Radiation Exposure Effects


The intention behind this page was originally to make it easier to gauge the Health Effects of varying levels of radioactivity.  The topic is, however, rather complex and the below is likely merely an aid to debunk some false media claims, but little else.

!!!–> I urge you to study these ‘key pointers to see through nuclear propaganda / media deceptions’ first.

I’m leaving the below as-was (in 2012), and for a far more comprehensive compilation of information on the health effects of ionizing radiation, I suggest the documents listed on these:

— Below: Archive of AllegedlyApparent (not updated after January 2012)

! CAUTION !  simply comparing dose rates (in rad, rem, sievert or gray), as the mainstream media does, is deceptive:  > Mere dose rates are NOT a dependable way to gauge dangers from fallout ! <

Still promoted by the nefarious nuclear industry, the politicians in their pocket and the parroting mainstream media, but proven unsafe, so please refrain from using (or believing the use of) studies of external acute radiation to inform about risk from internal chronic exposures to radionuclides.  You are being lied to by much of the mainstream media and most higher echelon politicians.  To counter the nonsense, educate yourself:

! –> European Committee on Radiation Risk, http://www.euradcom.org/,  published a ground-breaking study on the effects of low-level radiation from radioactive fallout, such as caused by nuclear bomb tests, ammunitions containing depleted uranium, and nuclear power plant accidents such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, Read the synopsis and then click-through for their comprehensive free PDF: http://www.euradcom.org/2010/2010recommendations.htm

For complementary sources about this extremely important differentiation between the health effects from exposure to distant external radiation (such as a higher dose of exposure to cosmic rays when taking an airplane) and the health effects of internal (inhaled, ingested, absorbed) radionuclides (radioactive gasses and particles, such as released by a nuclear accident or bomb), check:

What follows is a quick overview of the findings of the new (post-Chernobyl European ECRR epidemiology-based) model, and then further below, for the old (1970s British ICRP dose-based-) model; the latter which unfortunately is still widely promoted by the mainstream media.


See the European Committee on Radiation Risk, which mentions a study  [highly contested by much of the nuclear establishment, as acceptance would mean that all risk assessments would have to be “adjusted to reality” (imagine that!) and most likely render the nuclear industry obsolete due the long-term risks by far out-weighting the short-term benefits.  That’s MY perspective. – mvb]   by Martin Tondel (See his bio here at Göteborgs Universitet, Sverige / Sweden) of cancer in northern Sweden published in 2004:  Tondel’s findings revealed a statistically significant 11% increase in cancer per 100kBq/m2 Cs-137 contamination from Chernobyl; see STUDY  (J Epidemiol Community Health 2004;58:1011-1016 doi:10.1136/jech.2003.017988).

The only areas across Europe where such high levels were detected post-Chernobyl, are those shown here (image below) as the darkest orange, dark red and brown only (inside the purple or black boxed regions — so NOT the lighter and more widespread orange, yellow or green).  Thus elevated levels of cancers would show up if health statistics as accurate as collected in Sweden were kept in relatively small and isolated hotspot-communities in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, a speck or two in Poland, Greece and Romania, and mainly in Northern Ukraine, South-Eastern Belarus (by far the worst affected) and a couple areas in south-western Russia.  Everywhere else an increase in cancers would simply be lost in the “statistical noise” and margin of errors (which doesn’t mean there’s no increase, just not one that can be attributed clearly and scientifically properly to radioactive fallout):

The hotspot map below for the immediate region most affected by the Chernobyl disaster, here in Curie per square kilometer (100kbq/m2 = 100,000 Bq/m2 = 0.0000027 Ci/m2 = 2.7 Ci/ km2):

As found on SOURCE (click image to access): http://users.owt.com/smsrpm/Chernobyl/glbrad.html

–  A study by the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (French Institute of Health and Medical Research, orINSERM), published in the International Journal of Cancer,”Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants – the Geocap study, 2002-2007″, found:  leukemia rate twice as high among children under the age of 15 living within a 3.1-mile radius of France’s 19 NNPs. See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.27425/pdf

– A similar German study by the BFSBundesamt für Strahlenschutz (the German Federal Agency for Radiation Protection, http://www.bfs.de), concluded basically the same, namely „that the risk for children under five years of age to contract leukaemia increases the closer they live to a nuclear power plant  [SEE: the German Study (English Press Release) from December 2007, http://www.bfs.de/en/bfs/presse/pr07/pr0714.html]   (These two studies were mentioned in a January 21, 2012 blogpost, “Glimpses of Antwerp, Nuclear News, Islamic jihadists here?, Architecture, MAS, and more…“)

NY Times (April 20, 2006) reported that Ukraine immigrants caused leap in New York  Thyroid cancer cases.  (And it’s not that New York is full of Ukrainians…)  So for those who will doubt anything that doesn’t get the stamp of approval from the industry-embedded “regulatory” agencies (IAEA, NRC, JAIF, etc.), try expaining all this with the dominant ICRP model (see further below)… 

– FUKUSHIMA versus CHERNOBYL:  For an approximation of comparable fallout from Fukushima in Japan, see my attempt to ‘translate’ the Fukushima color-coded fallout map into the color-codes used for Chernobl fallout and visa versa, in this May 20, 2011 blogpost (and the 4 blogposts preceding this basic summary):   https://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/map-comparison-visual-summary/

From the Low Level Radiation Campaign (LLRC)’s website, http://www.llrc.org/:

“The “ECRR Absolute” method employs weighting factors developed by the ECRR to correct for the inadequacy of “absorbed dose” quantities on which the ICRP risk estimates are based. The ECRR weightings take account of the different ways in which different radionuclides behave in biological systems. See ECRR Recommendations (a free download) for detail.

ECRR has applied these methods to UNSCEAR and UNESCO data for fallout in 39 countries with a combined population of 2,342 million people.
The “Tondel” Method forecasts approximately 492,000 incident cancers in the 10 years following exposure over and above the numbers expected in the absence of radioactive fallout. The “ECRR Absolute” method forecasts 1.4 million additional cancer cases in the 50 years to 2036.

There is good agreement between these results obtained by the two methods. The yield of about 1.4 million cancers worldwide also agrees quite well with the calculations of John Gofman, Rosalie Bertell, and Alexey Yablokov (free access to PDF of Yablokov’s book)
It should be noted that the ECRR method was developed in 2003, before Tondel et al published the results of their study of cancer in Sweden. The ECRR 2003 method predicted what they found with a fair degree of accuracy.

It should also be noted that the Cesium contamination levels associated with the Tondel findings give annual external doses of about 3 mSv [= 3,000 µSv/yr – mvb]  . This is roughly the same as natural background and should not have caused any observable increase in cancer, according to the ICRP model.

[SOURCE: http://www.llrc.org/ +  [[[my]]] emphasis and [comments] ]


Dominant model: ICRP 

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) is an internationally acknowledged authority on the topic of radiation protection. [That doesn’t mean much to me, as I’ve seen other similar scientific bodies that work closely with regulators twist things to fit their agendas. (The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comes to mind in that regard…) but that another topic altogether.]  Check the ICRP website for additional ‘mainstream’ resources.

But even the ICRP continues to adjust their recommendations (below: 1977 versus 1990).   And, perhaps if their trend continues, they’ll eventually catch up with the studies that have yet to be found worthy of ICRP inclusion…  Knock yourself out by going through their studies on their publication and download page.  I’ll just quote this table (below), and comment (further below), followed by a list of various equivalent doses (even further below, sinking into the murky mud depths of this page).

So, here’s how I understand this:  the ICRP puts the dose limit for non-pregnant adults at 20,000 µSv/yr, (LOL), meaning that if you receive more than that this dose, the FINANCIAL COSTS of dealing with its consequences begin to out-weight the benefits of non-action.   :-/   Thanks, ICRP, you folks crack me up…  (not)

Next: an overview of radiation equivalent dose rates…

NOTE: This overview is in microSievert.  See >> Radiation Units << to help with conversions with reports in the media using rems, rads, becquerels, and so forth.

As stated above, the below is for “only radiation” and does not differentiate between those that originate remotely (such as from cosmic rays, X-rays, etc.), and those from particles that can be ingested and accumulate in tissues, and may be toxic in other ways too, or concentrate exposure.  Some tissues absorb more radioactive particles than others.  Concentrations can increase through the food chain over time (bioaccumulation and biomagnification), with dangers increasing rather than dissipating, also depending on the Half-Life Time (*see bottom page for more) of the radioactive element.

DOSE RATES Comparison list (particularly helpful to be in denial, if that your thing, although this IS one aspect of the whole picture, don’t get me wrong):


Typical background radiation experienced per year: …………….   1,500 – 4,000  μSv/year

–>  Only 400  µSv/yr  – 3,000 µSv/yr if ONLY taking in background radiation (no medical X-rays, airport scanners, time at higher elevation, airplane flights, etc.)

Typical background radiation experienced per day: ………………………. 1.2 – 7.2  μSv/day

Typical background radiation experienced per hour: … 0.05 – 0.30  μSv/hour

Natural radioactivity of 1 normal banana: …………………………………………  0.1 μSv   (due to their high content of naturally-occurring radioactive potassium-40).

An interesting, albeit -i think- deceiving, article is WUWT’s “Going bananas over radiation”http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/16/going-bananas-over-radiation/  I suppose if I say “deceiving”, I should say why I see it that way:

Well…  Heavily plagiarizing from http://www.tjradcliffe.com/?p=221;   The details about radiation aspects are complex, but the basic physics of the ways in which different types of radiation interact with tissues (matter) is understood rudimentarily:  It depends on ‘energy level’ and tissue concentrations, the details of which complicate things.  A radioactive isotope atom that emits beta particles generally also emits some gamma-rays, and when gamma rays interact with matter they create beta particles.  Potassium-40 is the most significant radioactive element in the human body.  The average adult has over 100 g of potassium in their body, and 0.0118% of that is naturally-ocurring radioactive potassium-40.    Iodine-131 has a half-life of about 8 days. Potassium-40 has a half-life of a little over a billion years.  When comparing the effects of potassium-40 and iodine-131, there are a number of important factors to take into account:  decay rate, decay mode, decay energy, and distribution in the body.

There’s a good reason why the the standard for infants for I-131 is 100 Bq/ Kg (or Bq/L, more-or-less for water) is the maximum allowed:  Iodine gets concentrated in the Thyroid gland, Potassium-40 doesn’t get concentrated anywhere in particular that way.

1 X-ray Personnel security screening scan: ……………………………………………… 0.25 μSv

For information on the doses of medical scans, see the visual at bottom of page.

35 years with typical background:……………………………………… 52,500 – 140,000  μSv

100 years with typical background:……………………………  1,500,000 – 4,000,000 μSv

Lowest additional dose at which any increase in cancer starts:             100,000 μSv/yr

LEGAL LIMIT: ……………………………………………………………….       500 μSv/hr (that’s 1000 to 3000 TIMES normal)

Obviously that “legal limit” is meant for declaring emergencies.  It would take 8 DAYS of continuous exposure to the legal limit to reach the lowest level at which any statistically significant increase in cancer risk begins (0.1 Sv), and although within 2-4 months one would be exposed to way more than enough to increase cancer risks, it may not neccessarily induce radiation sickness within this timeframe, as it is too spread out  (just like people don’t get radiation sickness with old age).  Inhalation and consumption of radioactive particles add extra dangers not covered here.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission radiation dose limit for the public: 100,000 μSv/Yr

Maximum equivalent exposure dose allowed for nuclear industry workers:

USA (Feb. 2011): ……………………………………………………………………… 50,000 μSv / Yr

Japan pre-Fukushima accident (Feb 2011): ……………………………. 100,000 μSv / Yr

Japan, since Fukushima accident (“Emergency allowance”): ….. 250.000 μSv / Yr

– Peak on the premises of the Fukushima plant, March 15:         400,000 μSv/hr

– Peak on the premises of the Fukushima plant, March 23:        500,000 μSv/hr

– Peak on premises of the Fukshima plant, reported since: ….      over 1 Sv/hr

– Peak inside the Fukushima plant, March 15:  ……………………….. 1,000,000 μSv/hr  (more than double has since been detected)

– Pools of contaminated water inside Daiichi #2: up to 6,000,000 μSv/hr
– Exposure hospitalized worker who stepped in pool:.   >180,000 μSv
[as reported in NYTimes 3/25/2011]

– Peak in Tokyo on March 15 (“23 times normal”): ……………………………….  2 μSv/hr

Single dose causing temporary radiation sickness:……..  1,000,000 μSv

(= temporary nausea, headache, decreased white blood cell count, but not death).

Above this, severity of illness increases with dose (incl. nose bleed, vomitting, etc.).

– ‘Chernobyl-accident dose’ that was used as a relocation criterium: > 350,000 μSv (on soil contact!)

– Sublethal dose causing sore throat, pallor and diarrhea;  but without fatalities (except for complications) : …………………………………………………………………….. < 2,000,000 μSv

– Single dose that would cause nausea, vomiting, loss of hair, fever, hemorrhages, and emaciation, and kill half of those receiving it: ………………………………… 2,500,000 μSv

– Single dose that would kill about half the people within a month:    5,000,000 μSv

– Lethal single dose:…………………………………………..      > 7,000,000.00 μSv


Comma and point use differ globally, I’m using them the American way:

1,000 = one thousand    and   0.1 = one tenth

Metric conversion aid to go between base, milli, micro, etc:


1 Sievert = 1,000 milliSievert – 1,000,000 microSievert

Sv = 1,000 mSv = 1,000,0000 μSv

*Radioactive half-life: To better understand the decay rate for various radioactive isotopes, natural and man-made, the engineers at M.I.T. wrote an nice overview.  See my *NEWS* page for their website, or check the article on their blog here:  http://mitnse.com/2011/03/20/fission-products-and-radiation/

Make sure to read My Disclaimer (I’m not a doctor, expert or official.)   

[last revised 1/23/2012]