Journal scan

Dirty air bigger health risk than medical scan radiation

The health risks from modern life such as air pollution and smoking are higher than low-level radiation exposure received in medical scans, a study has found.

The health risks from modern life such as air pollution and smoking are higher than low-level radiation exposure received in medical scans, a study has found

radiation
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The health risks from modern life such as air pollution and smoking are higher than low-level radiation exposure received in medical scans, a study has found.

Researchers from institutions including the University of Oxford took part in a joint review of literature and evidence concerning the risk to human health of exposure to ionizing radiation.

They examined papers from a series of ongoing studies into the effects of such radiation – including a study into the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in the second world war, the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine in 1986 and low-level exposure caused by medical practices.

Other causes

The team said if 100 individuals were briefly exposed to 100 millisievert (mSv), a measure of radiation dose, on average over a lifetime, one of them would be expected to develop a radiation-induced cancer.

Meanwhile, 42 would develop cancer from other causes. A computed tomography scan of the whole spine equals 10 mSv, while the average dose from natural background radiation in the UK is 2.3 mSv each year.

Co-author Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester said: 'The overall risk to human health from low-level exposure to radiation is very small, particularly when compared with the risks posed by modern life.'


McLean A et al (2017) A restatement of the natural science evidence base concerning the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation. Proceedings of the Royal Society. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1070

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