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.
The governors of Washington and Oregon made requests to study if and how these levels of radiation from the Hanford facility affected surrounding communities. In March 1986, the CDC established an independent panel of scientists, the Hanford Health Effects Review Panel (HHERP), to evaluate the Hanford documents released by DOE. The panel recommended two studies:
• Environmental Dose Reconstruction Study (HEDR),
to examine the feasibility of studying the potential health effects of
iodine-131 among exposed populations. This led to the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS) .
• Hanford Thyroid Disease Study
to estimate radiation doses received by area residents
Hanford Environmental Dose-Reconstruction Study
The U.S. Department of Justice opposed a dose-reconstruction study as useless “public relations,” but quickly changed its mind once the first suit for Hanford radiation damages was filed . The DOE proposed that Batelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories, a long-term Hanford contractor, and Hanford Historical Documents Review Committee (HHDRC) conduct a joint dose-reconstruction study . However, when the DOE refused to provide funding for the study, the effort was abandoned. This resulted in major public outcry. In response, the DOE insisted it would carry out its own dose-reconstruction study and formed the Technical Steering Panel (TSP) to direct Batelle in the HEDR study . The aim of HEDR study was to estimate radiation doses from offsite releases during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s . Preliminary results of the HEDR suggested that some infants and children were exposed to enough I-131 to destroy their thyroids .
Hanford Thyroid Disease Study
In September l988, President Reagan signed legislation authorizing the CDC to conduct a thyroid disease study to look at whether children exposed to Hanford’s offsite I-131 releases were at increased risk of developing any of 12 categories of thyroid disease [41, 42]. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle was chosen to carry out the study, with the CDC to oversee and administer its work. The HTDS began in 1989 . The study population was a sample of people born between 1940 and 1946 to mothers who lived in seven counties in eastern Washington State: Benton, Franklin, Adams, Walla Walla, Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens . Researchers iden- tified birth certificates for 5,199 people born between 1940 and 1946, of which ninety-four percent was located. Of these, 4,350 were still living and 527 were deceased, for which 502 death certificates were obtained. A total of 3,400 people of the original 5,199 were willing and able to participate fully in the study .
Participants provided information, based upon their best recollection, about where they lived during 1944-1957 and the amounts of foods and milk they consumed during that period . Each participant had a complete diagnostic evaluation for thyroid disease in a medical clinic . If the participant had a history of thyroid disease, medical records regarding that disease were sought. Each participant’s radiation dose to the thyroid was then estimated using HEDR software .
35. CDC established a second independent panel, the Hanford Historical Documents Review Committee (HHDRC), to continue analysis of DOE documents. See http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/hanford/htdsweb/guide/timeline.htm
36. Steele, K. D. 2005. Radiation study set up as defense records show. Spokesman
Review 23 February.
37. This dose reconstruction study was to be conducted in a joint effort with the HHDRC.
38. The DOE completely de-funded the HHDRC by early 1988.
39. The Native American Working Group coordinated Hanford-related tribal research and recommended research activities to the TSP. Batelle altered its conflict of interest policies in 1992 to prohibit HEDR staff from also working for legal defense in the Hanford litigation, yet Batelle’s chief records manager continued for work for both the study and for the government’s defense litigation team in the Hanford liti- gation. These clear conflicts of interest raise major concerns over the independence, credibility, and integrity of HEDR. If HEDR source code or radiation estimates were inaccurate, this could greatly impact the outcome of the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study, since it was the HEDR data used in the study to explore the link between Hanford’s I-131 releases and thyroid disease in 3,440 study participants, exposed as children within the Hanford downwind region. Some of the Batelle staff in Richland who worked on HEDR also worked for the Justice Department and for Kirkland and Ellis, the Chicago law firm hired to defend Hanford contractors against radiation injury claims.
40. “Initial Hanford Radiation Dose Estimates,” Technical Steering Panel, Hanford
Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project, 1990.
41. Hanford Thyroid Disease Study. 1999. Summary final report of the Hanford Thyroid
Disease Study, Seattle, WA: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. p. 56.
42. Public Law 100-607, directing CDC to conduct a study of thyroid morbidity among persons who lived near the Hanford Nuclear Site between 1944 and 1957.
43. The study used computer software developed under the HEDR project to estimate the radiation doses to the thyroid that HTDS participants received as children while living within the HEDR area, limited to the 246 by 306 mile area around the Hanford facility.
44. HTDS studied those exposed as children because exposure to radioactive iodine would most likely have affected children, who are more sensitive to the harmful effects of radiation than are adults.
45. There was an element of HTDS that looked at the feasibility of a similar design for the nine Native American tribes exposed to Hanford’s I-131 releases. It was determined that a study with the same design as HTDS would not be capable of detecting radiation effects that existed. See transcript of Hanford Health Effects Subcommittee Meeting,
26-29 February 1999.
46. When possible, the participant’s mother or another close family member was asked about dietary habits for the participant.
47. The evaluation included: residential and dietary history, past medical or occupational radiation exposures, and any history of thyroid disease, thyroid ultrasound evaluation, blood sample to test for thyroid function, the presence of antibody markers for autoimmune thyroiditis, and physical exam of the thyroid. Serum calcium levels were taken to check for hyperparathyroidism. See A Guide to the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study Final Report. CDC/FHCRC. 21 June 2002.
48. HTDS was conducted first as a pilot study, to test the feasibility of the methods proposed, and then as a full scale epidemiologic study. The full study fieldwork was completed in 1997.