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Low-Level Radiation and CFIDS/ME: Early Clues© 2013

From Spring 2013 Forum

By Alan Cocchetto, Medical Director

While perusing the web, I ran across early written work that suggested that a link existed beween low-level radiation exposure and the development of CFIDS/ME [1]. Well, over a year ago I had contacted the author to alert him to the radiation research that the National CFIDS Foundation was pursuing, including the studies that had been planned or were underway [2]. In an excerpt from his book, author Joseph Mangano provides a description of his own case of CFIDS/ME:

"In the mid-1980s, I lacked any prior convictions about low-level radiation and its potential health effects. Then I was stuck by chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating long-term condition that undid my life by taking my ability to hold a job, earn an income, maintain a household, and conduct a social life. Knowing that immune system dysfunction was central to the disease, I became fascinated with potential causes of the condition. I also noticed that some pioneering doctors were suggesting that an environmental component could well be behind the ascent of CFS in the 1980s, and that many of its victims were young adults like myself, born in the Baby Boom era. In late 1988, as I was slowly emerging from the depths of sickness and debility, I read an article in my father's AMA News, the weekly newspaper of the American Medical Association, by scientists Jay Gould and Ernest Sternglass, demonstrating that in the four months after Chernobyl, death rates in the U.S. had increased by the greatest amount of all time. I had been struck with CFS in December 1986, just eight months after the explosion, a time when an apparently large rise in the condition attracted considerable media attention. Within months, I joined the New York-based Radiation and Public Health Project with which Gould and Sternglass were affiliated, offering my skills as a public health administrator, particularly health policy and epidemiology.

"After a great amount of reading and contemplating, I gradually became convinced that Chernobyl and low-level radiation exposure were among the factors — there probably are more than one — behind the CFS epidemic. And I also became a believer, after pouring through dozens of books and studies, in the theory that low-level radiation contributed to the rise in numerous immune-related diseases, particularly in the Baby Boomers, who were taking the brunt of the immune scourges of CFS, AIDS, and increased cases of cancer. Although I was doing all this work for no pay at a time when I had little money, I was eager to contribute information to the radiation debate. I saw that two tasks were necessary to advance the understanding of the effects of low-level radiation: convincing the scientific community and convincing the lay public. This two-way effort has taken me down several roads during the past decade."

In August of 2010, the National CFIDS Foundation issued a formal press release announcing a link between low-level radiation exposure and CFIDS/ME. This announcement was based on the culmination of the Foundation's research efforts to date. Since that time, additional research has been undertaken to solidify the nature of the specific damage to human cells and tissues in patient samples. Ironically, author Joseph Mangano had written and submitted an article to the CFIDS Association of America, back in 1994, aptly titled "Could CFIDS be a radiation-related disorder?" [3] It's hard to imagine now that this article was published during the Marc Iverson era nearly twenty years ago. Fortunately for the CFIDS/ME community, the National CFIDS Foundation has risen up to provide the necessary proof for this causal connection to CFIDS/ME. The Foundation has formally pursued therapies appropriate for such a disease process based on its own disease model. We continue to make progress directed towards treatment based sceince on our funded research studies.


  1. Low-level radiation and immune system damage: An atomic era legacy; Joseph J Mangano, The Radiation and Public Health Project, NY; Lewis Publishers, 1999; ISBN # 1-56670-334-42. Personal Communication; National CFIDS Foundation and Joseph J Mangano, Radiation and Public Health Project.
  2. "Could CFIDS be a radiation-related disorder?"; Joseph Mangano; CFIDS Chronicle, Winter 1994, pgs 36-38

Ed. Note: Our thanks to a member from Australia who provided us with the text from the CFIDS Chronicle.

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