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Risks in Perspective - hdbk-1130-98_ch10217
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Summary - hdbk-1130-98_ch10219


DOE-HDBK-1130-98
b. The risk of cancer induction from radiation exposure can be put into perspective. This
can be done by comparing it to the normal rate of cancer death in today's society. The
current rate of cancer death among Americans is about 20 percent. Taken from a
personal perspective, each of us has about 20 chances in 100 of dying of cancer. A
radiological worker who receives 25,000 mrem over a working life increases his/her
risk of cancer by 1 percent, or has about 21 chances in 100 of dying of cancer. A
25,000 mrem dose is a fairly large dose over the course of a working lifetime. The
average annual dose to DOE workers is less than 100 mrem, which leads to a working
lifetime dose (40 years assumed) of no more than approximately 4,000 mrem.
2. Comparison of risks
a. Table 2-2 compares the estimated days of life expectancy lost as a result of
exposure to radiation and other health risks.
The following information is intended to put the potential risk of radiation into
perspective when compared to other occupations and daily activities.
Table 2-2
Estimated Loss of Life Expectancy from Health Risks
Health Risk
Estimated Loss of Life Expectancy
Smoking 20 cigarettes a day
6 years
Overweight (by 15%)
2 years
Alcohol consumption (U.S. average)
1 year
Agricultural accidents
320 days
Construction accidents
227 days
Auto accidents
207 days
Home accidents
74 days
Occupational radiation dose (1 rem/y), from
age 18-65 (47 rem total)
51 days
All natural hazards (earthquakes, lightning, flood)
7 days
Medical radiation
6 days
The estimates in Table 2-2 indicate that the health risks from occupational radiation
doses are smaller than the risks associated with normal day-to-day activities that
we have grown to accept.
b. Acceptance of a risk:
1) is a personal matter.
2) requires a good deal of informed judgment.
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