Toro Energy promotes dangerous radiation junk science

Chain Reaction #115, August 2012, www.archive.foe.org.au/chain-reaction/editions/115

In May, 45 medical doctors working in Australia released a statement calling on Toro Energy to stop promoting the dangerous and scientifically-indefensible claim that low-level radiation is beneficial to human health. Not a single doctor or radiation expert spoke up in defence of Toro.

In a ninemsn.com.au interview, Toro claimed that "we've actually supported different views, scientific views, about the health effects of radiation" and that Doug Boreham (a radiation junk scientist) "is not the only scientist that we support or have supported in the past in terms of sponsorship to conferences". However there is no evidence for those claims and Toro has ignored repeated requests to supply evidence to support them.

Here is the text of the medical statement:

Toro Energy is an Australian company involved in uranium exploration in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia and in Namibia, Africa. The company's most advanced project is the proposed Wiluna uranium mine in the WA Goldfields.

Toro Energy has consistently promoted the fringe scientific view that exposure to low-level radiation is harmless. Toro Energy has sponsored at least three speaking visits to Australia by Canadian scientist Dr Doug Boreham, who argues that low-level radiation is actually beneficial to human health.

Those views are at odds with mainstream scientific evidence and expert assessment. For example:

  • A 2010 report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation states that "the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates."
  • The 2006 report of the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) of the US National Academy of Sciences states that "the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and ... the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans." The report also concludes that claims that low-level radiation exposure may be beneficial to human health are "unwarrranted".
  • A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US) in 2003 concluded that: "Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology."

It is irresponsible for Toro Energy to consistently promote fringe scientific views and to ignore mainstream scientific evidence and expert assessment.

Even more alarming is that Toro Energy has sponsored "employee radiation training" by Dr Boreham. Recent scientific research has heightened concern about exposure to radon, the main source of radiation doses to uranium industry workers. In 2009, the International Commission on Radiological Protection concluded that radon gas delivers almost twice the radiation dose to humans as originally thought and the Commission is in the process of reassessing permissible levels. Previous dose estimates to miners need to be approximately doubled to accurately reflect the lung cancer hazard.

We call on Toro Energy to stop promoting fringe scientific views to uranium industry workers and to the public at large.

More information and the list of signatories: www.mapw.org.au