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A new study claims a Diablo cancer risk, but critics question the findings 

Read the full text of the study (.pdf).

A new study prepared for and disseminated by the World Business Academy of Santa Barbara claims there’s a correlation between the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and radiological health risks in San Luis Obispo County.

Authored by Joseph Mangano, a New Jersey-based epidemiologist, the study uses historic cancer rate data from the California Cancer Registry and mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to draw the conclusions that “strongly suggest a link between emissions from Diablo Canyon and elevated health risks to those most sensitive to radiation exposure.”

The major findings include elevated cancer rates in San Luis Obispo, increasing rates of infant mortality, more babies with low birth weights, and an overall increase in “disease and death in San Luis Obispo County.”

As of press time, the study hadn’t been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, though Mangano told New Times he plans to do so. While the study draws a number of significant conclusions about cancer rates, it’s only able to pull data from as far back as 1988, two years after the plant began operating. To backfill the missing data, the study cites mortality statistics that date back to 1968, and claims that mortality rates began to increase after the plant began operating in 1986.

Mangano, a member of the Radiation and Public Health Project, has released more than 30 such studies, he said, which all point to health risks posed by radiation from nuclear facilities throughout the country, as well as in the aftermath of the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear disasters.

In SLO County, Mangano said the study should raise “red flags” about the potential health risks, and he hopes it raises concerns as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues with its own study, which is scheduled to be released in 2016.

“We have to at least start a public discussion,” he said.

However, other similar studies have led to criticism of Mangano’s methodology and motives. Scientific American Special Projects Editor Michael Moyer, for example, wrote a 2011 blog post for the publication about another Mangano study, this one on Fukushima radiation, co-authored by Janette Sherman. Moyer wrote that “a check reveals that the authors’ statistical claims are critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths.”

Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman Blair Jones questioned Mangano’s body of work and science, concluding, “PG&E is not giving this report any consideration.”

SLO County Health Officer and Public Health Administrator Penny Borenstein said in an email: “At first blush, having not had the chance in 48 hours to do a thorough review, there are very troubling aspects to the methodology of the study. Areas and years seemed to have been cherry picked to get a desired result.”

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