Radiation-protection standards are based on minimizing or preventing biological effects in exposed populations. Radiation-induced biological effects can be classified as stochastic-malignant and hereditary diseases for which the probability of an effect occurring is a function of dose without threshold - and nonstochastic - inflammatory and degenerative diseases for which the severity and frequency of the effect varies with the dose and for which a threshold is present. The current International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) approach for setting limits for intakes of radionuclides by workers, which accounts for doses to significantly exposed organs of the body, is based on limitation of stochastic effects in most situations. When setting exposure limits, nonstochastic effects are generally considered to be unlikely at the limits for stochastic effects. In some situations, limits based on prevention of nonstochastic effects are lower than for stochastic effects. This review considers the threshold radiation doses far thyroid, bone, liver and lung and their relationship to the limits recommended by the ICRP and the cancer risks at the limits. This review indicates that the threshold dose for nonstochastic effects in thyroid and lung is much above the dose limit as advocated by ICRP. The threshold dose for nonstochastic effects in bone and liver is much closer to the dose limit, but protection from nonstochastic effects should still be afforded by the dose limits.
©1988Health Physics Society