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September 25, 1980 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-09-25

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OPINION

Page 4

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Thursday, September 25, 1980

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The Michigan Daily

Dl. ,t 4

Vol. XCI, No. 19

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, M1 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of The Daily's Editorial Board

Drinkage ups and downs

T'S NOT JUST alcohol that can
leave you reeling. The up-again,
down-again drinking age in Michigan
can make you pretty dizzy all by itself.
Since 1972, the legal drinking age has
roller-coastered from 21 to 18 to 19 to
21. It's time for voters to sober up, ap-
prove ballot proposal B in November,
and set the drinking age at 19 once and
for all.
The arguments put forward in 1978 to
raise the drinking age to 21 were
twofold: A higher drinking age would
alleviate alcohol-related discipline
problems in the high schools and would
reduce alcohol-related auto accidents
among 18-to-20-year-olds.
In fact, high school drinking may
have decreased (we have seen no hard
figures) and accidents among 18-to-20
year-olds have decreased.
But alcohol problems among college

students are more severe and the ac-
cident rate for 21-to-24-year-olds has
increased, according to the state's
Substance Abuse Advisory Com-
mission.
The figures suggest that there is no
right drinking age; instead, a jump in
problems and accidents will occur at
whatever point the legal age is set.
It may sound trite to say that 19-
year-olds who can vote and must
register for the draft (the men, that is)
should be allowed to drink, but it is
nonetheless true.
Even state drug abuse officials are
now endorsing Proposal B to lower the
drinking age, saying legal crackdowns
are not the answer to alcohol abuse
problems among young people. They
have recognized that alcohol abuse is a
problem of social attitudes, not of
drinking age.
Proposal B . We'll drink to that.

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On 'safe' levels of radiation.

Pass the Cap'n Crunch

BOY, ARE YOU lucky, residents of
Hill and North Campus dorm-
itories!
Starting next week, you can read The
Daily--or your econ textbook or your
Cliff's Notes-over breakfast.
On Monday, the University's
Housing Office will start a continental
breakfast program in Stockwell and
Bursley dormitories. Students will be
able to purchase a $10 ticket at either
dormitory desk and then use the ticket
to buy cereal, fruit, donuts, and other

items from 7:30-8:30 a.m. every week-
day.
The breakfast program was initiated
after 40 percent of the respondents to a
food service survey last year said they
would eat breakfast if it were offered.
It really is a sensible program that
will uncross some University signals.
Now students won't have to sit through
a 9 a.m. biology lecture about the im-
portance of breakfas t a fter being
deprived of breakfast in their Univer-
sity residencee halls.
Pass the Cap'n Crunch.

A Mormon judge on ERA

CONFLICT OF INTEREST is a
problem that comes up most often
among congresspersons: The son and
heir apparent of a steel magnate is
thought to be a bad choice to work on
legislation affecting the industry, and
a congressperson with a medical
degree might be regarded suspiciously
were he or she to press for a law favor-
ing the American Medical Association.
But conflict can arise in other bran-
ches of the government as well, and it
has in an Iowa court case concerning
the woebegone Equal Rights Amen-
dment. Judge Marion Callister, a
devout Mormon, presided over a suit
challenging the constitutionality of

Congress' time extension for passage
of the ERA. The National Organization
for Women, taking note of the long-
standing Mormon opposition to the
Amendment, and of Callister's high
position in the church's hierarchy,
moved to disqualify him from con-
sideration of the case.
Judging from the treatment of Sonia
Johnson, the Mormon woman who was
excommunicated for her pro-ERA ac-
tivities, NOW seems to have a point.
With the threat of banishment hanging
over his head, it is doubtful that
Callister could administer the case
fairly-even in the unlikely event he'
was convinced by the feminist side.

Until recently, one simple fact cast doubt
on all claims about the health effects of
nuclear radiation: Nobody really knew what
constituted a "safe" level of exposure.
Because the atomic age has been with us
only since World War II, and the latency
period for many forms of cancer and other
potential radiation hazards may be 30 years,
scientists could just guess-no more than
that-how muchnuclear radiation a human
being might safely absorb.
But with the passage of time, researchers
have looked to the medical records of the
nation's atomic workers to find more depen-
dable answers. Those answers are now
flooding in, and they are highly distressing.
"IT IS:=EVIDENT there can be no safe
level," concludes Dr. Karl Morgan, a world- -
renowned governmental researcher widely
regarded as the foudder of health physics. "A
so-called safe level is one in which the expec-
ted benefits will exceed the harm that may
result."
Federal radiation standards, observes Sen.
Gary Hart (D-Colo.), "are ultimately based
on an arbitrary bureaucratic decision about
how many adverse health effects-a
euphemism for deaths-we will put up.
with-the so-called 'acceptable costs."'
The first facility in the world to produce
enough plutonium for an atomic bomb, the
Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern
Washington, is a comprehensive case in point.
The home of a massive wartime effort to
produce plutonium on a large scale, Hanford
has employed a sizeable and carefully-
monitored nuclear workforce since 1944.
In 1965, the U.S. Atomic Energy Com-
mission assigned Dr. Thomas Mancuso,
professor of occupational medicine at the
University of Pittsburgh and a pioneer in in-
dustrial cancer research, to conduct an
exhaustive study on the health of Hanford's
nuclear workers.
AFTER A DOZEN years of assessing the
health records of 35,000 employees at the
sprawling atomic plant over three decades,
Mancuso's study found several types of can-
cer to be unusually prevalent. The research
concluded that cancers of the lung, pancreas,
and bone marrow had been caused by low-
level radiation. Overall, between five and six
percent of the cancer deaths among Hanford
workers were attributed, by the study, to low-
dose radiation exposure.
Implications of the findings were shat-
tering, especially since they may only
represent the tip of an iceberg. Incubation
periods for radiation-linked cancers are not
yet completed for many Hanford workers,
and meticulously kept official statistics show
that Hanford employees were exposed to
radiation levels no more than one-tenth of the
"safe" exposure limits currently allowed by
government regulations.
"For decades, the atomic energy industry
and government supporting agencies were
saying that the nuclear industry was ex-
tremely safe," Mancuso recalls. But until his
project , "no study had ever been done of all the
employees of an atomic. energy facility to
determine the cancer effects on all those who
had been exposed to radiation, and then left
the company and subsequently died."
THE UNPRECEDENTED SCOPE and
thoroughness of Mancuso's study gave som-
ber weight to its conclusions: Low levels of
ionizing radiation cause cancer; current
governmental radiation standards for in-
dustrial workers are not safe at all.

Federal
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-Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.)

By Norman Solomon
Among those most concerned about Man-
cuso's findings-and most outraged when
Mancuso's federal funding was cut off-are
members of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic
Workers (OCAW) union, which represents
more than 10,000 employees within the
nuclear industry.
"These workers are dependent on the

future viability of that industry for their jobs
and their livelihoods," says Steven Wodka,
international representative of OCAW and a
specialist in health and safety. "At the same
time, these workers are also the people who
are bearing the brunt of the callousness of this
industry, of the lack of concern by gover-
nment regulators."
For five years, OCAW has attempted un-
successfully to bring nuclear workers under
jurisdiction of the federal Occupational
Safety and Health Administration. Unlike
most industrial workers, nuclear employees
are excluded from OSHA coverage by federal
law. Instead, working conditions are
primarily regulated by the U.S. Department
of Energy, which simultaneously contracts
with corporations to operate nuclear
facilities. The Energy Department, Wodka
charges, "has never fined any of these con-
tractors one penny, even when serious
violations have been uncovered."
SUCH ALLEGATIONS WERE buttressed
by release of a U.S. Senate Nuclear Oversight
Subcommittee report on July 21, 1980, which
strongly criticized working conditions at the
nation's three government-owned uranium-
enrichment plants, operated by Union Car-
bide and Goodyear Atomic Corporation. The
report revealed the Energy Department has
inspected the uranium enrichment plants
only infrequently, and that "when inspections
have been conducted, they have not included
checking radiation levels at the plant."
While the study of Hanford workers is the
most extensive probe into radiation workers'
health to date, other less-comprehensive
research done recently points in the same
direction.
The California Department of Health this
year found incidences of a usually fatal form
of skin cancer, melanoma, to be more than
three times higher among Lawrence Liver-
more Radiation Laboratory employees than
among others living in the same community.
Similar claims, including accusations of
genetic damage from radiation exposure,
have been filed recently by former employees
at the country's other primary lab for degisn
of nuclear weapons explosives, the Los
Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico.
HEMATOLOGIST DR. THOMAS Najarian
conducted an exhaustive analysis of official
government statistics and medical records of
nuclear workers at the Portsmouth, N.H.,

Naval Shipyard. The study's unpublished
final results, reported to the federal National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
this summer, shows a two-to-threefold in-
crease of leukemia, lymphoma, bone marrow
cancer, and aplastic anemia among Por-
tsmouth nuclear workers, even though the
workers received lifetime exposure of bet-
ween one and ten rems of radiation-well
below maximum amounts allowed by federal
regulations.

'are ultimately

Presently, hundreds of thousands of U.S.
citizens are exposed to on-the-job radiation in
commercial and military-related nuclear in-
dustry employment, through such operations
as uranium mining and enrichment, nuclear
fuel fabrication, atomic warhead assembly,
nuclear power plants, military reactors, un-
derground bomb test detonations, and
radioaptive waste site. And all but a few
states contain nuclear power plants and other
atomic facilities, with millions of people
living in close proximity.
Some tightening of workplace radiation
standards could be implemented even without
interfering with total radioactive output.
While adhering to stricter radiation exposure
limits, for example, nuclear employers could
hire more workers for shorter "hot" stints,
with the greater expense passed on to tax-
payers and electric utility ratepayers.
TONY MAZZOCCHI, DIRECTOR of health-
and safety for OCAW, sees demand for more
employment for on-the-job safety as inheren-
tly compatible. "If you do what needs to be
done, you're going to promote jobs."
From a public health standpoint, however,
splitting up radiation doses at lower levels
among a wider section of the population
might actually prove to be counterproduc-
tive-since no radiation level appears to be
absolutely free of lifelong or genetic risks.
And with researchers now recognizing
strong links between carcinogenic and
genetic effects, low-level radiation's im-
plications for future generations are having a
sobering impact on nuclear workers planning
to have children, even if they are otherwise
flippant about dangers to their own health.
"That's what's got us worried, what it's going
to do in the future," confides Hanford em-
ployee Al Kastl, a vehemently pro-nuclear
worker at Hanford for two decades.
"In the future years the number of workers
who may develop cancer and other harmful
effects due to prior exposure will substan-
tially increase," said Thomas Mancuso. "We
are detecting the beginning of the cancer
problem and not the end of it."
Norman Solomon is co-authoring a
book on radiation victims. He wrote this
article for the Pacific News Service.

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