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Responding to Harvey Wasserman

Harvey WassermanHarvey Wasserman's HuffPo post, Cracking the Corporate Media's Iron Curtain Around Death at Three Mile Island, shows that he knows no bounds in his determination to scare and mislead the public. It is grossly irresponsible for him to claim that the accident at TMI killed people without offering a shred of evidence to support the claim. And by implying there has been a cover up, he also has severely insulted the good people of Pennsylvania.

Wasserman claims that the "Soviet-style Iron Curtain" formed between corporate media and the "alternatives" is hiding deaths caused by the accident. This not only denigrates media outlets that won't embrace his unfounded allegations, it maligns Pennsylvanians.

Would the people of the Middletown Press & Journal, the Harrisburg Patriot-News and numerous other local and regional newspapers, radio and TV organizations hide the truth from their friends and neighbors? Would local doctors, the Harrisburg Hospital, Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Holy Spirit Hospital and many other local and regional hospitals, medical facilities, and medical professionals hide the truth from their patients and communities? Would the mayor of Middletown, local leaders, elected officials, and the Governors of Pennsylvania, including current Governor Edward Rendell, hide the truth from the people they swore to protect? Would the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Columbia University, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and the American Public Health Association all conspire to hide the truth from the many thousands of Pennsylvanians whose health they studied? Have the people who live around TMI who say no harm was done agreed to lie? Does any serious person, no matter what his or her view of nuclear energy, believe corporate media has the power to corrupt them all as Wasserman implies?

It has been 30 years since the accident. After all this time, with every opportunity to do studies and to gather data regarding the health of the people living around TMI, Wasserman, Wing, Gunderson, Sternglass, Gould, Epstein and others have failed to make their case and convince the public. Their "tidal wave of proof" has been stopped by one thing - the truth. Science, and the reality on the ground in Pennsylvania, have proven their claims are hollow.


Man Overboard said…
Oustanding post! When you put it into those terms, listing all of the alleged "conspirators" you show just how idiotic the claims made by these people are. Well done sir.
perdajz said…
The only explanation I have for Wasserman's post on Huffington is that it was dated April 1st.
gunter said…

Can anyone on this post point me to a peer reviewed published rebuttal of the findings of the statistical significant increase in lung cancer and leukemia incidence attributed to the TMI accident by Dr. Steven Wing and team, Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as published in 1997 by the National Institute of Health's (NIH) prestigous Environmental Health Perspectives?

It is disingenous of this distinguished gathering of nuke heads to say "nobody died or was injured by the TMI accident" as people are admittedly died and are still dying of radiogenic lung cancer and leukemia.
Jason Ribeiro said…
Conspiracy theorists often accuse the government as being completely inept and incompetent while at the same time being capable of engineering diabolic conspiracies and cover ups. Since when has systemic ineptitude coexisted with masterfully planned conspiracies coming from the same group of people?

The government goes to great lengths to keep what it wants to be kept secret, yet despite those efforts it only takes a few simple leaks to blow the cover. We've seen this over and over again. Yet despite all the government's apparent fallibility, somehow Wasserman believes they are capable of pulling off the most artful and wide ranging conspiracy projects without a hitch.
Sovietologist said…
For the most recent science on this, see the Talbott et al. study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2003. (EHP 111: 341-348) See also Hatch et al., Am. J. Pub. Health 81:719-24 (1991), and Talbott et al., Environmental Health Perspectives 108:545-62 (2000). Wing's study was very controversial back in 1997 and is not taken very seriously by either health physicists or epidemiologists these days.
D Kosloff said…
Dr. Wing included anecdotal reports of a "metallic taste" as evidence of high radiation near TMI. By so doing, he rebutted himself.
D Kosloff said…
The report below was not hard to find:
"No Apparent Increase in Cancer Deaths Among Three Mile Island Residents"

"The findings were published Friday, April 28 [2000], on the Web site of Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The paper will also appear in the June issue of the journal."

A follow-up study was posted by the same journal in November 2002.
Brian Mays said…
Dr. Gunter,

Can you point me to a single peer-reviewed study that substantiates Dr. Wing's conclusions?

Wing and his coauthors simply did a (poor) reanalysis of the innovative work from a group at Columbia University.

As Dr. Hatch (the principal investigator of the Columbia study) and her colleagues wrote about Wing's study:

What leads two groups of epidemiologists to attach different meaning or give different emphasis to essentially the same data is a puzzle that is likely to remain with us for as long as subjectivity plays a role in epidemiology (6). The best we can do is to state clearly and completely the assumptions we begin with and the reasons for the conclusions we reach. After that, it is up to the reader. Indeed, we urge readers of the critique by Wing et al. (1) and our response to refer to our original publications before reaching a judgment.

Mr. Gunter, it is disingenuous of you to flaunt this piece of junk science, which the Columbia researchers found to be a "lengthy piece" that was "tendentious and unbalanced" and misrepresentative of their work.

But junk science and misrepresentations are your bread and butter, aren't they?
Anonymous said…
It's much more plausible that Wing et al did a flawed statistical analysis to support a conclusion they were seeking to find, than it is to believe that there was any real impact, given that there is no plausible mechanism for that impact.

In order for the claimed health effects to actually occur, a massive radiation exposure (and therefore, a massive release) would have been required. Wasserman, et al claim that such a release did occur, but this claim is easily disproven.

Their scenario of a massive release that did its damage but then quickly disappeared without a trace is completely impossible. If such a release occurred, there would still be significant (radioisotope) traces in soil and vegetation, even today. It's also been pointed out that such a release would have blackened all the film (in cameras, etc..) for many miles around (which didn't happen).

Extensive monitoring was done, during and after the accident, and we know with certainty that nobody got more than a small fraction of natural annual background exposure from the event, and we also know that no significant risk of disease is caused by such levels of exposure.

Jim Hopf
Dr Gene Nelson said…
Because Harvey Wasserman continues his propagandizing against nuclear power, I'd like to point NEI Nuclear Notes readers to this important 1997 publication. Please take the time to obtain a copy of this 19-page, heavily footnoted article. One problem is that the foes of nuclear power utilize vivid word imagery that is not fact-based. This was a problem at Three Mile Island (TMI) in 1979. It required until 1996 for federal district court judge Sylvia Rambo to make a clear determination that there was no evidence-based science to back up the outlandish claims of "nuclear particles" that allegedly escaped from the damaged TMI Unit 2 reactor. See the Summer, 1997 article, "Junk Science Meltdown", 19 Thomas Jefferson Law Review 305 by J.D. candidate Mark M. Lewis. (Mr. Lewis previously earned a master's degree in Radiological Health Physics, making him uniquely qualified to examine the scientific merits of this case.)

"LEXISNEXIS SUMMARY: ... In June 1996, U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo, of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, handed down a dramatic decision granting summary judgment in favor of defendant owners and operators of the Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit 2 reactor. ... This portion of the court's Daubert/Paoli II and summary judgment rulings provide some of the most interesting insights into the interwoven fabric of plaintiffs' case. ... In the court's summary judgment opinion of June 1996, Judge Rambo summarized the foundational problem, observing: ... D. Summary Judgment For Defendants: After so effectively challenging plaintiffs' expert testimony, defendants moved for summary judgment. ... To avoid summary judgment, plaintiffs therefore had to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to factor four alone. ... Accordingly, despite being admissible and scientifically reliable for Daubert purposes, the evidence is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment . ... In addressing the merits of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, however, this case is like all others that come before the court in that the well - articulated standards governing the award of summary judgment guide the court's evaluation of the evidence before it. .."

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