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Health Effects of Low-Level Radiation: What's the Story

Health Effects of Low-Level Radiation: What's the Story

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The possibility of suffering adverse health effects as a result of exposure to radiation is a cause of concern and fear for many people. They may think that little is known about the health effects of exposure to radiation and that exposure to even low levels of radiation can be disastrous. Neither of these beliefs is true, and they shouldn’t cause people to make unwise decisions such as foregoing beneficial medical procedures that involve radiation. This pamphlet by the American Council on Science and Health summarizes the scientific facts about the health effects of exposure to low levels of radiation. Published in 2006.
The possibility of suffering adverse health effects as a result of exposure to radiation is a cause of concern and fear for many people. They may think that little is known about the health effects of exposure to radiation and that exposure to even low levels of radiation can be disastrous. Neither of these beliefs is true, and they shouldn’t cause people to make unwise decisions such as foregoing beneficial medical procedures that involve radiation. This pamphlet by the American Council on Science and Health summarizes the scientific facts about the health effects of exposure to low levels of radiation. Published in 2006.

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Published by: American Council on Science and Health on Oct 29, 2012
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03/24/2014

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08/2006 ©American Council on Science and Health, Inc.
Get the storGet the storyfrom theyfrom theAmerAmericanicanCouncil on Science and HealthCouncil on Science and Health
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Dr. Elizabeth Whelan,
President  
ACSH, 1995 Broadway 2nd Floor, New York, NY10023
AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH
1995 Broadway, 2nd FloorNew York, NY 10023-5860Tel: 212.362.7044 Fax: 212.362.4919E-mail: acsh@acsh.orgURL: http://www.acsh.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
ACSH FOUNDERS CIRCLE
Christine M. Bruhn, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis 
 Taiwo K. Danmola, C.P.A.
Ernst & Young 
 Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
University of Houston 
A. Alan Moghissi, Ph.D.
Institute for Regulatory Science 
 John Moore, Ph.D., M.B.A
Grove City College, President Emeritus 
AlbertG. Nickel
Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift, Inc.
Stephen S. Sternberg, M.D.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center 
Lorraine Thelian
Ketchum 
Kimberly M. Thompson, Sc.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
RobertJ. White, M.D., Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University 
Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H., President
ACSH EXECUTIVE STAFFACSH BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Frederick Anderson, Esq.
McKenna Long & Aldridge 
Nigel Bark, M.D.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine 
Elissa P. Benedek, M.D.
University of Michigan Medical School 
Norman E. Borlaug, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University 
Michael B. Bracken, Ph.D.,M.P.H.
Yale University School of Medicine 
 James E. Enstrom, Ph.D.,M.P.H.
University of California, Los Angeles 
 Jack Fisher, M.D.
University of California, San Diego 
Hon. Bruce S. Gelb
New York, NY 
Donald A. Henderson, M.D.,M.P.H.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 
 Thomas Campbell Jackson,M.P.H.
Pamela B. Jackson and Thomas C.Jackson Charitable Fund 
Elizabeth McCaughey, Ph.D.
Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths 
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
The Hoover Institution 
Rodney W. Nichols
Indo-US Science & Technology Forum 
Kenneth M. Prager, M.D.
Columbia University Medical Center 
Katherine L. Rhyne, Esq.
King & Spalding LLP 
Lee M. Silver, Ph.D.
Princeton University 
 Thomas P. Stossel, M.D.
Harvard Medical School 
Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D.,M.P.H.
American Council on Science and Health 
ACSH STAFF
 Julianne M. Chickering
Research Associate 
 Judith A. D’Agostino
Administrative Assistant 
 Jaclyn Eisenberg
Research Associate 
Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D.
Director of Nutrition 
Patricia A.Keenan
Executive Assistant to the President 
A. Marcial C. Lapeña
Accountant 
 Jennifer Lee
Art Director 
Molly Lee
Research Associate 
Cheryl E. Martin
Associate Director 
 TaraMcTeague
Development Assistant 
Gilbert L. Ross, M.D.
Executive and Medical Director 
 Todd Seavey
Director of Publications 
 Jeff Stier, Esq.
Associate Director 
Health
Effects of
Low-Level
Radiation
 
Recent and FutureResearch
Scientists have examined the risk of cancerin groups of people who were exposed todoses of radiation that are higher than nor-mal but lower than those received by atom-ic bomb survivors. Examples include radi-ologists, airline flight crews (who areexposed to increased amounts of cosmicrays during flight), and people who live inareas with unusually high background radi-ation. Overall, the results of such studieshave not been conclusive, and research isongoing.
Conclusions
Over a century’s experience in working withradiation has given scientists a detailedunderstanding of radiation, its properties,and its health effects. There is little doubtabout the effects of high levels of radiationexposure, but there remains controversyabout exposure to low levels of radiation.There is only a small chance that radiationentering a cell will cause significant perma-nent changes in the DNA. Thus, there isonly a small chance that exposure to lowdoses of radiation will lead to cancer orgenetic damage.Though nothing is without potential risk,radiation provides a net benefit to society.As with all technology, the safe use of radi-ation depends on developing the best pos-sible scientific understanding of its effectsand on rationally weighing both risks andbenefits.
 
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