Health effects of low level radiation

Health effects of low level radiation
This page is a brief outline. At the bottom is a link to other pages.

The hundred years since the discovery of radioactivity and x-rays have seen a continuous revision of assumptions about their effect on health. Continuous, that is, in one direction, as scientists realised that all previous estimates were underestimates. Early x-ray pioneers experienced huge doses with dramatic and frequently fatal results in individuals; this has ended. The world's population received substantial fallout of radioisotopes from atomic weapons testing, and infant mortality statistics quickly showed that this was having a marked collective effect. In 1964 testing was confined to under-ground explosions, and even these have now ended [for the time being at least]

It's not over yet. The authorities failed (or refused) to learn the lessons that should have been learnt from the deaths of all those thousands of babies in the 1960s, and have allowed power stations, reprocessing plant, weapons maintenance depots, and medical pharmaceutical factories to release the same radioisotopes, causing levels of environmental pollution officially designated trivial and Beneath Regulatory Concern. There is abundant evidence of health detriment from this pollution; and recently scientific interest has been concentrated on biological mechanisms at the very low doses involved.
This is the new regulatory frontier, where we face new threats (and some older ones):

  • the recycling, reuse and disposal of millions of tons of contaminated material from redundant plant;
  • the de-regulation of thousands of acres of surplus land contaminated with radioactivity.
  • fuel reprocessing
  • demands for a new generation of nuclear power stations
  • retention of nuclear weapons
  • nuclear proliferation under the insanity of Bush
  • the never-ending quandary of waste management
  • the medical establishment's continued fascination with nuclear medicine (together with the associated incineration of contaminated medical waste)
Possibly worst of all is the determination of the so-called independent ICRP to abandon all estimates of the collective harm we and our descendants will suffer from the gradual spread of radioactivity.

This is a big subject and the Low Level Radiation Campaign does not set out to cover it all. In the next pages we present what we have found for ourselves, together with relevant material from other workers. We make no apology for omissions, but if you want to suggest further material for inclusion, please contact us.

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