The EPA May Change Radiation Exposure Rules — What Does That Mean for Cancer Risk?

For decades the government has maintained that any exposure to radiation can cause cancer, and needs to be regulated. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is attempting to make changes to those regulations – claiming that the rules lead to unnecessary spending on safety measures. A wide range of activities can expose people to radiation – from getting a mammogram to living near a nuclear weapons test site.

Supporters of the EPA’s proposal say that the government’s current model operates under the impression that there is absolutely no safe level of radiation – and changing the rules could potentially save billions, according to the Associated Press.

An April news release announcing the proposed change quoted Edward Calabrese – a University of Massachusetts toxicologist who said that reducing the limits on radiation exposure could actually have a positive impact on the health of Americans. Calabrese believes that small exposure to cell-damaging radiation and other carcinogens can work as a stressor that activates the body’s repair mechanisms – making a person healthier.

But the scientific community at large strongly opposes any amendment to federal radiation regulations. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements this year reviewed 29 public health studies on cancer rates among people exposed to low-dose radiation (including studies on the effects of the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II, leak-prone Soviet nuclear installations, and medical treatments), and concluded that yes, even low-dose exposures to radiation can cause a significant increase in cancer risk.

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