KSBY Investigates: Radiation Study - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

KSBY Investigates: Radiation Study

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A recent study claims Diablo Canyon is creating higher rates of cancer disease on the Central Coast when compared to the rest of California. It's pitted two disease researchers, called epidemiologists, against each other. KSBY dug through the documents in an investigation of this troubling radiation study.

March, 1986: The second of two reactors hums to life at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

March, 2014: A 30-page study claims a probable link between radiation from the plant and an elevated risk of death and disease in San Luis Obispo County. "The county has switched from a low cancer county to a high cancer county," said Joseph Mangano, the New Jersey epidemiologist who wrote the study. Author of 3 books and 32 journal articles on radiation, he was commissioned by the World Business Academy, a Santa Barbara-based non-profit.

After crunching numbers from before and since Diablo went online, Mangano found that, compared to the rest of the state, SLO County has faster rising rates of thyroid and breast cancer, melanoma, infant mortality, low birth weight for babies, childhood leukemia and cancer deaths.

"Some factor or factors changed this," said Mangano. "I believe that one of these factors has been emissions from the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant."

"We do not accept the findings of this study," said Ann McDowell, epidemiologist the SLO County Health Department . In April, she refuted Mangano's claims in a 13-page rebuttal, saying he used flawed methodology by cherry-picking statistics and zip codes and leaving out the age and racial make-up of people in the study. "This study used bad science," said McDowell.

For example, California is 40% Caucasian, a racial segment known to be more susceptible to breast cancer and melanoma. SLO County is 71% caucasian, so it will naturally have higher rates of those cancers. Also: SLO County has an older population than the state median by more than four years. Older people get more cancer than younger people, not because of radiation, but because they've lived longer.

"This study is irresponsible because it uses flawed science to try to make a point," said McDowell. "When we've looked and do the correct science, the point they're trying to make disappears."

Mangano disagrees. "It's absolutely not flawed," he said. "They are either unaware of the proper statistical techniques or they are not telling the truth, one or both."

A list of medical doctors and PHDs who support Mangano's body of research appears on the World Business Academy's website, along with the think tank's goals. One is shutting down Diablo Canyon.

The list of critics starts in the nuclear industry, with Diablo's owner, PG&E. "We're not giving his reporting any consideration," said spokesman Blair Jones. "These claims are from a researcher whose research and methods have been repeatedly discredited over the years by numerous state and public health departments."

Critics in the scientific community say Mangano has an anti-nuke agenda. Last month, the science editor of Popular Mechanics referred to a previous Mangano study as junk science.

Mangano's link between Diablo Canyon and disease is based on raw data from the California Health Department's Cancer Registry. The Registry's epidemiologist for the Central Coast, John Morgan, rejected Mangano's claims saying, "The author of this study did not adjust for changes in age distribution and did not take into account other factors, so his conclusions are not supported."

Mangano fired back in late April with his own 10-page rebuttal of SLO County's rebuttal to his study. "They're wrong," said Mangano, defending his work against his critics. "And I would welcome a public discussion with them to go over these numbers for them to revoke that accusation because it is wrong."

Joseph Mangano says he is submitting his study to a medical journal but hasn't done so yet. the World Business Academy says it's requesting public hearings by the state legislature on Diablo Canyon.

Tomorrow, May 22ns, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will take questions on Diablo at a public hearing starting at 6:30pm at the Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo.

Here are links to the full documents used in this report:




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