Cancer Politics

Radiation is good for youjust ask a scientist!

At the public-comment section of the UCI meeting, Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), warned the BEIR panel that its failure to include scientists who believe U.S. radiation health-risk standards are already too low could constitute a violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires balance of membership, openness to the public and avoidance of conflicts of interest. Parfrey told the BEIR committee that PSR would prefer to "appeal to the better angels of your nature so that you pursue a course that protects public health."

Parfrey's statements didn't go over well among some committee members, a few of whom gasped and groaned in reaction to his allegation that the panel was biased. Particularly upset was Cardis, who asserted that she was "very puzzled and very shocked" by PSR's allegations, claiming that she is a former member of PSR. "I don't know where your information is coming from," she exclaimed. "We are just as concerned as you are about the harmful effects of radiation, and I think we're being unjustly accused."

Several other activists also showed up at UCI to register their protests. Marion Pack of the Orange County Alliance for Survival and Alan White, an executive council member of the OC Green Party, read statements and submitted letters blasting the NAS for inviting only scientists from one side of a very important debate.

But some of the most compelling testimony came from Rob Campbell, a veteran of the U.S. military's 1950s-era radiation tests in southern Nevada. Campbell addressed the BEIR committee on behalf of the Atomic Veterans Radiation Research Institute via videotaped comments.

"We do not approve of this or any other scientific proceeding in which knowledgeable people are excluded," Campbell told committee members. "I am at a loss as to why you do not have the courage to say that you will not serve on this panel unless these other scientists are included. This is your debt to science and to your conscience."

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