A Call for Reality in Routine Radiation Protection Practices

V.P. Bond (Washington State University Tri-Cities)

Many routine radiation protection recommendations for radiation workers, as set forth in some of the advisory documents of the ICRU, ICRP and NCRP and relied on by many users world wide, are often guestimates for values of important parameters rather than being based on real science. These unsubstantiated estimates of "risk" have been substituted for actual happenings. Also, extrapolation of functions into unknown regions, forbidden in physics and mathematics, is done almost routinely in radiation risk estimates. Furthermore, protection approaches that obviously are based on no more than convenience and ease of application are frequently resorted to. Couching the system in the form of dose-response functions that imply an ability to determine the size of discreet random events and encourages downward extrapolation below the level of detection is conceptually wrong and places eminent scientists into untenable positions. Such highly questionable procedures, aided by a surreptitious hint derived from radiation protection data from nuclear power plants, convinced me that the present system, based on dose-response functions and downward extrapolation is incorrect and should be replaced. In the proposed replacement system, suggested instead of functions are bar graphs or histograms which permit only the plotting of distributions of exposures as a function of time. This precludes any dose-response functions which might encourage downward extrapolation to predict unknown events. The proposed changes raise serious doubts with regard to the validity of the linear, non-threshold hypothesis.

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