Today's maximum permissible levels for radiation exposure have been arrived at, over a period of some forty years, by a process of fairly arbitrary judgements combined with increasing practical operating experience. At first the levels were intended to provide safe working conditions, but gradually this concept came to be replaced by that of “permissible” doses, or levels of radiation carrying an associated risk that was acceptable to the exposed individual and to medical authorities. More recently the Commission has emphasized the need to balance the risk of the radiation against the benefits of its use. Since radiation is but one of many agents involving a risk, the extent of the action taken to control it should be in reasonable proportion to the magnitude of its risk. An attempt has therefore been made to indicate the magnitude of some other risks in our society, so that when more quantitative data are available on the dose-effect relationship for radiation, it might be possible to relate acceptable radiation risks to other risks of society.
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