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Are passive smoking, air pollution and obesity a greater mortality risk than major radiation incidents?

Smith JT - BMC Public Health (2007)

Bottom Line: The mortality risk to populations exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident may be no higher than that for other more common risk factors such as air pollution or passive smoking.Radiation exposures experienced by the most exposed group of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to an average loss of life expectancy significantly lower than that caused by severe obesity or active smoking.Population-averaged risks from exposures following major radiation incidents are clearly significant, but may be no greater than those from other much more common environmental and lifestyle factors.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Winfrith Technology Centre, Dorchester, Dorset, UK. Jts@ceh.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Background: Following a nuclear incident, the communication and perception of radiation risk becomes a (perhaps the) major public health issue. In response to such incidents it is therefore crucial to communicate radiation health risks in the context of other more common environmental and lifestyle risk factors. This study compares the risk of mortality from past radiation exposures (to people who survived the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs and those exposed after the Chernobyl accident) with risks arising from air pollution, obesity and passive and active smoking.

Methods: A comparative assessment of mortality risks from ionising radiation was carried out by estimating radiation risks for realistic exposure scenarios and assessing those risks in comparison with risks from air pollution, obesity and passive and active smoking.

Results: The mortality risk to populations exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident may be no higher than that for other more common risk factors such as air pollution or passive smoking. Radiation exposures experienced by the most exposed group of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to an average loss of life expectancy significantly lower than that caused by severe obesity or active smoking.

Conclusion: Population-averaged risks from exposures following major radiation incidents are clearly significant, but may be no greater than those from other much more common environmental and lifestyle factors. This comparative analysis, whilst highlighting inevitable uncertainties in risk quantification and comparison, helps place the potential consequences of radiation exposures in the context of other public health risks.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Illustration of cancer mortality risk from ionizing radiation. Fatal (a) solid cancer; (b) leukaemia rates (1950–2000) in people exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs using data presented in ref. [13]. Mortality rates are per 10,000 people. In the 86,611 member cohort, of the 6061 cancer deaths observed in all persons exposed to more than 0.005 Sv, approximately 578 were attributed to radiation exposure.
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Figure 1: Illustration of cancer mortality risk from ionizing radiation. Fatal (a) solid cancer; (b) leukaemia rates (1950–2000) in people exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs using data presented in ref. [13]. Mortality rates are per 10,000 people. In the 86,611 member cohort, of the 6061 cancer deaths observed in all persons exposed to more than 0.005 Sv, approximately 578 were attributed to radiation exposure.

Mentions: Using epidemiological studies, primarily (but not only) of survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs (Figure 1; [13]), radiation protection agencies have estimated the lifetime cancer risk to people from exposure to ionizing radiation [14,15]. Risk estimates recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection [15] are used to calculate stochastic radiation risks. These estimates predict a fatal cancer risk of 0.05 per sievert (Sv) of effective dose to the general population and 0.04 per Sv to the working population (the different population age distribution accounts for the difference in risk). The ICRP risk estimate implies, for example, that if a population is exposed to low dose rate radiation leading to an average effective dose equivalent of 0.1 Sv (100 mSv) to each person, an additional 0.5% of people will suffer a fatal cancer. Typically, the "natural" cancer incidence in industrialised countries is 20–25%. The radiation-induced cancers would not occur immediately, but may arise many years after exposure. Note that risks averaged over a population are presented here: the distribution of risks within a population will vary according to factors such as age and sex.


Are passive smoking, air pollution and obesity a greater mortality risk than major radiation incidents?

Smith JT - BMC Public Health (2007)

Illustration of cancer mortality risk from ionizing radiation. Fatal (a) solid cancer; (b) leukaemia rates (1950–2000) in people exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs using data presented in ref. [13]. Mortality rates are per 10,000 people. In the 86,611 member cohort, of the 6061 cancer deaths observed in all persons exposed to more than 0.005 Sv, approximately 578 were attributed to radiation exposure.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC1851009&req=5

Figure 1: Illustration of cancer mortality risk from ionizing radiation. Fatal (a) solid cancer; (b) leukaemia rates (1950–2000) in people exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs using data presented in ref. [13]. Mortality rates are per 10,000 people. In the 86,611 member cohort, of the 6061 cancer deaths observed in all persons exposed to more than 0.005 Sv, approximately 578 were attributed to radiation exposure.
Mentions: Using epidemiological studies, primarily (but not only) of survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs (Figure 1; [13]), radiation protection agencies have estimated the lifetime cancer risk to people from exposure to ionizing radiation [14,15]. Risk estimates recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection [15] are used to calculate stochastic radiation risks. These estimates predict a fatal cancer risk of 0.05 per sievert (Sv) of effective dose to the general population and 0.04 per Sv to the working population (the different population age distribution accounts for the difference in risk). The ICRP risk estimate implies, for example, that if a population is exposed to low dose rate radiation leading to an average effective dose equivalent of 0.1 Sv (100 mSv) to each person, an additional 0.5% of people will suffer a fatal cancer. Typically, the "natural" cancer incidence in industrialised countries is 20–25%. The radiation-induced cancers would not occur immediately, but may arise many years after exposure. Note that risks averaged over a population are presented here: the distribution of risks within a population will vary according to factors such as age and sex.

Bottom Line: The mortality risk to populations exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident may be no higher than that for other more common risk factors such as air pollution or passive smoking.Radiation exposures experienced by the most exposed group of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to an average loss of life expectancy significantly lower than that caused by severe obesity or active smoking.Population-averaged risks from exposures following major radiation incidents are clearly significant, but may be no greater than those from other much more common environmental and lifestyle factors.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Winfrith Technology Centre, Dorchester, Dorset, UK. Jts@ceh.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Background: Following a nuclear incident, the communication and perception of radiation risk becomes a (perhaps the) major public health issue. In response to such incidents it is therefore crucial to communicate radiation health risks in the context of other more common environmental and lifestyle risk factors. This study compares the risk of mortality from past radiation exposures (to people who survived the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs and those exposed after the Chernobyl accident) with risks arising from air pollution, obesity and passive and active smoking.

Methods: A comparative assessment of mortality risks from ionising radiation was carried out by estimating radiation risks for realistic exposure scenarios and assessing those risks in comparison with risks from air pollution, obesity and passive and active smoking.

Results: The mortality risk to populations exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident may be no higher than that for other more common risk factors such as air pollution or passive smoking. Radiation exposures experienced by the most exposed group of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to an average loss of life expectancy significantly lower than that caused by severe obesity or active smoking.

Conclusion: Population-averaged risks from exposures following major radiation incidents are clearly significant, but may be no greater than those from other much more common environmental and lifestyle factors. This comparative analysis, whilst highlighting inevitable uncertainties in risk quantification and comparison, helps place the potential consequences of radiation exposures in the context of other public health risks.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus