Developments in Radiation Health Science and their Impact on Radiation Protection

Table of contents

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  1. Introduction
  2. Current status of knowledge
  3. What remains unknown
  4. Dose-effect relationship: Science and policy implications
    • Other studies
    • Impact on radiation protection
    • Conclusions and recommendations
  5. Causality: Science and policy implications
    • Impact on radiation protection
  6. Genetic predisposition: Science and policy implications
    • Importance of radiosensitivity as a contributing factor in human carcinogenesis
    • Impact on radiation protection
  7. Quantifying combined health effects from different agents:
    • Science and policy implications
    • Assessment of interactions
    • Impacts on radiation protection


    • Membership of the WGST-RHS at the time of preparation of the report
1. Introduction

At its March 1996 meeting, the Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) decided to initiate the implementation of the main recommendations for future work that resulted in follow-up to its Collective Opinion "Radiation Protection Today and Tomorrow" published in 1994.

The Collective Opinion had pointed out that scientific and technological developments in the near future may be expected which might have a profound influence on the concepts and the practice of radiation protection (RP). In particular, the Collective Opinion had identified a number of lines of research in radiation health sciences, particularly in molecular biology and epidemiology, which might result in modifications to the scientific basis of the System of Radiation Protection and to its practical application.

The CRPPH therefore decided to set up a working group to prepare a reflection paper on the relationship between scientific knowledge on radiation health effects, including its uncertainties, and the application of the "precautionary principle" in regulatory radiation protection.

The current report is the outcome of that work and includes a synthesis of the current scientific debate about the use of the linear, no-threshold (LNT) dose-effect hypothesis as a practical model for the regulation of radiation protection. It identifies key elements of science on which there is common agreement, areas of uncertainty or debate, and the potential practical implications of various possible developments in scientific knowledge. It reviews the present status of knowledge in the following fields of radiation health sciences which may have an implication for radiation protection:

  • dose-effect relationships;
  • causality;
  • genetic susceptibility;
  • combined effects.

Certain aspects of these issues are treated herein, as well as their potential policy and application implications, which are currently being discussed in the applied radiation protection and scientific communities (UNSCEAR 93, UNSCEAR 94). The objective of this report is to provide decision makers and non-specialists with some insight into the critical points in these discussions. The report also seeks to provide an understanding of the scientific issues, and an appraisal of the possible developments in the practice and regulation of radiation protection in view of the scientific debate; it does not, however, engage in the debate itself.

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