San Luis Obispo County

Skepticism Greets Study Claiming Radiation Threat from Diablo Canyon

SLO County Public Health issues written response to radiation study.

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara-based World Business Academy commissioned the study by the non-profit group Radiation and Public Health Project.

Central Coast News spoke with study's author Joe Mangano via Skype recently from his home in New Jersey.

Mangano says his group looked at public health impacts and radiation exposure levels from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant dating back to when the plant began operating.

"Radiation is in fact getting into people's bodies", Mangano maintains, "its getting in at higher amounts and we're seeing cancer rates go up."

Mangano says he relied on official government data and documents from agencies like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Centers for Disease Control that can be found online for his research which he says reveals elevated rates of infant mortality and melanoma in communities downwind from the power plant.

"What we found is compared to the late 80's when the plant had just begun operating to now,"  Mangano says, "there was a significant increase in the ZIP codes, the 9 ZIP codes closest to and downwind and southeast of the plant, the rate went up I think by 48 percent."

Mangano claims there's also been an alarming increase in radiation exposure from more than 100 chemicals emitted from the plant's reactors including Strontium 90.

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department has released a detailed written response to Mangano's study citing as its premise that it is fundamentally flawed.

In an interview with a local newspaper, a SLO County staff epidemiologist was quoted as saying Mangano and his research colleagues selectively chose data for the study that would give them a desired result.

Here's a statement from PG&E spokesperson Blair Jones about the recent Mangano radiation study:

"Given Mr. Mangano's history of discredited reports due to poor science, and that this newer report draws on the previously discredited work, PG&E is not giving this report any consideration.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant is a safe and vital energy resource for PG&E's customers and the state of California. The facility produces clean, carbon-free energy for more than three million people and is playing a key role in helping the state achieve its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Our top priority is the safety and security of the men and women who work at Diablo Canyon and the safety and security of our neighboring communities.

Recent assessments performed by the U.S. nuclear industry's federal regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), demonstrate Diablo Canyon is being operated safely and in a manner that protects the health and safety of the public. The NRC has found our operations continue to meet all safety and security performance objectives."

Mangano stands by his research methods and the findings in the study and says it proves the need for closer public health scrutiny of all nuclear power plants.

"Health studies of this nature should be done, not just every 30 years, but periodically, ever couple of years and be done in much greater depth," Mangano says.

Mangano says Radiation and Public Health Project is a collaboration of scientists and health professionals that has published dozens of articles in peer-reviewed health journals.

He says RPHP studies links between radiation emissions and health hazards near nuclear power plants because, he says, no one else is doing it.


Here is the official press release from the SLO County Public Health Department regarding the Mangano-RPHP study and a link to its official written response that was released to Central Coast News at 5:23 pm PST:

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department has released a report today refuting the claims made in a recent report entitled "Report on Health Status of Residents in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties Living near the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactors Located in Avila Beach, California".

The Public Health report contests the claims that living near Diablo
Canyon Nuclear Power Plant increases the likelihood of low birth weight babies, childhood leukemia, and adult cancers.

"As the Health Officer for San Luis Obispo County, I take the health of our residents very seriously, and when a claim was made that excess cancer and infant mortality was occurring in our County, I made it an immediate priority to investigate further. However, upon examination of the report issued by the World Business Academy (WBA) of Santa Barbara, it became evident
that flawed methodology and selective exclusion of populations of interest were used to achieve a result not consistent with standard scientific investigation and practice" states Dr. Penny Borenstein, Health Officer of San Luis Obispo County.

The Health Department report shows that selective inclusion and exclusion of zip codes in the analysis contributed to the alleged effects on birth weights claimed in the World Business Academy report. When the analysis was re-run to include excluded zip codes, the effect lessened or disappeared entirely.
As cancer is reported to the State of California, and not the local Health Department, the help of the State Cancer Registry was requested for review of the report findings.

The State Cancer Registry examined the report, and found that the use of crude rates in analyzing cancer cases in the County distorted the true change in rates over time. In fact, age adjusted cancer rates have remained unchanged or declined.

Health Status reports covering the topics discussed in the WBA report are released on an annual basis by both the State of California and San Luis Obispo County, and are available on the State and County website for review.

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department report refuting the WBA study is available on their website,, or available by written or phone request.

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