The Trump administration is looking to relax regulations on radiation in the United States, drawing from the opinion of scientific outliers who say low doses of radiation are actually good for the human body.
The government’s current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.
The Trump administration already has targeted a range of other regulations on toxins and pollutants, including coal power plant emissions and car exhaust, that it sees as costly and burdensome for businesses. Supporters of the EPA’s new proposal argue the government’s current no-tolerance rule for radiation damage forces unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents, at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites.
“This would have a positive effect on human health as well as save billions and billions and billions of dollars,” said Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts who is to be the lead witness at a congressional hearing Wednesday on EPA’s proposal.
Calabrese argues that small exposures to radiation and other carcinogens can act as stressors that put the body’s repair mechanisms into action, thereby making people healthier — like exercise or exposure to sunlight.
He also says the current scientific consensus on radiation exposure draws from deceptive science.
The radiation regulation is supported by Steven Milloy, a Trump transition team member for the EPA who is known for challenging widely accepted ideas about manmade climate change and the health risks of tobacco. He has been promoting Calabrese’s theory of healthy radiation on his blog.
But Jan Beyea, a physicist whose work includes research with the National Academies of Science on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, said the EPA proposal on radiation and other health threats represents voices “generally dismissed by the great bulk of scientists.”
The EPA proposal would lead to “increases in chemical and radiation exposures in the workplace, home and outdoor environment, including the vicinity of Superfund sites,” Beyea wrote.