Health Physics Society presents “The History of the Linear No-Threshold Model”

April 15, 2022, 7:25AMANS Nuclear Cafe


The Health Physics Society has created a 22-episode video series titled “The History of the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Model.” The videos feature discussions with Edward J. Calabrese, a renowned toxicologist and a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The video series begins with an introduction to Calabrese and his contributions to toxicology and radiation risk assessment. Episode 2 covers the origin of the LNT model as a way of explaining the mechanism of biological evolution. Episodes 3 through 5 explore the work of Hermann Muller, raising doubts about his claims regarding gene mutations and his linear dose response concept.

Challenge to LNT: Episodes 6 through 8 examine Muller’s influence on the Manhattan Project’s research, as well as the challenge that Ernst Caspari’s dose-rate research posed to the acceptance of the LNT model. Episode 9 explains how flawed studies by Curt Stern and Delta Uphoff served as the basis for the U.S. adoption of the LNT model.

Scientific misconduct: Episodes 10 through 18 trace the rise of “LNT activism” and the work of the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) Committee, which Calabrese maintains was guilty of scientific misconduct. The videos disclose/reveal Muller’s powerful influence in suppressing data from atomic bomb survivors that contradicted his assertions about genetic effects. The videos also examine the influence of Edward Lewis’s problematic research in cancer risk assessment on the “precautionary principle” and U.S. policy.

Making sense: Episodes 19 through 22 cover the BEAR Committee’s evolution into the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) Committee and the influential research of William Russell. Calabrese notes that despite acknowledged errors in Russell’s data supporting the LNT model, the Environmental Protection Agency continues to base its cancer risk assessments on this model.

Calabrese concludes by saying, “How we can make sense of these historical events that many in our field may never have known or previously heard about, as we were taught a different history at our academic institutions.”

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