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.
Letter of 18 February 1999 to
Dr. Richard Jackson, director, NCEH Signed by over 22 representatives of the Native American and Downwinder groups
The introductory portion of the letter to Dr. Jackson appears below: February 18, 1999
Dear Dr. Jackson,
We are writing to express our profound dismay and objections to the manner and process by which the results of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study were released last month. The way in which the report was realized showed a contemptible lack of sensitivity to the individuals whose personal well-being and family and community health have been, and continue to be, jeopardized by past exposures to Hanford radiation. Moreover, it is already clear that the substantive basis for the report’s conclusions is dubious; that uncertainties about the accuracy of the doses assigned to study subjects should have [been] reconciled before such definitive conclusions were offered to the Congress, the press, and the public at large.
We would like to emphasize at the outset that we are not objecting to the news, per se, that an epidemiologic investigation could detect no correlation between exposures and health outcomes. Obviously, such findings are going to occur, more often than not, as scientists test environmental epidemiologic hypotheses with limited observational tools. That’s not the issue here.
Our grievance with the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study is that the conclusiveness of the study’s findings is not yet warranted by the quality of the science. Officials and scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advance knowledge of these shortcomings and limitations. It is inexplicable that they failed to publicly disclose them. Furthermore, it is inexcusable that they did not seek to explain how the conclusions drawn in the draft report are, at best, premature.