5 March 1958
Dr. W. F. Libby
Atomic Energy Commission
Washington 25 D.C.
I am writing a book on nuclear weapons and war; I hope to turn the manuscript over
to the publisher before the end of the month. I have been stimulated to publish
the book by the refusal of LIFE Magazine to publish an article by me in which the
erroneous statements and misleading statements in the article by Drs. Teller and Latter
would be discussed.
I hope that my book will not be open to any serious criticism, and I am striving to
have the information given in it as reliable as possible.
I have difficulties of various sorts, and I am writing to you to ask if you would
help me with one of them.
In the 23rd Semi-Annual Report of the Atomic Energy Commission, page 233, there is
a table in which there are given "Preliminary estimates of radiation exposures in
localities, estimated doses." Under the column "Cumulative for All Tests" which
is described on page 281 as "Estimated Total Exposures Accumulated in the Localities
Cited for All Nuclear Tests Held at the Neva Test Site, Including the Plumbbob Series,"
there is given the value 4.28 roentgens for Hurricane, Utah, population 1,375.
However, in the 14th Semi-Annual Report of the Atomic Energy Commission, it was stated
that the 1500 Inhabitants of Hurricane, Utah, had received a 13-week dose of 5.0 roentgens,
and it was also said that these amounts should be increased somewhat (about 50 percent)
to take account of the deposited radioactivity that had not yet become effective.
Could you tell me the explanation of the apparent discrepancy?
Also, I should like to ask if you have information about the average annual incidence
of leukemia and bone cancer in Denver, New Orleans, and San Francisco for years other
than 1947? I should think that the National Institutes of Health; Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare, could have given you such figures as easily as the
figures for 1947 and that they might well have done so. I should like to know how
much variation there is from year to year. I would expect that the fluctuations from
each of the six numbers that you quoted would be of the order of 1 or 2 cases per
year per 100,000 population.
I have not made any very strong statements about you in my manuscript. One statement
that I make is critical of your introduction of the Denver argument. In your New
Hampshire lecture you said that the number of cases "is small so our data may not
be too significant. However, these figures do point to a definite tangible evidence
of a margin of safety." Also in your American Physical Society lecture you say "...
We cannot say that this proves anything. It does, however, give us some assurance from normal experience that the
effect of 8 S. U. will not cause a detectable increase in bone cancer or leukemia."
I criticized these statements as misleading, because they suggest that the statistics
have some validity about the question of somatic effects of small amounts of radiation,
whereas in fact they have no validity. They do not provide any evidence whatever
as to whether or not leukemia is caused by small amounts, of radiation in the amount
estimated by Professor Lewis, or whether bone cancer is caused by small amounts of
radiation in a similar amount. Teller and Latter, of course, presented your argument
and made a false statement about what it proves.
With best regards, I am