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Health Risks From Low Doses and Low Dose-Rates of Ionizing Radiation. Session 5: Future of Radiation Protection Regulations

Cool, Donald A.

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000472
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The system of radiological protection is a prospective approach to protection of individuals in all exposure situations. It must be applied equitably across all age groups and all populations. This is a very different circumstance from dose assessment for a particular individual where the unique characteristics of the individual and the exposure can be taken into account. Notwithstanding the ongoing discussions on the possible shape of the dose response at low doses and dose rates, the prospective system of protection has therefore historically used a linear assumption as a pragmatic, prudent and protective approach. These radiation protection criteria are not intended to be a demarcation between “safe” and “unsafe” and are the product of a risk-informed judgement that includes inputs from science, ethics, and experience. There are significant implications for different dose response relationships. A linear model allows for equal treatment of an exposure, irrespective of the previously accumulated exposure. In contrast, other models would predict different implications. Great care is therefore needed in separating the thinking around risk assessment from risk management, and prospective protection for all age groups and genders from retrospective assessment for a particular individual. In the United States, the prospective regulatory structure functions effectively because of assumptions that facilitate independent treatment of different types of exposures, and which provide pragmatic and prudent protection. While the a linear assumption may, in fact, not be consistent with the biological reality, the implications of a different regulatory model must be considered carefully.

*U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: Donald A. Cool, 1300 West WT Harris Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28262-8550, or via email at:

(Manuscript accepted 17 November 2015)

© 2016 by the Health Physics Society