Health & Radiation

Most people are familiar with the terrible effects of high doses of radiation, the burns and hair loss and subsequent disease, such as after the atomic bombs were dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but fewer people are aware that low doses of radiation, especially repeated or cumulative exposures, can cause significant harm as well. This has been a topic of great debate and study.  And the more it is studied, the more proof is found that there really is no safe threshold for radiation exposure.

We are routinely exposed to sources of low doses of radiation every day, such as sunlight, diagnostic x-rays, airport security scanners, radon from rock like granite, and even some foods like brazil nuts and people with heart pacemakers. 

For example, in late January 2012, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it would conduct new tests to measure potential radiation hazards to airport security officers from the scanning machines at more than 100 airports. HOwever, the TSA does not plan to test the machines themselves or to measure radiation exposure for passengers. "We still have no idea how much radiation is being imposed on travelers by a properly functining machine," said James Babb, co-founder of We Won't Fly, as consumer advocacy group.  "A malfunctioning machine chould be particularly nasty."

In general, we do not keep track of our cumulative exposure, but as moe and more sources of low level radiation become routine in our lives, it is HOME's position that we should.


From "Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities: Phase I", unpublished, to be released in 2012, by: Committee on the Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities-Phase I; Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council

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