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low-dose ionising radiation – how safe is it?

People have always been exposed to ionising radiation, and more so in modern life thanks to its uses in medicine, industry and the military. The health risks from medium- and high-level radiation are relatively well-understood, but the risks at low levels are debated, and mixed messages about safety from different sources are confusing for both the public and for policy makers.

This paper gives a comprehensive assessment of the scientific evidence underlying the risks to human health from low levels of radiation. It covers studies of people exposed to radiation, for instance through weapons (such as the atomic bombs in Japan) or accidents (such as the disasters at the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plants).  What is known and unknown about the biological basis of radiation as a disease-causing mechanism is also considered. The paper concludes by putting the risks from low-level radiation to human life in context.

The paper is designed to be read by an informed but not technically specialist audience, and will enable practitioners and policy-makers to better understand the nature of the evidence underlying radiation protection.

This project forms part of the Restatements project funded by the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University.  It involved consultation with a very broad community (researchers, industry, NGOs and government) but was run completely independently.


Speakers will include:

Prof. Angela McLean, All Souls Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Life Sciences and Professor of Mathematical Biology, Oxford University

Prof. Richard Wakeford, Professor of Epidemiology, Institute of Population Health, University of Manchester

Prof. Penny Jeggo, Professor of Genome Damage and Stability, University of Sussex

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