I was honored to be asked to contribute a chapter to the collected works within Tortured Science: Health Studies, Ethics and Nuclear Weapons in the United States, compiled and edited by Dianne Quigley, Amy Lowman, and Steve Wing, published 2012 by Baywood Publishing Company, Inc, Amityville, New York. I am very grateful that Baywood has allowed me to reprint the chapter in its entirety. The chapter is reprinted as a series of excerpts.
HTDS ETHICAL ISSUES
Poor Communication of Results
The NRC Subcommittee found that in media and public briefings on HTDS, the investigators failed to pay sufficient attention to the health concerns of the public, and that HTDS investigators and CDC officials should have offered more balanced, and possibly alternative, interpretations of the findings and discussed their implications for individuals [60, p. 13]. The public’s disapproval of the researchers’ conclusions and interpretations was reflected at the public briefing in Hanford on January 28, 1999, when, throughout the entire several-hour briefing, an exposed Hanford resident held up a hand-painted sign, reading “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.”
NRC Subcommittee members identified significant risk communication prob- lems with the release of the report , including the way HTDS investigators overstated the certainty of their results in the media by claiming that the study findings were “clear and unequivocal”  and that the HTDS was “a very powerful study”  with “sufficient statistical power”  and “a very high probability of detecting relationships between Hanford radiation dose and diseases under study if such relationships exist” .
The HTDS Sounds the Death Knell for Hanford Public Health Programs
In addition to disappointment and confusion, the inappropriate communication with the public concerning the HTDS draft results harmed people exposed to Hanford’s I-131 emissions in other ways. Prior to the release of the HTDS draft final report, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) determined that a medical monitoring program was merited for people exposed as children to I-131 released from Hanford between 1945 and 1951:
ATSDR has determined that about 14,000 children who lived in areas downwind of Hanford from 1945 to 1951 received high exposure to I-131 through drinking contaminated milk, and are at risk of having thyroid and parathyroid abnormalities, including thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism, as a result .
The proposed medical monitoring program would have been the first concrete assistance offered to downwinders after years of scientific studies and legal battles .
The ATSDR also proposed an I-131 subregistry for Hanford to include people exposed as children during the years of highest releases of I-131 from Hanford. Specifically, the subregistry was to include people born in Adams, Benton, or Franklin counties between 1940 and 1951, and people who lived in these counties who were 5 years of age or younger and lived there more than 30 days during
1945-51. I was very relieved that, finally, there would be data collected on people like me, who were too young to be included within the HTDS cohort, but who had developed thyroid disease or thyroid cancers and had lived within the Hanford downwind area during childhood. The subregistry would track the health of approximately 17,000 people to take a look at illnesses they may have developed. Finally, the world would begin to get a better picture of what had happened to those of us exposed as children to Hanford’s radiation releases.
However, the FHCRC’s claim that the HTDS was evidence of “no harm” from Hanford sounded the death knell for both of these programs . At the public meeting on HTDS on January 28, 1999, the CDC announced that they would recommend a change in plans for medical monitoring . We were to receive no help in the form of medical monitoring and there would be no gathering of information on our current health. This was not the fault of the ATSDR, whose officials had tried valiantly to secure funding for these programs after a multitude of planning meetings with significant expert advice and public involvement. This was a case of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. The DOE, the source of our involuntary exposures, refused to fund these programs to finally help us in spite of the recommendation to do so by the ATSDR. Hanford downwinders’ attempts to appeal to the legal system was spectacularly unsuccessful in resolving the DOE’s refusal to fund these needed programs for the very people it exposed . Based on the draft results of the HTDS and a report from the Institute of Medicine questioning the value of medical monitoring , the CDC denied Hanford’s downwinders the only concrete help they had ever been offered.
There is something both intrinsically wrong and ethically abhorrent in a system that allows the wrongdoer, in this case, DOE, successor to the Atomic Energy Commission—the power to decide whether public health programs recommended by the ATSDR for populations that the DOE itself exposed and injured, should be funded. The experience at Hanford illustrates that this structure, with the ATSDR dependent upon the DOE’s whims and politics for its funding of public health programs for exposed populations injured by DOE activities at federal facilities such as Hanford, serves only the interest of the DOE, inflicting yet more harm on already hurting populations. The ATSDR must have adequate funding to do its work, independent of any control or influence by DOE.
60. NAS-BRER. 2000. Review of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study draft final report.
Washington, DC: National Academy Press, p. 7.
76. Friedman, S. M. 2001. Risk communication, the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study and draft reports. 12 Risk: Health, Safety & Environment. 91(Spring):91-103. The initial seven members of the HTDS Advisory Committee were appointed in early 1991. The committee was disbanded 6 months before the release of the draft final HTDS, without communicating with committee members. CDC then did not renew the committee’s charter, also without explanation to the Advisory Committee.
77. See David, S., Kopecky, K., and Hamilton, T. 1999. Letter to the Editor. Findings of study “clear and unequivocal.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 14 March 1999.
78. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1999. Press release. Draft report: Results of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study 28 January 1999. Quoting Scott Davis.
79. See Congressional Briefing. 27 January 1999. Document on Hanford Thyroid Disease Study. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Summary of the Study and the Primary Findings.
80. See Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. January 1999. Questions and answers about the HTDS results. HTDS Newsletter.
81. Hanford Medical Monitoring Program. January 1998. A publication of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
82. Downwinders program gets 5 million from DOE. TriCity Herald. 23 January 1998. http://www.hanfordnews.com
83. Galloway, A. 1999. Another look at radiation report urged. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
15 December 1999.
84. Friedman, S. M. 2001. Risk communication, the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study and draft reports. 12 Risk: Health, Safety & Environment 91(Spring):101.
85. See Trisha T. Pritikin v. United States Department of Energy et al., 47 F. Supp. 2d
1225 (E.D. Wash. 1999), affirmed at 254 F.3d 791 (9th Cir. 2001), cert. denied
19 February 2002 at 534 US 1133; 122 S.Ct. 1076; 151 L.Ed.2d 977.
86. See NAS/IOM. 1999. Exposure of the American people to iodine-131 from Nevada nuclear bomb tests: Review of the National Cancer Institute report and public health implications. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.