The effects of radiation on health are neither simple nor well-understood. That said, it’s probably not a good idea to be getting an acute dose every time you drink a glass of water.
Issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) allow cleanup many times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted. These guides govern evacuations, shelter-in-place orders, food restrictions and other actions following a wide range of “radiological emergencies.” The Obama administration blocked a version of these PAGs from going into effect during its first days in office. The version given approval late last Friday is substantially similar to those proposed under Bush but duck some of the most controversial aspects:
In soil, the PAGs allow long-term public exposure to radiation in amounts as high as 2,000 millirems. This would, in effect, increase a longstanding 1 in 10,000 person cancer rate to a rate of 1 in 23 persons exposed over a 30-year period;
Let’s get an idea for how much 2,000 millirem (2 rem) is…
One rem carries with it a 0.055% chance of eventually developing cancer. Doses greater than 100 rem received over a short time period are likely to cause acute radiation syndrome (ARS), possibly leading to death within weeks if left untreated.
Stochastic effects are those that occur randomly, such as radiation-induced cancer. The consensus of the nuclear industry, nuclear regulators, and governments, is that the incidence of cancers due to ionizing radiation can be modeled as increasing linearly with effective dose at a rate of 0.055% per rem. (5.5%/Sv) Individual studies, alternate models, and earlier versions of the industry consensus have produced other risk estimates scattered around this consensus model. There is general agreement that the risk is much higher for infants and fetuses than adults, higher for the middle-aged than for seniors, and higher for women than for men, though there is no quantitative consensus about this. There is much less data, and much more controversy, regarding the possibility of cardiac and teratogenic effects, and the modelling of internal dose.
Wikipedia: Roentgen equivalent man
The important takeaway is that 2 rem is a lot of radiation. And we’re talking about continual exposure, as opposed to occasional or occupational (working in a plant or racking up frequent flyer miles). What ever happened to ALARA (as little as reasonably attainable)? Is anyone even working at the EPA anymore? This is the equivalent of salting the earth because, see, we have all this salt and the dump site is over there. Why, the way gas costs these days, it would cost at least $3 each trip! Far most cost-effective to make America’s breadbasket look like Mordor.
That’s not the worst of it either, because we’re talking about ingesting radioactive material. This is a different ball game than getting pelted by gamma rays on the skin. We’re talking about the possibility of big-ass alpha particles, which otherwise don’t usually break the skin, bouncing around in our internal organs.
I wonder whether the NRC is forging the signatures of officials who retired years ago and were never replaced. I’m tempted to say we should hand the agency over to Greenpeace because one synapse is better than zero synapses.
As the title indicates, I’d be completely incredulous if humanity hadn’t proven itself again and again to be at least this stupid. Even if this turns out to be a big hoax, it’s telling that it is a believable one.
Edit 2: HTML cleanup and this- I hadn’t realized it, but the EPA is now run by a single woman. No wonder they’re a doormat. I hope she’s a single mom, because then we could write up a real-to-life comedy on FOX. Strong, spunky (lole) single mother tries to balance her executive life with raising her mulatto children. This week, she struggles with institutional racism as she looks for a Chinese nanny so her kids will grow up bilingual.