I entered the commerical nuke business in 1984 in my early twenties. One older tech I learned from had also been a “meter swinger” as a twenty-something. One of his first jobs? Surveying Army guys after stuff like this:
Were the soldiers “hot”? Er…yes. Yes, they were. They’d ccome in from the field and he’d measure their thyroids, where the radioiodine builds up. He’d get readings in the hundreds of mrem per hour. That’s four to five orders of magnitude above background, without seeing the beta radiation emitted by the iodine. 100% of that radiation was absorbed by the thyroid or surrounding tissue.
In later years a number of those soldiers had to take medical radioiodine to kill off their damaged or cancerous thyroids. But I don’t think “irony” is the word I’m looking for. Pioneers always get the arrows. We can’t know how stupid some things are until we gather enough information to know how stupid they are.
If you’re familiar with radiation’s enormous scope and utility in modern medicine, you probably agree it has been, by now, a net benefit for humanity. But that doesn’t change how foolish and mortally dangerous “atomic acclimation” was.
(UPDATE–Shortly after posting this, saw another article on Nobel prize-winning Hermann Muller and his betrayal of science. Muller may not have caused as many untimely deaths as Rachel Carson. Then again, maybe he did.)
It’s interesting that when these tests are brought up by the, let’s say, educationally challenged, they always forget that the Soviets were doing the exact same thing. It’s always just “oh, zze evil amerikeinz, zzey have tested zzem nukes on zzeir own soldierz!”