Health risks associated with environmental radiation exposures.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Davis, Scott


Journal of radiological protection : official journal of the Society for Radiological Protection, Volume 32, Issue 1, p.N21-5 (2012)


2012, March 2012, Public Health Sciences Division


Much is known about health effects associated with exposure to ionising radiation. Numerous epidemiologic studies of populations exposed to radiation under a variety of circumstances have been conducted. These studies have clearly shown that radiation exposure can result in an increased risk of many types of cancer, and the findings are supported by a substantial body of literature from experimental studies. Despite the fact that radiation exposures from environmental sources comprise a relatively minor component of total population exposure, this type of exposure is often the most feared by the public. An accident like Chernobyl or a natural disaster like that at Fukushima provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the health risks from environmental radiation exposures. However, establishing the infrastructure and expertise required to design and conduct all aspects of a complex field study presents formidable challenges. This paper summarises the principal findings from the main studies of environmental radiation exposure that have been successfully undertaken. Although such studies are often exceedingly difficult to conduct, and may be limited by an ecologic design, they can be informative in assessing risk. Any new environmental study that is initiated should focus on special circumstances; additional ecological studies are not recommended.