The Radiology Community was buzzing after a story on October 2 about the changes in the EPA regulation of radiation. The Associated Press reported erroneously in a headline that the EPA says a little radiation may be good for you. The stories reported that the EPA was going to loosen the regulations allowing more radiation exposure in the workplace without penalty. The story was based on support that we spend too much monies in an enormous effort to minimize low doses.
The story made clear that assessment came from scientific outliers, including a quote in a news release from the EPA. The headline was changed in later versions. But, can you really take it back?
The EPA is pursuing changes that experts say would weaken the way radiation exposure is regulated. It could reverse the decades-old methods of protection for workers and patients that radiation is harmful and is a cancer risk. The linear no-threshold model provides maximum protection from a known carcinogen, radiation exposure. Radiation isn’t like “getting a little bit of sunlight” as some propose. Last March the EPS guidelines advised: “Current science suggests there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation.” “Even exposures below 100 millisieverts slightly increase the risk of getting cancer in the future.” In diagnostic radiology this is often quoted as equivalent to 25 chest x-rays or approximately 14 CT chest scans on normal sized patients.
In July the EPA edited those guidance statements to say “According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of …100 millisieverts usually result in no harmful health effects because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk.”
We have been discussing these different opinions between “experts” in our blogs for some time. It seems that the faction that believes that some radiation is good for you has gained the ear and mind of the EPA.
This year the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements reaffirmed the principle that there is no threshold of radiation exposure that is risk free. They did a review of 29 public health studies on cancer rates of people exposed to low-dose radiation, via the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan in World War II, leak-prone Soviet nuclear installations, medical treatment cases, and other sources. They disclosed that 20 of the 29 studies directly support the principle that even low-dose exposures cause a significant increase in cancer rates.
How will this impact our current work environment in this politically charged society? It is too soon to know. I am certain that we will continue to hear from both factions of scientists. One that believes that we should protect against low dose exposure and the second that believes that a little bit of radiation damage could be good for you. Stay tuned to what happens and how it may change your workplace.