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Oral Histories

Health Physicist William J. Bair, Ph.D.


Short Biography

Graduate Studies at University of Rochester

AEC-Funded Research at University of Rochester

Use of Human Subjects at University of Rochester

AEC Direction of University of Rochester Research

Contacts With Researchers Into Radiation Effects

No Knowledge of Uranium Injections at Rochester

Beginning a Career at Hanford

Radionuclide Inhalation Studies at Hanford

Use of Animals in Radiation Studies

Identifying Health Effects of Inhaled Radionuclides

Expanded Customer Base for Inhalation Studies

Limited Involvement With Human Studies

AEC Headquarters Monitoring of Experiments

Differing Effects on Humans of Plutonium-238 and -239

Study of Emissions From Proposed Nuclear-Propelled Aircraft and Rockets

Technical Support to Human Studies by Universities in the Northwest

Contractor Reluctance to Engage in Human Studies

Review Procedures for Research Proposals

Not Involved in Studies of Phosphorus-32 or Iodine-131 in Food

Oversight by Battelle Human Subject Committee

International Cooperation in Assessing Worker Exposure

Cancer Research

Cleanup of Nevada Test Site and the Marshall Islands

Contribution of Langham Studies to Understanding Plutonium Exposure

Comparison of Inhalation and Injection Studies of Plutonium

Herb Parker's Influence on Research Standards at Hanford

Controversy Over Interpretation of Radiation Effects Data

Reflections on Colleagues

Peer Review and Publication of Research

Preserving the Written Record

(1)element number 95

(2)the branch of pharmacology dealing with the effects, antidotes, detection, etc. of poisons

(3)a colorless, volatile liquid, CHCl3, used chiefly in medicine as a solvent and formerly as an anesthetic

(4)emitting helium nuclei during decay, possibly causing tissue damage if ingested or inhaled

(5)One common term for plutonium was "product."

(6)small amounts of radioactive materials used in place of stable forms of the same element to track biological or chemical processes

(7)Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago, Illinois

(8)Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (then UC Radiation Laboratory) on the campus of University of California at Berkeley

(9)At Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, New Mexico), Langham led the Health Division's Radiobiology group from 1947 until his death in 1972.

(10)For the transcript of the interview with Clarence Lushbaugh, see DOE/EH-0453, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Pathologist Clarence Lushbaugh, M.D. (April 1995).

(11)for the transcript of the interview with Hymer Friedell, see DOE/EH-0466, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Dr. Hymer L. Friedell, Ph.D. (scheduled to be published later in 1995).

(12)For the transcript of the interview with Karl Morgan, see DOE/EH-0475, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Health Physicist Karl Z. Morgan, Ph.D. (June 1995).

(13)For the transcript of the interview with Goldman, see DOE/EH-0468 , Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Dr. Marvin Goldman, Ph.D. (scheduled to be published later in 1995).

(14)radioactive nuclides (atomic species in which the atoms all have the same atomic number and mass number)

(15) Manhattan Engineer District

(16)an isotope of hydrogen with an atomic mass of 3, the only radioactive isotope of hydrogen

(17)a colorless, water-insoluble, crystalline, volatile solid, UF6, the chemical form in which 235U is separated from 238U

(18)a positively charged particle consisting of two protons and two neutrons, emitted in radioactive decay or nuclear fission; the nucleus of a helium atom

(19)an electron or positron emitted from an atomic nucleus in beta decay

(20)a highly penetrating photon of high frequency, usually 1019 Hz or more, emitted by an atomic nucleus

(21)airborne particles dispersed in a gas, as smoke or fog

(22)a multiaction particle of radioactive material that emits many alpha or beta particles

(23)ruthenium-106, half-life = 373 days

(24)the time required for half the atoms of a radioactive substance to decay

(25)Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,4000 years.

(26)the study of the structure of tissue

(27)the science or the study of the origin, nature, and course of diseases

(28)a biologist who studies the functions and activities of living organisms and their parts

(29)a substance that removes heavy metals from the body fluids and carries them to excretion (urine)

(30)Battelle Memorial Institute, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, operates the Pacific Northwest Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.

(31)General Electric Company

(32)[U.S.] Environmental Protection Agency

(33)Because it releases its radiation over millions of years, a human could receive only an inconsequential dose.

(34)Plutonium-244 has a half-life of 76 million years.

(35)the branch of biology dealing with microscopic organisms

(36)any of several cancers of the bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of white blood cells in the tissues, resulting in anemia, increased susceptibility to infection, and impaired blood clotting

(37)measurement of radionuclides in man using shielded detectors and multichannel energy analyzers

(38)a radioactive metallic element obtained as a fission product of uranium or from neutron-irradiated neodymium

(39)For the transcript of the interview with Eisenbud, see DOE/EH-0456, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Merril Eisenbud (May 1995).

(40)See Human Radiation Experiments: The Department of Energy Roadmap to the Story and the Records (310+ pages), DOE/EH-0445, February 1995). In that report, Figure 52 shows a nuclear reactor on its testpad at Nevada Test Site, awaiting testing for potential future use in an interplanetary spacecraft.

(41)principal investigator for the Washington State Prison, Walla, Walla, Washington, testicular irradiation of inmates study, 1963–70

(42)surgical removal of part or all of the sperm duct to sterilize men

(43)Form 189 (Research Proposal), a funding document required by the AEC

(44)National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Maryland)

(45)International Atomic Energy Agency, an organization of the United Nations

(46)inside the body

(47)white blood cells important in the production of antibodies

(48)Cooperative Research and Development Agreement

(49)a rare-earth metallic element (Tm) found in gadolinite and other uncommon minerals; Tm-170 has a half-life of 129 days.

(50)In 1967 the AEC contracted with the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation (HEHF) in Richland, Washington, for a National Plutonium Registry. In 1970, the name was changed to U.S. Transuranium Registry (USTR). USTR's function was to study postmortem tissues from exposed workers to determine the pattern of distribution, concentration, and retention of transuranic elements. The USTR currently is operated by Washington State University.

(51)For the transcript of the interview with Durbin, see DOE/EH-0458, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Dr. Patricia Wallace Durbin, Ph.D. (July 1995).

(52)See "Following Up on Human Subjects of the Plutonium Study" in the Durbin transcript (ibid).

(53)For the transcript of the interview with Gofman, see DOE/EH-0457, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Dr. John W. Gofman, M.D. (June 1995).

(54)Sternglass had done some calculations and was cited in Esquire in a article entitled "The Death of All Babies." His estimate was that 400,000 children would be hurt with genetic disease as a result of the weapons program. For a discussion of that article and AEC's response, see "The Nuclear-Armed Antiballistic Missile Controversy" in the Gofman transcript (ibid.).

(55)Tamplin worked with Gofman in the Biomedical Department of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, where he gathered international literature on the effects of nuclear fallout on animals and humans. He wrote a response to Sternglass's findings, arguing that Sternglass's projections were a thousandfold high. Tamplin's close work with Gofman and involvement with the human radiation research community are discussed throughout the Gofman transcript (ibid.).

(56)In the mid-1960s, a contract was awarded to Dr. Thomas Mancuso and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh for studies at Hanford, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Y-12 Plant and K-25 gaseous diffusion plant at Oak Ridge, to analyze radiation exposures and health outcomes in the nuclear weapons workforce. However, when preliminary (and controversial) reports from the Mancuso team suggested that the occupational risk of cancer was significantly higher than then-current beliefs, the Mancuso contract was abruptly canceled. Epidemiologic research was transferred and confined to the agency's own Laboratories (thus raising the real possibility of conflict of interest) and divided among them, rather than conducted as an integrated effort. Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Research, Epidemiologic Task Force, DOE Epidemiologic Research Program, Selected Bibliography (DOE/ER-0437), January 1990.

(57)In 1956 and 1958, Alice Stewart had written articles claiming that a dose as small as half a rad to a rad received by children in utero would raise by more than 50 percent the risk of cancer in the first 10 years of life. She and John Gofman later became professional friends. For a discussion of their friendship, see "The Low-Dosage Harm Controversy" in the Gofman transcript (DOE/EH-0457), June 1995.

(58)Office of Health and Environmental Research of DOE

(59)Totter headed the AEC's Division of Biology and Medicine in 1969, when the Sternglass findings were published in Esquire. See "The Nuclear-Armed Antiballistic Missile Controversy" and "Testifying Before Congress on Radiation Effects" in the Gofman transcript.

(60)General Electric became the prime contractor in charge of running Hanford for the AEC in 1946; Bair began work at Hanford in 1956.

(61)a colloquial term commonly used to refer to the Hanford Site