Sunday 22 January 2017

Death rate more sci-fi than science

Published 26/02/2012 | 05:00

Madam -- Adi Roche (Sunday Independent, February 19, 2012) seems to have based her inflated estimates of the health effects of the Chernobyl accident on a 2009 edition of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. In reality, that edition consisted of a translation of a Russian publication. The book was not peer reviewed by the Academy, but, of four reviews published in the academic press, three were severely critical. Indeed, a review by the Russian MI Balonov published by the New York Academy of Sciences concludes that the report has very little scientific merit while being highly misleading to the lay reader. It also characterised the estimate of nearly a million deaths as more in the realm of science fiction than science.

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Ms Roche's statement that there is no safe dose of radiation could apply to virtually every risk to which we are exposed. It's a matter of degree: a car driven fast has a higher probability of a crash than one driven very slowly. Even so, the latter does have a risk, admittedly a small one. So there's no such thing as a safe speed, but nevertheless we carry on driving.

David Sowby,

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