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Tuesday, 17 October 2017 06:45

Huge Amounts of Radiation Won't Harm You, Pruitt's EPA Claims


pruittstopThe EPA raises acceptable radiation exposure to toxic levels. (Photo: Lorie Shaull)

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Scott Pruitt, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), isn't just going about destroying environmental safeguards; he has now issued a "guideline" document that states that excessive exposure to radiation is safe for human life. That means he's not only allowing more pollution that can contribute to ill health and degradation of the environment, but he is also putting us at risk when it comes to radiation. According to Bloomberg,

In the event of a dirty bomb or a nuclear meltdown, emergency responders can safely tolerate radiation levels equivalent to thousands of chest X-rays, the Environmental Protection Agency said in new guidelines that ease off on established safety levels....

It could lead to the administration of President Donald Trump weakening radiation safety levels, watchdog groups critical of the move say.

"It’s really a huge amount of radiation they are saying is safe," said Daniel Hirsch, the retired director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s program on environmental and nuclear policy. "The position taken could readily unravel all radiation protection rules."

The "guideline" doesn't have the standing of a regulation or law, but it is reflective of the EPA's thinking regarding radiation tolerance by humans and is, therefore, worrisome. Bloomberg notes,

"According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of 5-10 rem (5,000-10,000 mrem or 50-100 mSv) usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk," EPA said in the document. That level is equivalent to as many as 5,000 chest X-rays or seven to 14 chest CT scans, according to a comparison with Food and Drug Administration data.

A 2007 version of the same document -- before the Trump administration revision -- stated that no level of radiation is safe. It concluded: "The current body of scientific knowledge tells us this."

The scientific consensus has not shifted since then. A Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) news release strongly criticizes the new "safe" EPA radiation exposure level:

[The] EPA does not specify which “radiation safety experts” it is now relying upon but it is notable that

  • The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, and EPA itself, have long estimated that 10,000 millirems could be expected to induce excess cancers in every 86th person exposed;

  • Those health effects are for a one-time exposure but EPA is rolling out a new approach that would allow daily public exposure at highly elevated levels every day for up to a year; and

  • EPA’s longstanding scientific estimate is that 10,000 millirems would produce a risk at least 100 times higher than EPA’s acceptable risk range on radiation exposure to the public.

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch is highly critical of the new EPA position:

I knew that under Scott Pruitt EPA is in climate denial but now it appears to be in radiation denial, as well....

There is no known safe amount of radiation…the current body of scientific knowledge tells us this....

This signals that in the event of a Fukushima-type accident, EPA will allow public consumption of radiation-contaminated drinking water for months.

Ruch sardonically notes that "Dr. Strangelove is alive and lurking somewhere in the corridors of EPA."

Gizmodo concludes that Pruitt is being consistent with his anti-science approach to leading the agency:

Donald Trump’s appointment of former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency this year drew eyebrows, because Pruitt had made his career as a longstanding legal opponent of the EPA and a prominent climate change skeptic. Since he’s been put in charge of the agency, Pruitt has allegedly made plans to water down federal scientific research on the climate, deflected from the issue during natural disasters, and cut loose hundreds of employees in a deregulation push.

Now some are worried he’s trying to lower the bar for, uh, deadly radiation. In new guidelines for local officials published in September, the EPA advised that radiation exposure during disasters ten or more times higher than guidelines under Barack Obama’s administration is safe.

Pruitt has been extremely aggressive in adopting an anti-science, pro-corporate approach to environmental policy. The guidelines on radiation are an indication that he is extending his zealotry full on into every nook and cranny of challenging scientific findings, including areas such as radiation leakage caused by untoward events. A key role of the EPA should be to protect individuals from harm, not to protect corporations who cause harm. It is chilling to live under an EPA whose denial of facts places our lives at risk.