On November 24, 2006, Wade Allison, Professor of Physics at Oxford University, gave a talk about the extreme caution with which radiation exposure is treated. According to an article titled Public needs better understanding of nuclear safety, Professor Allison said:
Current environmental regulations that attempt to keep variations in radiation exposure to a fraction of the natural level are over-cautions by a factor of about 500 to 1000. This factor is unnecessary and unaffordable. In no other field is such a safety factor applied.
He explained that the overwhelming body of evidence points to the fact that any damage caused by radiation doses up to a certain threshold is completely repaired by natural processes within the human body. This dose response should not surprise anyone – humans evolved on a radioactive world with significant variations in natural levels of radiation. As they do with other minor insults like cuts, scrapes, and bruises, humans recover and even prosper from minor doses of radiation, which happen to be far below current regulatory limits.
Professor Allison’s talk expanded on the idea of threshold doses and hormesis and tied the radiation protection regime to a reluctance to use nuclear energy, a decision which he feels is putting the health of the entire planet at risk.
Members of the public tolerate radiation exposures for their own health which are 1000 times higher per day than those that are currently deemed barely acceptable in the environment per year. A far greater tolerance to radiation in the environment is needed if the health of the planet is to be treated with the same respect and judgment as personal health.
Note: You can find a PDF version of Professor Allison’s slides on the web at