A-BOMB FALLOUT

RADIATION KILLS, BUT NOT AS EFFECTIVELY AS WE THOUGHT

One of the grim lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a medical one: radiation kills on a sliding scale. High doses kill quickly and horribly, burning off skin and destroying intestines and other internal organs. Low doses kill more slowly, triggering leukemia and other cancers. From this knowledge, scientists deduced the rough formula that underlies virtually all nuclear safeguards written since 1945: even the smallest exposure to nuclear radiation is harmful, and as the exposure increases, so do cancers and deaths.

But is that right? As scientists gathered in Washington last week to honor 50 years of research on the medical...

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