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Study: U.S. mortality rates suggest background radiation actually beneficial

The uncertainty of science: According to a new study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel of mortality rates across the entire United States, people that live in regions of higher background radiation have lifespans on average 2.5 years longer.

Background radiation is an ionizing radiation that exists in the environment because of natural sources. In their study, BGU researchers show that life expectancy is approximately 2.5 years longer among people living in areas with a relatively high vs. low background radiation. Background radiation includes radiation emanating from space, and radiation from terrestrial sources. Since the 1960s, there has been a linear no-threshold hypothesis guiding policy that any radiation level carries some risk. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent around the world to reduce radiation levels as much as possible.

…According to BGU Professors Vadim Fraifeld and Marina Wolfson, along with Dr. Elroei David of the Nuclear Research Center Negev, lower levels of several types of cancers were found when the radiation levels were on the higher end of the spectrum rather than on the lower end. Among both men and women, there was a significant decrease in lung, pancreatic, colon and rectal cancers. Among men, there were additional decreases in brain and bladder cancers. There was no decrease in cervix, breast or prostate cancers or leukemia.

Their data “covered the entire US population of the 3139 US counties, encompassing over 320 million people,” according to their paper’s abstract.

Up until now the assumption has been that any radiation is bad, based not on research but on assumptions gained by the negative consequence of exposure to high radiation. There has been no good data on the consequences of low level background radiation, because it is so hard to gather. The time frames are long and the numbers small, all of which causes the impact of background radiation to be overwhelmed by other factors. This study’s statistical use of the entire U.S. population is an attempt to overcome these obstacles.

This study is statistical, which means it found a correlation between higher radiation and longer lifespans. Correlation however does not prove causation. The study found no direct evidence that humans health benefits from background radiation. We should therefore take these results with a large grain of salt.

At the same time, their extremely large database is quite telling, and adds some weight to their conclusion.


Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Brendan

    This was something that we had often discussed in my graduate level risk assessment classes. The linear model of risk which public health people, (the same folks who have locked us down for so long) seemed to love broke down again and again, and studies showed that worldwide low levels of radiation was protective and seemed beneficial.

    That such a large study replicates what was known over 25 years ago is great news (especially for space travel).

    Expect the public health people to ignore it, and especially expect EPA to ignore it. NRC might adapt it. They have always had much better people there.

  • Jerry Greenwood

    The soldiers exposed directly to atomic bomb detonations in the 40s-60 have a slightly lower cancer rate than the general population and a 70+ rear ongoing study of the offspring of Japanese directly exposed to extremely high doses of radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has shown no difference in birth defects, ( six the generations) compared to the rest of the national population.

  • Col Beausabre

    Thus makes sense, we evolved to suit our environment and that includes a certain amount of radiation. Not that I would go for a swim in a reactor’s cooling pool…..

  • Mike Borgelt

    Look up Taiwan apartment building radiation exposure.
    Apparently a Cobalt 60 source got mixed in to a batch of reo used to construct the building. Found out when a kid brought home a radiation counter from school. There was some good data there and the results were very surprising.

  • Jeff Wright

    To Col Beausabre: there was an XKCD comic that showed that a couple feet down in said pool-you get less radiation than walking around. You have to be close to the pile itself-get a stray piece, etc. for it to begin to hurt you. Brownian Motion is needed for life.Radiation helps that along.
    It is oxygen that kills us in the end-though we need it to breathe. Put mercury next to an atomic pile-and it turns into gold…too ‘hot’ tho’

  • Max

    Life evolved eating radiation from the sun for its energy, get a few minutes of sunlight every day to keep the virus away. Best source of natural vitamin D, it’s free… But not good for you with certain medications or thermosal, the mercury in immunization shots…

    Jerry Greenwood said;
    “a 70+ rear ongoing study of the offspring of Japanese directly exposed to extremely high doses of radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has shown no difference in birth defects”

    What if they were exposed to over 100 above ground nuclear bomb tests?
    I grew up west of Saint George Utah, directly in the path of the nuclear fall out. Although I was born after the last above ground test, many of my friends growing up got leukemia (like my grandfather at 64) or cancer or consumption and died.
    Some farmers died in their 50s or 60s but their widows would live to their 90s. All the old people I knew growing up were widows. (Men would work outside while the women would stay in out of the heat)
    Farms were devastated by the die off of the livestock, many people moved away. Then the rebound occurred, The desert came alive. My friends and I would bring 22 rifles and shotguns to school because the bus driver would pay us a bounty on every rabbit we killed walking through his fields on the way to our homes. (It barely paid for more bullets) then the coyote problem, lots of rabbits means lots of coyotes/cougars chasing sheep and chickens.
    Although the fallout which pegged the Geiger counters killed John Wayne and 40 of his cast members (check the link I posted above) lots of Hollywood movies continue to be made near my home. I was a child extra in “The Car” and roller skated with Jane Fonda when I was 16. (Electric Horseman)
    40 years ago I was offered my grandmothers house and 5 acres for $10,000. Now the desert, I raced my dirtbike in, is selling a building lot for 250,000 each.

    Who would’ve thunk it that the most irradiated part of the country is now the most desirable. (Utah’s housing market is number one in the nation again, Saint George has most of the millionaires)
    From the link;
    “It is estimated that nearly 150 million curies of radioactive material was released through the atmospheric tests conducted from 1951 to 1962. This amount of radiation equates to about twenty times the amount of radiation released during the Chernobyl nuclear accident.”

    Washington County, (southern Utah) is considered one of the healthier places in the country to be. A favorite relocation of retirees for their health. Home of the Senior Olympics. Saturated with nuclear by products…

    The freedom of information act allowed researchers to find out that they did 400 more underground test then the public statements.
    In the mid-70s, one of those tests got away from them… I remember watching an outdoor projector movie, just after sunset, when Utah Hill on the Nevada border lit up like the sun was coming back up. Everyone stopped and stared asking if it was a forest fire or is it military flares from Nellis Air Force Base? (The hot shots, in their jets, would fly low over our town and mountains training for Vietnam and break the sound barrier on their way back to Nevada)
    As the ball of light got bigger it began to get dimer until the entire western sky was a dull red with glitter. The Nevada test site is about 80 miles away next to area 51, but we all knew what we would need to do… wash everything down with a garden hose in the morning with masks on. The next day the wind kicked up so fiercely the dust blocked out the sun, almost like night. Very scary, I remember being upset because we weren’t going to the county fair after all.

    Col Beausabre said;
    “Not that I would go for a swim in a reactor’s cooling pool…..”
    You will really like this!

    The Nuclear Hoax – Galen Windsor
    “He Eats Uranium, Ignites Plutonium In His Hand, Drank and Swam In Reactor Water!”
    Information about nuclear materials that you’ve never heard before. Why the most valuable element on earth suddenly became “toxic nuclear waste”.

    Here’s a transcript if you prefer to read it.

    He even exposed the three Mile Island scam in his investigation.

    I wonder if 5G radiation is harmful? Just to the militaries radar… Raytheon will find out… In my backyard again.

    At least all the chemicals and nerve gas stored at Dugway proving grounds has been disposed of… So the only thing left to worry about is the military’s biological repository. (remember a request from a university for anthrax? And somebody there sent them live samples?)
    The state passed a law preventing the military from building a “level five” facility in Utah (Wuhan was a level four) so Doug Way built a level 4.99 facility! No wonder Stephen king used it in his book “The Stand”.

  • Brendan wrote: “The linear model of risk . . .”

    And that’s the problem. One of the Human tendencies that defies my belief, is the nearly irrational desire to use linear progressions to model real-world situations. For rough cuts, the natural log curve is much better suited. It is nearly a certainty that when a scare headline appears, it is off of some linear progression. There is much more to the world than that.

  • deadrody

    Huh. Might turn out that making a career out of working in nuclear power will have unexpected health benefits!!!

  • Edward

    Max asked: “What if they were exposed to over 100 above ground nuclear bomb tests?

    How did a discussion about higher background exposure become a discussion about massive radiation exposure?

    I am not surprised by the article’s announcement, because as Brendan pointed out, there has been evidence that the assumption was wrong that there is a straight line relationship from zero to high dose for how biology reacts to radiation, the paper calls it the linear no-threshold paradigm. This assumption has been the official government position on radiation and has driven policy for half a century or so.

    For a few decades it has been hypothesized from observation that a zero background exposure is less healthy than a slight background exposure. This paper suggests that the background exposure can be higher than had been thought by many. The thinking is that cells can correct a certain amount of damage due to radiation, but that too much radiation overwhelms this ability.

    It is rather interesting that we are so frightened of radiation that we have been unwilling to perform experiments or otherwise study the relationship between background and health.

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