Radiation and Public Health Project is a nonprofit educational and scientific organization founded in 1985 by Jay M. Gould, a statistician and epidemiologist, and Ernest Sternglass. The "shoestring organization" with "offices mainly on [Joseph J. Mangano's] kitchen table" was established to examine the relationships between low-level nuclear radiation and public health and question the safety of nuclear power.
As of November 2010, Radiation and Public Health Project members have published 27 medical journal articles on health risks from radioactive exposures to nuclear reactors and weapons tests. RPHP studies have claimed elevated rates of childhood, thyroid, and other cancers near reactors.
According to a 2003 article in The New York Times, the group's work has been controversial, and had little credibility with the scientific establishment. Similarly the work of the Radiation and Public Health Project has been criticized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: "Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies do not support the RPHP's claims. NRC finds there is little or no credibility in the RHP's studies". In an April 2014 article in Popular Science, Sarah Epstein referred to the group's work as "junk science" and disputed the group's peer-reviewed publications as being insufficiently evaluated.
A set of 85,000 teeth that had been collected by Dr. Louise Reiss and her colleagues as part of the Baby Tooth Survey were uncovered in 2001 and given to the Radiation and Public health Project. By tracking the individuals who had participated in the tooth-collection project, the RHPR published results in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Health Service that claimed that those children who later died of cancer before the age of 50 had levels of strontium 90 in their stored baby teeth that was twice the level of those who were still alive at 50. This paper was criticized by Stephen Musolino, a health physicist and specialist in radiation protection at Brookhaven National Laboratory, as it "confuses correlation with causation" and in their opinion the authors of the paper are "ice-cream epidemiologists".
The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear industry groups responded with statements that the study was flawed. The groups stated that the study suffered from small sample sizes; no control populations; no other cancer risk factors considered; no environmental sampling and analysis; cherry picking of data to fit the conclusion; and an incorrect half-life used for strontium-90. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not changed its opinion that there is no excess cancer risk from living near nuclear facilities.
This study was published in a 2008 issue of the European Journal of Cancer Care. It disputes a large scale analysis conducted by the National Cancer Institute in the late 1980s. Mangano and Sherman's study found that leukemia death rates in U.S. children near nuclear reactors rose sharply (vs. the national trend) in the past two decades. The greatest mortality increases occurred near the oldest nuclear plants, while declines were observed near plants that closed permanently in the 1980s and 1990s.
After the Fukushima disaster, Mangano and Sherman published several articles claiming detrimental health effects in America caused by fallout from Japan:
In a June 2011 article in CounterPunch, they claimed a 35% increase in infant mortality on the West coast of the United States in the 10 weeks after the disaster, vs the 4 weeks prior. Michael Moyer of Scientific American stated that their claims are "critically flawed--if not deliberate mistruths", pointing out that this increase only appears when choosing these specific time periods, and there is no trend in the overall numbers for the year.
In January 2012, they claimed that fallout from Fukushima resulted in 13,983 excess deaths in the United States in the 14 weeks following the disaster. This study was criticized for including different numbers of cities in the "before" and "after" categories, for cities with more fallout being reported as having fewer deaths, and for there being no plausible mechanism by which very small amounts of radiation could result in immediate death.
In a March 2013 article, published in the Open Journal of Pedriatrics, they claimed a 16% increase in cases of congenital hypothyroidism (CH) in 5 US states in the 10 months following the disaster. This study was criticized for again creating a "trend" out of random statistical variation and using incorrect definitions of CH based only on TSH scores. The publisher of the journal the paper appeared in, Scientific Research Publishing, has been accused of being a predatory open access publisher.
On the contrary, the mortality from cancer has tended to be lower in the LAAs in the vicinity of nuclear installations than in control LAAs selected for their presumed comparability with the former.
In the combined data for all facilities, the RR of mortality from childhood leukaemia after plant start-up was 1.03, while before start-up it was larger, 1.08. For leukemia mortality at all ages, the RRs were 0.98 after start-up and 1.02 before.
While it certainly is true that there were fewer deaths in the four weeks leading up to Fukushima (in green) than there have been in the 10 weeks following (in red), the entire year has seen no overall trend. ... Only by explicitly excluding data from January and February were Sherman and Mangano able to froth up their specious statistical scaremongering.
The reason for the observed increase is that the data before and after Fukushima differ. ... A trend analysis of weekly infant deaths using official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data ... yields no significant increase of infant deaths
This suggests that cities with larger fallout exposures were better off and runs completely contradictory to the suggested conclusion of this paper.
There is no known mechanism by which exposure to the extremely low doses of ionizing radiations received by Americans from Fukushima and Chernobyl can cause immediate deaths. ... At Fukushima, there have been no radiation-related deaths in emergency or recovery personnel exposed to doses thousands of times higher.
The analysis assumes that the plume arrived on U.S. shores, spread everywhere, instantly, and started killing people immediately. It assumes that the "excess" deaths after March 20 are a real signal, not just a statistical aberration, and that every one of them is due to Fukushima radiation.
the study by Mangano, Sherman and Busby has critical flaws: ... claiming that the CH increase in 2011 was statistically significant, whereas the plotting of the number of actual clinically confirmed cases from 2009 to 2012 clearly shows no significant increase.
What the paper doesn't tell is that 2011 was a pretty normal year, statistically speaking. In fact, 2010 was unusual because it had so few births with thyroid problems, and 2011 was much like the years before Fukushima.