Trump Admin Says a Little Radiation Might Be Good For You

The new book by Michael Lewis titled, The Fifth Risk, was released on Tuesday. In writing about it, I provided a quote from Alex Blasdel.

Trump’s people, Lewis makes clear, are largely inept and animated by greed, anti-government ideology and a “commitment to scientific ignorance”.

Almost as if it was timed to emphasize that “commitment to scientific ignorance,” the Trump administration made the following move on the same day.

The Trump administration is quietly moving to weaken U.S. radiation regulations, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you — like a little bit of sunlight.

The government’s current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.

That decision is reportedly based on a recommendation from Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts, who appears to base his theories on a mistaken dosage during a 1966 college experiment. The regulation is also supported by Steven Milloy, who was a Trump transition team member for EPA. Milloy is best known for popularizing the term “junk science” in his denials of the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks and human activity to global warming. Milloy is described as a “consultant” at the Heartland Institute, whose mission includes climate denialism.

Perhaps unrelated to this new regulation is the fact that billionaire Robert Mercer, who is a major funder of the Heartland Institute, is also someone who believes that radiation can be good for you.

Another onetime senior employee at Renaissance recalls hearing Mercer downplay the dangers posed by nuclear war. Mercer, speaking of the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, argued that, outside of the immediate blast zones, the radiation actually made Japanese citizens healthier.

I don’t mean to be overly alarmist, but when I read things like this, it is hard to avoid feeling like the inmates have taken over the asylum. Lewis wasn’t exaggerating when he said that Trump’s people are largely inept and committed to scientific ignorance.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.