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Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects

Radiation | Nuclear Radiation | Ionizing Radiation | Health Effects.

from World Nuclear Association – Updated January 2015

Low-level radiation effects”

A lot of research has been undertaken on the effects of low-level radiation. The findings have failed to support the so-called linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis. This theory assumes that the demonstrated relationships between radiation dose and adverse effects at high levels of exposure also applies to low levels and provides the (deliberately conservative) basis of occupational health and other radiation protection standards.”

Increasing evidence suggests that there may be a threshold between 100 and 700 mSv below which no harmful effects of radiation occur. However, this is not yet accepted by national or international radiation protection bodies as sufficiently well-proven to be taken into official standards. However, at low levels of exposure, the body’s natural mechanisms do repair radiation and other damage to cells soon after it occurs, and some adaptive response is stimulated which protects cells and tissues, as with exposure to other external agents at low levels. The ICRP recommends that the LNT model should be assumed for the purpose of optimising radiation protection practices, but that it should not be used for estimating the health effects of exposures to small radiation doses received by large numbers of people over long periods of time.”

In addition, there is evidence of beneficial effect from low-level radiation (up to about 10 mSv/yr). This ‘radiation hormesis’ may be due to an adaptive response by the body’s cells, the same as that with other toxins at low doses. In the case of carcinogens such as ionizing radiation, the beneficial effect is seen both in lower incidence of cancer and in resistance to the effects of higher doses. This potential hormetic effect is most clearly evident in the data (see Appendix) for over 50,000 survivors of the Hiroshima bomb 1.5 to 3 km from the hypocenter, with dose range 1 to 100 mSv, compared with a large control group.”


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