The present status of ionizing radiation protection in our society, with the exception of extraordinary events such as the Chernobyl accident, can be considered reasonably satisfactory. Occupationally, average exposures have risks no greater than accident rates in “safe” industries and show a downward trend in concert with results of safety practices in other occupations; higher exposures are being addressed specifically, and a new NCRP guideline may prove useful. An important concern relating to the quality factor for neutrons is at least partially accounted for by recent International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and NCRP recommendations. Among public exposures, the most important by far is exposure to indoor Rn. However, this problem is being addressed on all fronts, and its magnitude and the means to deal with it will soon be better known. For the near future, we should see a stabilizing of risk estimates, albeit at levels very probably higher than formerly. There may also be an increasing tendency to use incidence rather than mortality for calculating these estimates. These changes may require some adjustment in our perspective on limits. As the difference in risk between the sexes becomes more definite, we may wish to adopt a policy of equal risk rather than one of equal dose. Age data also emphasize, more and more, the decline of risk with age; consequently, using older workers when feasible in radiation-exposure circumstances becomes more desirable. For the longer-term future; various developments can be expected, including, possibly, a more suitable climate for a risk system, a more appropriate way to express differences in radiation quality, further knowledge of the role probabilities of causation may play in radiation control, the effect of mitigating and enhancing factors, and progress in fundamental oncology. All of these are exciting possibilities which may provide a variety of options for the most effective radiation protection in the future.
©1988Health Physics Society