spring”.

10 Mark Bahner December 21, 2017 at 12:31 pm

“I just feel economists should be doing economics, because if not, who else will?”

Matthew Peterson? 😉

11 dan1111 December 22, 2017 at 2:27 am

@Baphomet he did economics in his primary paper.

12 Inquisitor Torquemada December 21, 2017 at 2:50 am

Baphomet, you will need to give us your definition of economics. Then we shall decide if heresy has been committed.

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13 Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 3:32 am

Economics, very generally, is the study of aggregate outcomes of systems of decentralized decision-making and interaction. This includes, but is not limited to, the study of markets.

14 To Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 3:40 am

Where did you get your PhD?

15 Inquisitor Torquemada December 21, 2017 at 4:04 am

That is an extremely good answer.

However, it is not the correct answer, which is, “Economics is what ever Lord Inquisitor Torquemada says it is”.

So there is heresy and it is your own. Appropriate steps have been taken.

I’d tell you to expect the Spanish Inquisition, but we all know no one ever does.

16 Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 4:34 am

I don’t have a PhD but a BA from Evergreen State College with a minor in communications. I also do all of my econometric work in Eviews.

17 Niroscience December 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

” study of aggregate outcomes of systems of decentralized decision-making and interaction” – This is a pretty loaded term and at the same time, could easily also describe anthropology, animal ecology, or sociology among other things.

18 aMichael December 21, 2017 at 11:26 am

Baphomet,

So who studies the economic decision-making of authoritarian and centralized-socialist states if economics is just about “systems of decentralized decision-making and interaction”?

19 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 6:42 am

One can not put a price tag on a human life.

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20 dearieme December 21, 2017 at 6:57 am

Rubbish. It’s done all the time. How much have you insured yours for?

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21 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 7:16 am

I haven’t. My life is inestimable.

22 JWatts December 21, 2017 at 10:33 am

“I haven’t. My life is inestimable.”

So worthless?

23 TMC December 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

lol

24 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 8:35 am

Yeah, you actually can put a price on life and it’s done every day.

You do it every day when you take risks and make decisions. You just don’t realize it because you don’t have an economic mind.

To reduce your argument to the absurd, would a reasonable person exhaust his entire bequest to his adored children for one more day of life?

Should society spend $10 trillion to add one day to one persons life?

Do we send cops, firemen and soldiers to risk their lives to save others?

Do you do anything that increases your chance of death? Go outside? Drive? Cross a street on a green light? Eat food you haven’t prepared completely yourself?

The answers to those questions make it clear that the price of life is not infinite. All choices have opportunity costs, and those costs can easily exceed the value of a human life, especially when the probability of loss of life is very low.

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25 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 10:30 am

So tht is it: in America, everyrhing is for sale, even life.

“The answers to those questions make it clear that the price of life is not infinite.”
But not determinable either. There are no market clearing values. Lives are not fungible.

26 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Things don’t have to be “for sale” to have a quantifiable value.

And yes, the value of life can be quantified and has been quantified. At the very least, we can determine upper bounds.

And no it is not just America but everywhere. Economics is universal. The quantification takes place in America because we actually have smart economists, property rights, functioning and liquid markets, and rule of law. Other countries don’t have this concept because their lack of these things makes valuation either unnecessary, impossible, or moot. Just about any African, South American, or Middle Eastern country can demonstrate how cheaply they value human life.

27 dan1111 December 22, 2017 at 2:29 am

@ATruthSeeker, so if someone offered you a billion dollars to shorten your life by one minute you would not take it?

28 albatross December 22, 2017 at 6:19 pm

That might depend on how far in the future that one minute was—a billion dollars given to you just as you drop dead might not be all that valuable to you, especially if you have no heirs you care about….

29 Sigivald December 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm

I’ll give you the reply I gave a friend talking about Lack Of Free Socialized Healthcare, who claimed you can’t put a price on people’s health.

You can’t NOT do that; it’s literally unavoidable.

(Finite resources exist. Even under a completely centralized allocation program concerned with literally nothing else [economically suicidal as that would be], prices are necessarily put on lives and health because unlimited spending is physically impossible.)

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30 DerpDerp December 21, 2017 at 8:13 am

How is it not?

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31 Ignacio December 21, 2017 at 8:19 am

Economics is the science that studies the use of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited needs. One of the most important concepts studied by economists is the costs of different phenomena, including human action. This paper reveals a cost of certain human action that was not clear before: the cost in human lives involved in these nuclear tests. This may be useful in a future cost-benefit analysis on whether these tests, or similar tests, are worth performing in the future. This is why this was studied by an economist.

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32 Borjigid December 21, 2017 at 8:21 am

+1

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33 Baphomet December 21, 2017 at 8:52 am

Economics is not the study of what various things cost.

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34 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Costs are one of the many things that economics studies.

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35 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 8:23 am

Cost benefit analysis. If you were an economist, you’d know that instantly.

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36 Transnational Pants Machine December 21, 2017 at 8:59 am

>How is this economics?

I understand that you don’t get this, because it sounds like you are a real economist, not a modern one. But I’m here to help!

Modern economics is about publishing articles that are helpful to the Democrat party in the USA. If your piece looks kindly on any Dem canard (socialism is always the answer!) or trashes any Dem bogeyman (your light bulb choices are causing hurricanes!)…. you’ve got a real shot at being a successful “economist.” Dems really enjoy holding up pieces of paper as ironclad proof that you should vote for them. If you can hand them one, there can be money in it for you.

In this case, the bogeyman is 70-year-old nuke testing, which seems incredibly lame but you can never go wrong with handing an anti-nuke piece of paper to a Dem. It combines the anti-military bias with environmental alarmism. If the guy was really smart, he’d have thrown in a nod to locally-grown produce. But don’t worry, he’ll get there.

It’s a dying “field,” economics. Wish him the best!

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37 Giberson December 21, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Economic topics:
1. estimate of a portion of external costs
2. examination of unintended consequence
3. examination of choices made under rules governing military research during the Cold War.

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38 psmith December 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

Doing what you want and calling it economics is an ancient and honorable tradition in economics departments.

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39 Al December 21, 2017 at 1:29 am

No.

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40 Guest December 21, 2017 at 1:53 am

Very insightful, thank you

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41 Al December 21, 2017 at 8:58 am

I agree. It is the only rational reply to a “paper” which attempts to determine something that is of no use other than, perhaps, as fodder in a future shakedown.

What possible user is there in attempting, through dubious means, to ascertain the cost of a war time policy that we didn’t have the science to fully understand and then subsequently banned?

100% useless.

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42 RPLong December 21, 2017 at 10:14 am

You might feel differently if you lived or grew up in Arizona, Nevada, or Utah. Those of us who did are still feeling the effects of the nuclear tests. It’s very much a current issue, and while there might not be any policy implications, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t worth studying, if only for cultural reasons.

As some countries’ nuclear tests have been in the news lately, it also presents a framework for estimating the effects of recent tests, too.

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43 Jeff R December 21, 2017 at 11:32 am

Really? What effects are you still feeling?

44 carpenter December 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

It is a current issue, exactly as AI stated: the shakedown is expanding.

45 DanQuail December 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Well there is a paper by Black et al finding inter-generational effects of in-utero exposure and that the prenatal exposure shifted the IQ distribution leftwards. Then there has got to be the effects on public trust.

46 Al December 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm

No.

47 Sigivald December 21, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I grew up in Utah, and my mom tells me stories about not having milk available because they banned sales of local milk due to fallout, so I got that covered.

And I agree it’s basically useless research, though I don’t object to it simply existing.

(Remember that even NK’s recent tests weren’t aboveground, so are completely irrelevant to I-131 fallout.

Even more, even if some nation did do above-ground testing, estimating effects would require people downwind to drink I-131 contaminated milk, because that’s all this study seems to have been about.

If we talk NK, we’d have to note that the surrounding countries in range don’t actualyl drink a lot of milk, what with the prevalence of lactose intolerance.

Further I can’t see either SK or Japan or even China not making it far more clear than even the US did during our testing that That Milk Is Not For Use.)

48 Mark Thorson December 21, 2017 at 2:32 pm

My niece and her husband and baby just moved to St. George, Utah. I wouldn’t set foot there. A big part of the pollution problem is plutonium. Those early bombs were only about 40% efficient. The other 60% of plutonium was blown around as dust. With a half-life of >20,000 years, most of it is still there. You couldn’t pay me enough to move to St. George.

49 Yancey Ward December 21, 2017 at 2:02 am

How many people died in the US between those years- 20-30 million?

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50 Crikey December 21, 2017 at 2:33 am

Total US military deaths during World War 2 were 416,800.

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51 Joan December 21, 2017 at 2:48 am

This is not all new information, there were early studies that indicated that fallout from testing was causing higher infant mortality rates. TThat is one of the reasons we signed the above ground test ban treaty in 1963.

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52 dearieme December 21, 2017 at 6:58 am

In modern, enlightened times many of those infants would have been aborted, so they shouldn’t count.

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53 HyperboleIsFun December 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Less than 12% of pregnancies are aborted annually, but that wouldn’t support the level of uneducated snark you were aiming for.

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54 Anonymous December 21, 2017 at 3:01 am

What about QALYs though? They were all going to die anyway, right?

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55 jb December 21, 2017 at 4:37 am

+1

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56 DerpDerp December 21, 2017 at 9:17 am

Needs more data. That is the limitation.

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57 Marquis Jackson December 21, 2017 at 3:22 am

Why doesn’t Tyler promote the work of POC candidates?

I’m tired of him only presenting the dissertations of white peoples and it would be refreshing, let alone the morally correct, to start promoting the work who have been marginalized.

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58 Anon7 December 21, 2017 at 7:44 am

You could start your own blog and do exactly that, instead of whining about it.

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59 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 8:43 am

By POC, I assume you’re excluding Asians.

You might also start by encouraging more POC to choose economics and, you know, actually perform well in it to merit attention.

I also assume that you’ve actually looked up the races of every person Tyler ever recommended over a number of years, although I’m not sure why I should make this assumption.

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60 Niroscience December 21, 2017 at 9:24 am

He’s trolling.

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61 QBangon December 21, 2017 at 9:36 am

To Niroscience, I wouldn’t be so sure. I teach at the college level and what he said is very comparable if not exactly what I hear two to three times a semester.

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62 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Sad when we can’t distinguish a troll from modern mainstream leftist dogma. It’s self-parodying.

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63 Jim Nazium December 21, 2017 at 10:06 am

I wonder how MJ knows the race of the paper’s author.

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64 DanQuail December 21, 2017 at 10:35 am

Cuz his website has a photo.

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65 Anonymous December 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

And race is skin deepp

66 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Did you just assume his race?

:p

67 TMC December 21, 2017 at 4:48 pm

A picture is meaningless. What does he identify as?

68 Sigivald December 21, 2017 at 1:50 pm

*slow clap*

Well played, sir.

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69 rayward December 21, 2017 at 6:31 am

Many years ago when I was in college Ralph Nader gave a speech on the green promoting his book, Unsafe at Any Speed, about the safety defects of automobiles. Several thousand students were present. He is (or was) a very good speaker, his technique of repeating phrases for emphasis being very effective. But what I remember the most was his question at the beginning of the speech: he asked those present who had a relative or close friend killed or seriously injured in an auto accident to raise their hands. Everyone present raised her hand. To me that was a startling revelation. Death and maiming in plain sight! I remember road trips with my parents when I was a child. This was before interstate highways, back when even U.S. highways were two lane roads that connected cities and towns. Rare was it that we didn’t pass the carnage of a recent accident, the injured lying on or near the road. I even recall the morbid scene of a decapitated body lying next to the road. My parents’ car, never more than two years old, did not have seat belts or any other safety features that we take for granted now but were not installed by manufacturers, not because they didn’t have the technology but because they didn’t want to spend the money. The manufacturers didn’t install the safety features until the government forced them, Nader’s book having its intended effect. How does this relate to nuclear tests? Death in plain sight. It’s not as though we didn’t know about “fallout” and radiation; indeed, every Tuesday our school practiced a bomb drill when the small Southern town set off the very loud air raid siren located in the middle of town and the students would hide under their desks to prevent the “fallout” from falling on them. Stupid, you say. No more stupid than the “security” line at the airport. People will believe anything they are told, rather than their lying eyes.

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70 rayward December 21, 2017 at 6:54 am

The “security” line at the airport was not my first choice for people believing anything, but it is the holidays and readers will be stuck for what seems like an eternity in those lines. My first choice, as some regular readers might guess, is autonomous cars racing around at 60 or 70 mph while sharing the road with a non-autonomous Mustang driven by a teenager while he is texting with his buddies and with a non-autonomous family van or SUV full of screaming children driven by a mom while she is talking on her cell phone. Will Ralph Nader have to write another book, this one imploring government to either (a) prohibit non-autonomous cars on the public right-of-way, (b) limit the speed of autonomous cars to no more than 30-35 mph, or (c) build a separate right-of-way for autonomous cars? Death in plain sight.

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71 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 6:59 am

“Death in plain sight. It’s not as though we didn’t know about “fallout” and radiation”

Actually, scientists *didn’t* understand the risk of radiation in the 1940s to 1970s and assumed it was much more dangerous than after decades of research showed. This still hasn’t sunk in with the general public yet in part because of the EPA and in part because too many baby boomers refuse to accept the extensive studies of the 1970s and 1980s.

I suspect the premature death rate in this paper is off base because the author is using the now discarded view of health physicits but am not sure.

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72 dearieme December 21, 2017 at 7:04 am

” in part because of …”: and in part because of Soviet propaganda, I’ve always assumed. A well absorbed lie can linger in a society for a long time.

Your point about the possibility of his having used obsolete measures of risk is excellent.

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73 DanQuail December 21, 2017 at 7:41 am

Hey Todd K. It’s less that EPA and more the Public Health Service and Department of Energy (former AEC) covered many things up until 1978. The Department of Health and Human Services was charged with studying the health consequences of nuclear testing in the 80-90’s.

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74 albigensian December 21, 2017 at 10:23 am

” … not because they [car manufacturers] didn’t have the technology but because they didn’t want to spend the money.”

Or more accurately, because few car buyers weren’t willing to spend their own money to buy optional safety features. Even though many were quite willing to pay extra for the optional big-displacement V8.

Did business have an affirmative duty to attempt to educate customers to prioritize seat belts over engine power? Or to provide seat belts at a loss if/when the education/marketing of safety features failed?

Finally, liability law did make cars safer, but it also eliminated diving boards from practically all public swimming pools, almost ended production of small single-engine aircraft, and in any case has added massive costs to many products and public works as producers desperately seek to minimize their exposure to liability.

http://www.autonews.com/article/19960626/ANA/606260836/ford-had-a-better-idea-in-1956-but-it-found-that-safety-didnt-sell

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75 chuck martel December 21, 2017 at 10:47 am

” in any case has added massive costs to many products and public works”

Count the number of fire sprinkler heads 60 feet above the surface of an indoor hockey rink.

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76 TMC December 21, 2017 at 12:15 pm

” his technique of repeating phrases for emphasis being very effective.”

Who does that sound like today?

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77 Faze December 21, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Students in 1950s air raid drills were told to hid under their desks to “prevent fallout from falling on them”, but to protect themselves from falling ceilings.

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78 dearieme December 21, 2017 at 7:01 am

‘students would hide under their desks to prevent the “fallout” from falling on them’: in more intelligent countries pupils hid under desks to stop the ceiling falling on them.

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79 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 8:27 am

Duck and cover was intended to survive the “glass storm” of flying debris from the blast wave, not to survive fallout.

People often mock Duck and Cover without considering that it’s only intended to help people survive the survivable.

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80 DerpDerp December 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

There was a good documentary on this. Before H-Bombs, atomic bomb attacks from bombers would be survivable. This thinking changed late in the 1950 with ICBMs as there would be no effective defense from those.

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81 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:34 pm

At a distance of 30 miles, all nuclear blasts would be survivable.

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82 Alistair December 22, 2017 at 7:34 am

+1

General public grossly over-estimates lethality of blast and fallout effects from nukes. And the benefits of even modest defensive preparation. It’s a case of public perception and leftist talking points being totally divorced from the science.

83 albigensian December 21, 2017 at 10:34 am

I’d have to agree that there was a change in thinking regarding survivability as fission weapons delivered by long-range bombers were replaced with thermonuclear fission-fusion-fission weapons delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles.

And, yes, duck-and-cover was not intended to protect from fallout. Although staying indoors in the hours and days after a nuclear explosion would significantly reduce one’s exposure fallout as much of the immediate exposure would be from isotopes with short half-lives.

In any case, duck-and-cover was not part of the drill for above-ground nuclear weapons testing, and it wouldn’t have protected children from injury due to iodine-131 in their milk anyway.

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84 chuck martel December 21, 2017 at 11:09 am
85 JWatts December 21, 2017 at 10:52 am

My mom was also subject to the same drills. They got under the desks for tornadoes and Civil defense drills for the same reasons. To protect against falling and flying debris. Not to protect against fallout. The idea is absurd.

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86 Mark Thorson December 21, 2017 at 2:41 pm

In East Lansing in 1965, the drill was to empty out the classrooms into the main corridor, kneel facing the wall, and put our hands behind our necks to protect our necks from flying glass.

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87 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 7:04 am

That is, health physicists around the world began to publically state the old radiation model was incorrect in the early 1990s. So far, about 55 people have died from Chernobyl and the WHO 2006 report states that 4,000 people will die prematurely. Their analysis still used the old LNT threshold that was discarded a full decade earlier so greatly exaggerates the premature death figure.

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88 DanQuail December 21, 2017 at 7:43 am

The paper makes no claims about the Linear No Threshold Model. You need a very very large N for low dose exposure to get at the health risk.

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89 Alistair December 22, 2017 at 7:36 am

Well, it’s using SOME model of risk exposure. Wanna bet that it’s the LNT? I’ll give you 3-1.

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90 chuck martel December 21, 2017 at 7:16 am

Well, the fallout from above-ground nuclear testing and its effect on the domestic population isn’t really the issue. The real issue is the obscene presence of nuclear weapons, period. That the vaunted nation-state, in whatever costume it wears, should have the ability to terminate life on the planet is a sad reflection on a collection of organisms that may have outlived the justification for their existence.

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91 Ray Lopez December 21, 2017 at 7:31 am

That’s very true chuck martel, and why I favor a first strike on North Korea. BTW I don’t really buy the analysis of the OP, since we should have seen a spike in cancer deaths decreasing since the 1959 or so ban, which I don’t think we have.

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92 carlospln December 21, 2017 at 8:01 am

1st Strike?

The US had an inspection routine in place 17 years ago & the VP & Sec’y of Defence in 2001 threw it in the rubbish.

Moronic.

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93 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 8:24 am

Cut the head off and the viper dies. Destroy Red China and Japan and North Korea perishes.

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94 Anonymous December 21, 2017 at 1:50 pm

“Destroy Japan” lol

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95 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 21, 2017 at 8:48 am

If the baby boomers’ dying breath is an unnecessary nuclear war .. it will more or less settle the question of their vanity and self-absorption.

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96 albigensian December 21, 2017 at 10:42 am

The cancer risk discussed in the paper refers to iodine-131 in milk. This isotope has a short half life, and thus would be a risk primarily because it can be concentrated in cows milk (much of which is consumed by children) and the iodine is then further concentrated in the thyroid.

But the statistical inference is less than straightforward, as this exposure might not produce cancer for twenty years, and in any case the carcinogenic effect might not be linear as a larger dose of radiation might be more likely to just kill cells instead of leaving them alive but genetically damaged.

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97 athEIst December 23, 2017 at 1:10 am

why I favor a first strike on North Korea.

Could you give us your full view on this. Thanx

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98 dearieme December 21, 2017 at 9:01 am

The USSR made no claim to be a nation-state. Quite the contrary.

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99 chuck martel December 21, 2017 at 10:52 am

And it’s generally heard that the US is a democracy.

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100 Dick the Butcher December 21, 2017 at 8:26 am

During the cold war and Vietnam draft years, most able-bodied, American males served in the armed forces, active; national guard, or reserves. I worked with a man whose Army unit was huddled in a trench five-miles from one of those A-tests. He lived into his early 60’s and died of cancer.

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101 DerpDerp December 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

Contact his family and tell them about the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. They might be able to get survivors benefits if he can show 1) He was in the region during testing. 2) He died of cancer. I’ve heard Veterans Affairs giving atomic vets a hard time. RECA is easier.

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102 Art Deco December 21, 2017 at 3:19 pm

During the cold war and Vietnam draft years, most able-bodied, American males served in the armed forces, active; national guard, or reserves.

Roughly 45% served during that era. About 25% were disqualified, but those disqualified were seldom disabled. The military can be oddly exacting.

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103 Alistair December 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

Jeez, Dick, it’s not range from epicentre that’s the problem. You have to be under the fall-out. Fallout dominates dosage, not the primary radiation (especially if you were shielded in a trench). Basic error of understanding.

I’d be quite happy to sit in a trench 5 miles from an A-bomb, so long as I wasn’t in the fall-out zone.

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104 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 21, 2017 at 8:45 am

Most of you are reinforcing Tyler’s line from the Weir podcast:

“COWEN: Sure. I think we should be more impersonal in terms of how we think about value of human lives. But in individual cases, we so often aren’t.”

If follow up studies confirm, we should respect the data, and refine our models of harmful radiation.

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105 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 21, 2017 at 9:36 am

In related news, US life expectancy is down.

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db293.htm

You would think this would shake people up, get them together for serious plans and solutions. You would think.

But maybe we are still stuck at “caring is socialism.”

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106 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 10:50 am

So what? Soviet Union’s life expectacy were down under Brezhnev and no one complains…

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107 Paraguayan December 21, 2017 at 10:56 am

Such is life in Trump’s America.

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108 Dick King December 21, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Yes. 2016 mortality is Trump’s fault.

Someone needs to take away his time machine.

-dk

109 albatross December 22, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Hey, Trump has the very best time machine. Better than anyone else’s. Believe me!

110 Edward Burke December 21, 2017 at 8:54 am

Do any data begin to suggest what direct contributions to the onset of Technogenic Climate Change atmospheric testing of atomic and nuclear weapons made?

A pedestrian non-physicist might observe that a considerable amount of atmospheric gases MUST have been vaporized with all those fireballs being ignited with temperatures boasting millions of degrees. How much ozone alone might have wound up vaporized? How much water vapor?

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111 DanQuail December 21, 2017 at 9:23 am

Well the amount of debris ejected into the atmosphere might have led to an albedo effect.

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112 JWatts December 21, 2017 at 11:05 am

Yes, the likely effect would have been a small cooling.

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113 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:33 pm

So people are having sex more often?
:p

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114 Alan Goldhammer December 21, 2017 at 8:55 am

There was a lot of research done by my old branch at NIH on the effects of the bomb tests in the Marshall Islands during the 1950s which apparently are not referenced by the author. A lot of what we know about impacts on the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine came from those studies. I remember the day in 1999 when all the MDs in the branch were called to an emergency meeting at HHS headquarters in DC to discuss what should be done regarding the Three Mile Island incident. It was pointed out that in terms of thyroid exposure, potassium iodide which blocks uptake of radioactive iodine by the gland has to be given PRIOR to exposure (which is customary for all lab workers using the isotope). While there was a release of radioactive iodine, it was quite modest and there continues to be controversy about whether there is any long term health impact regarding increased cancer mortality.

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115 dearieme December 21, 2017 at 9:05 am

Ah: the memory of “Three Mile Island killed fewer people than Chappaquiddick”.

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116 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:32 pm

LOL.

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117 Pshrnk December 21, 2017 at 11:18 am

1979

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118 TMC December 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm

If I remember correctly people around Three Mile had less exposure than someone flying cross country.

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119 Denis Drew December 21, 2017 at 9:49 am

Back in the late ’50s in the early mornings I used to watch on NBC’s Today Show hydrogen bombs explode on remote atolls in the Pacific, dropped by USAF bombers (presumably B-52s). Then it was time to go to school.

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120 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 9:58 am

Not me. I decided when I was 10 that I needed a safe place for TV watching before going to school so watched “Star Blazers.” Too bad you baby boomers didn’t have an awesome cartoon space epic while growing up.

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121 A Truth Seeker December 21, 2017 at 10:36 am

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Blazers

“Star Blazers is an American animated television series adaptation of the Japanese anime series Space Battleship Yamato I (1974), II (1978), and III (1980) (宇宙戦艦ヤマト Uchū Senkan Yamato). Star Blazers was first broadcast in the United States in 1979.”

Cultural appropriation!!

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122 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 10:58 am

But that was the 70s and 80s when we didn’t have cultural appropriation but just exchanges of ideas.

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123 Crikey December 21, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Star Blazers was huge in Brazil.

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124 Pshrnk December 21, 2017 at 11:21 am
125 Willitts December 21, 2017 at 2:31 pm

I loved that show. Wave Motion Gun. Comet Empire.

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126 Mark Thorson December 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Actually, it was probably B-29’s. The B-29 could carry the Bomb, and it had the additional feature it could be piloted by remote control. There was a kit of servos and TV cameras that could be mounted in the B-29 for remote operation. A human pilot would take off, a mother ship would take control, and the pilot would bail out. B-29’s were never sold to ally nations, so there were plenty available after the war.

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127 Hazel Meade December 21, 2017 at 10:17 am

I’m assuming this is based on the linear no-threshold model, which is bullshit. There’s no empirical evidence that long-term low level radiation exposure causes cancer. It might, but it’s hidden in the background noise, statistically undetectable. The linear no-threshold model is an assumption used to be on the safe side, and should not be used to estimate or predict deaths.

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128 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 21, 2017 at 10:56 am

I don’t think it is based on any prior model, it is dug directly from new exposure and mortality data.

It can be used to construct *future* models.

Funny how many libertarians have so much invested in the transparently ridiculous notion that radiation is harmless.

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129 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 11:18 am

Low levels of radiation are harmless. I doubt you know more about this than thousands of health physicists.

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130 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 21, 2017 at 11:40 am

Do you understand the basic mechanism of radiation mutagenesis?

http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/radiation-mutagenesis

Given that, low radiation exposure may have geometrically lower odds of impact, but words like “harmless” or “zero risk” signal a certain mathematical and scientific illiteracy.

Perhaps “low” odds, over a 300M population do indeed have a long term and cumulative 300k impact. That is nothing more than a 1 in a 1000 odds of some tbd reduction in lifespan.

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131 TMC December 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm

“words like “harmless” or “zero risk” signal a certain mathematical and scientific illiteracy.” Very true, but everyone is gets exposed to radiation everyday. As I stated above the exposure from Three Mile Island was less than flying cross country, and it was also compared to living in Denver (because of increased altitude). So maybe “harmless” or “zero risk” can be used as a comparison rather than an absolute value.

132 TallDave December 21, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I don’t recall if the result stood up, but one point it was found zero radon was worse for your health than very low levels. This response curve comes up now and then in biology because of specializations that were evolved to work best in non-optimal conditions (another example is the “hygiene hypothesis” of early exposure to some pathogens). So the risk might indeed be zero.

133 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 1:19 pm

“but words like “harmless” or “zero risk” signal a certain mathematical and scientific illiteracy.”

Then I’ll have to try harder to signal by stating that my undergrad degrees are in mathematics and physics. “Harmless” works for low levels and a large minority of researchers insist low levels of radiation promotes health.

134 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 21, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Certainly this is relative to background exposure and relative to healthy (young body) response,

but it still seems to me that many of you are responding to new data with “oh no, we have a previous theory”

135 Mark Thorson December 21, 2017 at 2:56 pm

The effect of low-dose radiation is called “radiation hormesis”. At low levels, it induces expression of the DNA-repair enzymes, which causes its anti-cancer effect.

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136 carlospln December 21, 2017 at 5:58 pm

To amplify Mark’s point, we are bathed in radiation & as mammals have at least nine separate DNA repair enzyme systems for maintaining its integrity. Example: adjacent thymine residues in one of the DNA chains can form dimers, linked by a covalent bond. This bond must be identified, and excised. There are two different systems for doing so, one during the daytime which uses photons of light for the required energy input, another functions in darkness and must utilise a molecule of ATP to do so.

How many times does this happen? In the summer, outside, sunlight generates 50-100 pyrimidine dimers per second. In every exposed skin cell.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrimidine_dimer

Radiation is a feature of life on Earth. One million years ago there was more of it [and 100M yrs ago, even more than this] from the background radiation in rocks. Metazoan life has adapted to this over hundreds of millions of years.

137 Alistair December 22, 2017 at 7:53 am

+1. LNT is complete rhubarb.

Having bounced about the controversy and gainsaying for years, I found myself reading the actual papers to decide for myself (disclaimer – I’m a statistician, not a biologist , so it took some time to read through the terminology). But when I actually got to the plotted data, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe how bad the LNT was compared to alternative logarithmic and threshold models. I couldn’t believe there was any controversy. So one goes and calculates the AIC and shows that a 2 or 3 parameter model is so much better and justified… why was this even an issue?

I eventually concluded the LNT “controversy” only persisted because the LNT had political value to leftist hacks. I drew the conclusion that some people wouldn’t accept the plain falsification of their models if it contradicted their political beliefs. And that science was a lot more human and corruptible than I had wanted to believe (so I did change my OWN views, just not the one I was expecting).

I have not had to revise my new model since.

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138 collin December 21, 2017 at 11:02 am

I don’t know, why don’t we ask the cast of The Conqueror! (Yes I know it is exaggerated here and the cast all smoked.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conqueror_(film)

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139 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 11:42 am

There are too many red flags in the paper to not *highly* doubt his very large death estimate.

1) He starts by pointing out that all the bomb testing ” exposed millions of Americans to harmful radioactive material” which is only a statement made by someone using the obsolete LNT hypothesis even if through secondary sources. All governtment agencies have stuck with LNT despite the experts strongly disagreeing.

2) Meyers states on p.2 that the NCI study estimates “that fallout from domestic nuclear testing caused
49,000 thyroid cancer deaths.” But the 2015 Lancet paper (another red flag) states that is the number of cases of thyroid cancer, which currently has a 99% cure rate in children, not deaths:

“Risk modelling studies of exposure to ionising radiation from the Nevada Test Site in the USA suggest that an extra 49 000 (95% CI 11 300–212 000) cases of thyroid cancer would be expected to occur among US residents alive at the time of the testing—an excess of about 12% over the 400 000 cases of thyroid cancer expected to develop in the absence of fallout.”

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)61037-6/fulltext?code=lancet-site#back-bib20

This paper will almost certainly be found to be way off if examined by a health physicist.

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140 DerpDerp December 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

“Risk modelling studies of exposure to ionising radiation from the Nevada Test Site in the USA suggest that an extra 49 000 (95% CI 11 300–212 000) cases of thyroid cancer would be expected to occur among US residents alive at the time of the testing—an excess of about 12% over the 400 000 cases of thyroid cancer expected to develop in the absence of fallout. Almost all of the radiation-related cases of thyroid cancer would be among individuals younger than 20 years during the period 1951–57. In addition, there could be as many as 11 000 deaths from non-thyroid cancers related to fallout among those US residents, with leukaemia making up 10% of the total. Large uncertainties are inherent in these projections.”

He might have thought deaths were implied by the second clause. All the literature studying the health effect of radiation exposure rely on studies with relatively small N, so you can’t just throw out the LNTM. The research area contains large “uncertainties.”

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141 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Maybe he did that , but I don’t see why since clearly stated. There are 2,000 deaths from thyroid cancer a year, almost all over the age of 18 but the U.S. population was only half of the current so around 1,000 deaths a year then. Don’t you think that health officials would noticed if that rose to 40,000 a year over 10 years or 20,000 over 20 years?

The LNT hypothesis has been dead for two decades. The radiation/cancer studies from Hiroshsima and Nagasaki had a huge n.

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142 DerpDerp December 21, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Hiroshima and Nagasaki involved folks being hit with an acute gamma ray burst. The bombings were air bursts and did not create large amounts of radioactive fallout. These studies, the Chernobyl studies, and nuclear testing ones all rely on relatively small samples and lack the paper to rule out negative health effects from low doses of radiation. Nuclear testing exposed people to low doses of fallout through the food supply over multiple periods. The only way you can get a large enough N to reject the LNTM with low dose exposure is if you would need something like radon exposure in basements and millions of observations. http://www.pnas.org/content/100/24/13761.full

Otherwise things are still kind of a black box.

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143 Todd K December 21, 2017 at 1:59 pm

According to surveys among health pysicists who study radiation, the lead author of the paper you linked to, David Brenner, is part of the 5% to 10% who do not want to get rid of the LNT hypothesis, although in an interview with Chris Mooney he states there is still “a lively debate.” Not in recent years. Around 85% surveyed say LNT is obsolete with half of those claiming low level radiation is healthy – and that was ten years ago.

144 Alistair December 22, 2017 at 7:57 am

@DerpDerp with his LNT

Would you be triggered if we called you a “science denier”?

145 TallDave December 21, 2017 at 1:08 pm

If anything, they understate the effects — even exposure to the data about nuclear testing causes neural impairment, as evidenced by the study itself.

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146 Art Deco December 21, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Another example, in case we needed one, that economics departments are populated with people bored with the subject. Cut their budgets and close their graduate programs.

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147 athEIst December 21, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Wasn’t all this work done much earlier using infant mortality and strontium 90? Wasn’t it known that infant mortality rates were declining much less in the south after 1945 than previously? Wasn’t this known before the 1963 atmospheric test ban?

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148 Spanish dictionary December 22, 2017 at 11:32 pm

His primary job market paper is on damage to agriculture from nuclear testing

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