Is low radiation good for health?
19 June 2008
Short-term low doses of radiation are good for health, according to
Don Luckey, emeritus professor of the University of Missouri in an
article published in the International Journal of Low Radiation
For decades, we have been told that any exposure to radiation is
dangerous. In high doses it is certainly lethal and chronic exposure is
linked to the development of cancer. But if Professor Luckey is right,
low-dose radiation could be a new tool to use in treating health
Professor Luckey, the nutrition consultant for NASA's Apollo 11 to 17
moon missions, has spent the last several years developing the concept
of improving health through exposure to low-dose radiation.
"When beliefs are abandoned and evidence from only whole-body
exposures to mammals is considered, it becomes obvious that increased
ionising radiation would provide abundant health," Luckey explains. He
suggests that as with many nutritional elements, such as vitamins and
trace metals, it is possible to become deficient in radiation. "A
radiation deficiency is seen in a variety of species, including rats and
mice; the evidence for a radiation deficiency in humans is compelling."
In the first part of the twentieth century at a time when our
understanding of radioactivity was only just emerging, health
practitioners began to experiment widely with samples of radioactive
materials. Then, exposure to radiation, rather than being seen as
hazardous, was considered a panacea for a wide variety of ailments from
arthritis to consumption.
The discovery of antibiotics and the rapid advent of the
pharmaceutical industry, as well as the fact that it became apparent
that exposure to high doses of radiation could be lethal led to the
demise of this "alternative" approach to health.
Today, radioactivity is used in targeted therapies for certain forms
of cancer, however, the use of radiation sources for treating other
diseases is not currently recognised by the medical profession.
Luckey hopes to change that viewpoint and argues that more than 3000
scientific papers in the research literature point to low doses of
radiation as being beneficial in human health. He points out that, as
with many environmental factors, we have evolved to live successfully in
the presence of ionising radiations. His own research suggests that
radiation exposure can minimise infectious disease, reduce the incidence
of cancer in the young, and substantially increase average lifespan.
Studies on the growth, average lifespan, and decreased cancer
mortality rates of humans exposed to low-dose irradiation show improved
health, explains Luckey. This represents good evidence that we live with
a partial radiation deficiency and that greater exposure to radiation
would improve our health, a notion supported by 130 studies on the
health of people living in parts of the world with higher background
levels of ionising radiation than average.
Luckey suggests that the medical use of small samples of partially
shielded radioactive waste would provide a simple solution to radiation
deficiency. Of course, there are several questions that will have to be
answered before a health program based on this study could be
implemented. How much should we have and what is the optimum exposure?
Evidence suggests that low dose exposure increases the number and
activity of the immune system's white blood cells, boosts cytocrine and
enzyme activity, and increases antibody production and so reduces the
incidence of infection, assists in wound healing, and protects us from
exposure to high doses of radiation.
"It is unfortunate that most literature of radiobiology involves fear
and regulations about the minimum possible exposure with no regard for
radiation as a beneficial agent," says Luckey, "Those who believe the
Linear No Threshold (LNT) dogma have no concept about any benefits from
ionising radiation. Many radiobiologists get paid to protect us from
negligible amounts of ionising radiation. Our major concern is health."
Professor André Maïsseu, the journal's Editor-in-Chief, and President
of the World Council of Nuclear Workers WONUC) says: "This is a very
bright, interesting and important paper about the real effects of
ionising radiation — radioactivity — on humans, mammals and biotopes."
He adds that, the paper, "is part of the movement we — nuclear workers —
do promoting good science and fighting obscurantism in this scientific
Maïsseu points out that the European Union recently refused to
support a world-wide study on related work. "This was the first time
nuclear workers have asked the European Union to support a scientific
study," Maïsseu says. "We received nothing, yet for more than thirty
years, so-called 'green' organisations have received hundreds of
millions euros, and with what results?" He adds that, "It is a shame and
a scandal that political reasons are being used to decide on science
1. Luckey TD. Abundant health from radioactive waste.
International Journal of Low Radiation, 2008, vol. 5, pp 71-82.