Compendium of evidence: introduction

Evidence of health hazard from low level radiation which suggests that the ICRP / NRPB model is seriously inadequate for predicting hazard from internal radiation.


The science of low dose radiation risk is a slow motion re-enactment of the paradigm shift that has overtaken the understanding of BSE. In a decade or so BSE has moved from being identified as a possible problem, through official reassurances, to the realisation that those reassurances were unfounded, and so to long-running political embarrassment.
The story of radiation risk has unfolded over the past 100 years. Half a century ago the radiation protection community acquired grave new responsibilities when the nuclear arms race polluted the entire planet with a whole new class of matter the artificial radio-isotopes.
The peculiar characteristics of internal radiation from these man-made substances have been controversial ever since the internal risk committee (Cttee. II) of the US National Committee on Radiological Protection saw its work set aside in 1951 after some years of deadlock (Caufield 1989)

The problem is that there has been very little actual measurement of the effects of internal radio-isotopes. In its absence, official agencies have to make assumptions about internal radiation based on epidemiological studies of the effects of external radiation and to guess at the specific biological effects of individual isotopes on the basis of their physical characteristics.

This has led to the adoption of a crude average dose model which completely overlooks the local dose to tissue from immobilised isotopes whose energy is deposited in microscopically small volumes of tissue.

Essentially, this is a matter of research which has not been done. As Dr. Lynne Jones, MP recently wrote to the U. K. Health Minister:

There is a little evidence that low level radiation is dangerous, and rather less to show that it is not.
Dr Jones was nearly right - in fact there is a large quantity of evidence that genetic damage is far greater than expected. This paper is only a sample. Other workers (Nussbaum 1994) have made a similar survey which is available on the US Government's internet services.

We divide the evidence into four categories:

1) studies on which radiation protection standards are based, and those which undermine them:
2) epidemiological studies showing a risk not accounted for by NRPB/ ICRP model
3) studies which are said to demonstrate that there is no unappreciated risk but which have demonstrable flaws or which do, in fact, show an excess risk.
4) animal studies showing existence of biological mechanisms which are not well understood

Within each category the citations are in no particular order. Link to references

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This page was last updated May 2001