Thursday, August 04, 2005

Joseph Mangano and the Art of Deception

In reference to Kelly Taylor's earlier post, I've been passing around copies of Mangano's article, and I've been getting nothing but groans from many of my friends in the business. The following is a short excerpt from a note I got from Bill Casino, an employee of Framatome-ANP:

I too attended the nuclear regulatory commissions' early site permit hearing with Kelly Taylor and I concur with everything she said. I also would like to add that I had many discussions with locals about this subject and heard nothing but positive and supporting comments from all about Entergy, the plant at Grand Gulf, and its employees.
Here's Ralph Andersen, NEI's chief health physicist:
Mr. Mangano's allegations of health effects associated with emissions from nuclear power plants have been reviewed in detail and repeatedly discredited by at least 8 state and 2 county public health departments, as well as the USNRC, as follows:

USNRC; State of Connecticut; State of Florida; State of Illinois; State of New Jersey; State of New York; State of Pennsylvania; State of Minnesota; State of Michigan; Westchester County, NY and Suffolk County, NY.

In fact, we are not aware of any federal, state, or local government public health departments that have reviewed Mr. Mangano's allegations and found them to be credible.
Here at NEI, Mangano is best known for his involvement in the "Tooth Fairy" project, a bundle of bad science and statistical nonsense that we debunked earlier this year. For more details, click here.

I also got a note from another friend of ours at Dominion Power, Delbert Horn. Delbert is familiar with the sort of statistical chicanery that Mangano engages in, and dealt with much the same tactics at an NRC hearing earlier this year where the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League played fast and loose with the facts.

Here's what Delbert had to say in a note he sent me a few minutes ago:
Put the burden of proof on Mangano... call him out like we did with BREDL... how "in similar previous claims for the North Anna ESP that used the Mangano death rate statistics methods, it was determined that selective statistics were employed....carefully picking and choosing counties, excluding, then including accidental deaths..."

Urge him to state his counties used, and list the death rates before and after operation. Criticize the inconsistency and sweeping general claims of "infant deaths soared" in one paragraph and "adult death rates doubled" in the next.
In other words, "Where's the beef?" So here's the deal Mr. Mangano, once you show your work the same way that my colleagues David Bradish and Elizabeth King do, then we'll start to take you seriously. Until then, we can only conclude that there's no there, there.

UPDATE: It would probably be a good idea for our readers to go back and read the contemporaneous accounts of what really happened at Grand Gulf that were posted here at NEi Nuclear Notes. Click here for our roundup post from a few weeks ago.

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11 comments:

Stewart Peterson said...

Re: BREDL,

http://niof.blogspot.com/2005/07/truth-in-advertising.html

Donnie said...

It appears from your discussion that you are not familiar with the Nation magazine. Many years ago, when I was a flaming liberal, I subscribed to the Nation. Now I read it in the Library a couple of times a year. It remains one of the most left-wing magazines in the country.

Knowing what Mangano had claimed in his earlier "studies", it is not surprising that he appeared in the Nation.

Dr. Lewis Cuthbert said...

PLEASE POST THESE PUBLIC INTEREST COMMENTS. IT NOT, WE WILL SEE THAT THEY MAKE IT TO NEWS MEDIA.

Dr. Lewis Cuthbert
Alliance For A Clean Environment

Re: NEI's Shamful Attack On Researcher Joseph Mangano

It's a shame that the NEI, a biased nuclear industry front group, goes to such efforts to discredit the work of independent researchers like Joseph Mangano. You do the public a huge disservice.

Mangano's studies are peer reviewed in 26 medical journal articles. NEI is just opinion, and has NO JOURNAL ARTICLES. NEI seems to be practicing the ART OF DECEPTION, not Joseph Mangano.

Mangano is to be commended for having the courage to stand up to bullies protecting polluters like NEI. Some of us know better than to accept biased spin from the nuclear industry and its defenders like that on your website.

Mangano's work is actually the continuation of a decades long effort by many eminent scientists who have determined that low dose radiation harms humans. In the 1950s, Dr. Alice Stewart of Oxford University found that an Xray to the abdomen of a pregnant woman doubled the chance that the child would develop cancer. After years of denial that atom bomb fallout was harmful, a 1997 study by the National Cancer Institute found that as many as 212,000 Americans developed thyroid cancer from fallout. And in 2000, the U.S. Energy Department found that workers in nuclear weapons plants suffered from cancer in excessive numbers. A blue ribbon National Academy of Sciences panel in 2005 concluded that ALL radiation is harmful, even low doses.

Statistics used by Mangano are taken from state and federal cancer registries. Mangano's statistics for communities close to our nuclear plant are indisputable, even though biased individuals with a political or profit agenda have attempted unsuccessfully to challenge them.

The "statistical chicanery" of cancer data in our region was clearly done by our county and state health departments, not Joseph Mangano. The public outrage against the state health department deception was significant.

It is our experience that health departments are controlled by politics. Politicians are controlled by the nuclear industry. We spent over a decade investigating independent research and reports of harms from nuclear power in general and specifically in our region. Most families in our region realize that radiation from the nuclear plant is a major factor in our documented health crisis.

Really, it's simple. Nuclear power plants routinely and accidently release a broad range of radionuclides into the air and water, which get into the soil, food, and people around them. Neither NEI nor NRC has independent substantiated data to determine the additive, synergistic, and harmful health impacts to people living in the region of nuclear plants. Radiation causes cancer and a broad range of other health harms. It's not surprising that over 17 studies in the U.S. and Europe show higher cancer rates around nuclear plants, especially in children. To deny the overwhelming evidence is not credible.

You claim NRC finds "no appreciable changes" near nuclear plants. Given the source of the unsubstantiated data used and NRC's blind and dangerous allegiance to the nuclear industry, that's not surprising.

It is NRC and NEI that use a bundle of bad science (even no science), not Joseph Mangano People would have to dismiss all the independent studies and lose their common sense to believe nuclear plant radiation is not a major factor in increased cancers around them.

Brian Mays said...

I don't know which is more amusing, that this person felt the need to respond to a five-year-old post, or that he believed that he must issue a threat to get it published, or that the threat is misspelled. ;-)

The defense of Joseph Mangano is somewhat interesting also. It relies essentially on two pillars for support.

The first is Mangano's publication record, which frankly, I don't find all that impressive. A quick search on Google Scholar turns up less than a dozen peer-reviewed articles, which is not very many for someone who is supposed to be a serious researcher working full-time in this field. Furthermore, the genuine articles appear to be published in the same small number of low-impact journals, which I suppose have sympathetic editors that assign sympathetic reviewers who give his flawed articles a cursory pass. Even then Mr. Mangano's work has faced some severe criticism in the literature for serious methodological flaws, which he has tried to defend to the best of his ability. Nevertheless, his defense rings hollow and remains unconvincing.

Whenever Mr. Mangano's name shows up in a high-impact journal, it's always in a comment or a letter, which are not peer reviewed. Mr. Mangano is very much an outsider in the field of radiological epidemiology.

The second part of the defense is a collection of tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories, which by necessity, involve corruption at the federal, state, and local levels of government. The complex web that is weaved by Lewis Cuthbert's story is of such grandiose design that it makes the claims of the 9/11-Truthers look tame and rational by comparison.

Flaky science and conspiracy theories are apparently all that the Radiation and Public Health Project and the Alliance For A Clean Environment can offer. Perhaps they should return to winning over the hearts and minds of such intellectual giants as Christie Brinkley and Alec Baldwin. Any additional comments here will provide only more opportunities to ridicule them.

Dr.Lewis Cuthbert said...

In response to Brian Mays

1. Mays' reliance on stereotypes, as well as irrelevant and unrelated ad hominem attacks speak
volumes.

2. Personal attacks are a common tactic used by people like Mays who don't have the truth or the facts on their side. A Google search of Mays shows that Mangano is not the first opponent of nuclear power, including Green Peace and WISE, attacked by Mays. As far as I and others are concerned, Mays has little credibility outside the nuclear industry, NEI, and their paid lobbyists.

3. Mays has shown a pattern of attacking those who attempt to provide disclosure of the threats and harms of nuclear power. This is a shameful tactic used to divert attention and muddy the waters. It does not appear that Mr. Mays has either the credentials or a comparable publishing record to be critical of the work done by Joseph Mangano.

4. Most of us who enlisted help from RPHP and Mangano are grateful to have independent analyses. We will take the work of an "outsider" any day over those producing politically charged and/or industry funded data and reports.

5. Unfortunately for our region, the cancer rates are grandiose, especially for children. It is neither rational, nor acceptable, to dismiss this documented evidence of harm. It is both offensive and inappropriate to compare documented suffering of children to 9/11 Truthers.

6. Mays is incorrect. I said nothing about local government. Many local officials were just as outraged, as were vast numbers of cancer victims, at both county and state health departments' cancer data manipulation and misrepresentation.

7. I question the integrity of any individual who fails to see the value in disputing irresponsible and personal attacks on the work of independent researchers, even after five years.

8. Several people have said that NEI does not post all opposing views to nuclear power. Readers have a right to hear both sides of any argument.

9. Mays stated that, "Any additional comments here will provide only more opportunities to ridicule them." Mays prefers to ridicule critics and obfuscate the facts, rather than deal with readily available documented scientific evidence.

David Bradish said...

Dr. Cuthbert, while you are trying to make it sound like Mangano and yourself are the heroes against the big bad nuclear industry, one huge fact remains - not one of RPHP's studies have been supported by state or federal authorities. Contrary to your response, I find it hard to believe that all of the authorities who don't support RPHP manipulated and misrepresented the data. As well, there are thousands of radiation health physicists with PhDs working in the nuclear industry. Is it really reasonable to suggest that either 1) they're incompetent about radiation or 2) they're conspiring against the public? Nice try.

Further, I took a look at one of Mangano's claims awhile back and it's safe to say that you don't need a PhD to see his claims are bogus. In fact, it looks like the only thing RPHP does is look through numbers on the CDC website and manipulate them to fit their preconceived notions. That is hardly a service to the community.

Brian Mays said...

My goodness, but isn't Cuthbert a bit testy. I'm not surprised; crackpots tend to be a sensitive lot.

Yes, I've done my fair share of debunking the pseudo-scientific nonsense put out by activist groups like the RPHP. I'm quite proud of my efforts, since too many knowledgeable people are far too complacent in allowing charlatans such as Cuthbert here to get away with the most outlandish claims.

Nevertheless, I haven't seen a rant as incoherent as this in a long time. Examples:

"Personal attacks are a common tactic used by people like Mays ... It does not appear that Mr. Mays has either the credentials or a comparable publishing record to be critical of the work done by Joseph Mangano."

Dr. Cuthbert - Well, it's refreshing to see that you prefer to take the high road. ;-) Anyhow, you were the one who brought up Mangano's studies, which "are peer reviewed in 26 medical journal articles." After that, Mangano's publication list was fair game.

Besides, Mangano's methodologies are so bad, you don't need to be a specialist in the field to spot the flaws. He's a rank amateur in his field, part of the "lunatic fringe" that produce a lot of flawed studies that occasionally get published in obscure journals.

His main purpose is to drum up some pseudo-scientific junk statistics that look good on flyers so that groups like the RPHP can recruit bored celebrities to represent their cause and so they can scare the bejesus out of the general population with hysterical cries of "Think of the children!" (By the way, I can't believe you stooped so low as to use that slimy tactic in your comment.)

Other examples:

"Mays is incorrect. I said nothing about local government. Many local officials were just as outraged, as were vast numbers of cancer victims, at both county and state health departments' cancer data manipulation and misrepresentation."

So county health departments are not local government entities? Do you even read what you have written before you publish it?

"Mays prefers to ridicule critics and obfuscate the facts, rather than deal with readily available documented scientific evidence."

Yes, making fun of you is quite enjoyable, and it is precisely what you deserve. Please keep going. You're only digging yourself in deeper.

You haven't produced any "scientific evidence." On the contrary, you have dismissed all of the scientific evidence via various tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories, preferring the work of an "outsider" who is nothing more than a fraud with an agenda.

Jan Steinman said...

David Bradish said "not one of RPHP's studies have been supported by state or federal authorities."

I don't find that surprising, given their need to keep the public calm and to support jobs and industry over the health of citizens.

But it is interesting to note a crack in that armour: the National Cancer Institute will tell you how much your risk of cancer has increased due to exposure to I-131 released during atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

I haven't done a detailed meta-analysis, but it appears that their risk formula may be based (in part) upon the Sternglass-Mangano research, which would tend to lend some credence to his work.

Then there's the National Academy of Sciences BIER study just released in 2008, which vindicates the "linear, no-threshold" exposure-injury model used by Mangano, et. al.

There are a number of peer-reviewed papers on either side of the debate, covering the spectrum from Gofman & Tamplin to Rasmussen. It can hardly be said that all of the ones who discover statistically significant risk from low level ionizing radiation are cooks, while all those whose research indicates low-level radiation is harmless are sterling researchers.

Given the range of expertise, the amount of review, and the differing opinions, might it be time to apply the "Precautionary Principle?"

Brian Mays said...

Jan - You appear to be confused. Perhaps you did not realize that the LNT model is already used by the NRC and the nuclear industry as the basis of its radiation protection regulations? If you're here to tell us that the nuclear industry should adopt the LNT as part of some "precautionary principle" thinking, then you far too late.

The problem with Mangano, Sternglass, and the RPHP is that their epidemiological "research" amounts to little more than junk science. This has been confirmed by multiple public health agencies that have investigated their claims and has nothing to do with LNT. Your only counterargument is some sort of grand conspiracy theory involving multiple state agencies and multiple layers of government. That's not a robust argument, but it does have me wondering whether you are wearing a tin-foil hat as you propose it.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for Dr. Mangano's work that has been corroborated by the findings of many other scientists and doctors around the world for decades.

I'm absolutely disgusted with the nuke industry's attempt to whitewash the impact of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima--the worst ever nuclear nightmare.
There is no excuse for this...no amount of money is worth the lives & health of so many.

Finally, I support anyone like Dr. Mangano who has questioned what was going on at North Anna nuclear power plant in VA. I myself have witnessed Lake Anna glowing in the dark from a VA state park! Yes, glowing in the dark! I also saw a dog drink from the lake and immediately begin vomiting! Hopefully, I have not sustained injury, but I had some nausea in the area. It horrifies me that they kept that State Park open to the public! I'd love to testify under oath and can pass any lie detector test.

The collusion of Virginia state officials with Dominion Power has been egregious & nothing short of criminal!!! As far as I'm concerned, they have blood on their hands.

Brian Mays said...

"I'd love to testify under oath and can pass any lie detector test."

I think that a mental competency test would be a bit more apropos.

Hallucinations are a serious matter and could be an indication of mental disease.