Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Radiation and the US Protective Action Guidelines

written by me (quoted material from sources in blue)

Considerable evidence exists that the deleterious effects of ionizing radiation have been deliberately hidden from public view over the last thirty years. Despite widespread recognition and support for the precautionary principle that no level of exposure to ionizing radiation is safe, the U.S. proposed raising the protective action guide standards for safe levels of exposure to radiation in food, water, and air after “radiological incidents” as reported by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

According to PEER’s news release, the new guidelines would permit the current lifetime limit of radiation exposure to occur in a single glass of water while significantly reducing EPA radiological clean-up standards, essentially permitting a 25 percent cancer per exposure (PEER, 2010

PEER released dissenting comments made by Charles Openchowski, of the EPA’s Office of General Counsel, who expressed in a January 23, 2009 email his concerns that the new guidelines proposed by the EPA’s radiological arm, the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA):

“[T]his guidance would allow cleanup levels that exceed MCLs [Maximum Contamination Limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances 7 million and there is nothing to prevent those levels from being the final cleanup achieved (i.e., it’s not confined to immediate response of emergency phase).”

Comments made by Stuart Walker, an EPA official in the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation are also revealing: 

It also appears that drinking water at the PAG concentrations…may lead to subchronic (acute) effects following exposures of a day or a week. In a population, one should see some express acute effects…that is vomiting, fever, etc.

PEER condemned the lack of public transparency of proposed changed, as well as their safety implications (PEER, 2010).

It is difficult to know whether or not these revised protective action guidelines were implemented in the U.S. in the aftermath of the Fukushima March explosions.

The EPA website for protective action guidelines provides the older, 1992 guidelines, but instructs readers that new guidelines were approved and are awaiting comment. Under the heading, “What is the status of the PAG Manual update?” one finds the following account:
The PAG Manual is an important science-based guideline that addresses emergency action levels for radiation exposure. Draft revisions were approved by the former Deputy Administrator shortly before the inauguration. The new team at EPA wishes to review the PAGs revisions before proceeding with a notice of availability and public comment” (

Lack of transparency is in fact the norm in radiological incidents.On June 20 Russia Today reported that the IAEA’s decision to close their meeting on Fukushima fallout (

Furthermore, nuclear scientists and policy experts in the US have publicly acknowledged that TEPCO was slow to release information and has deliberately censored the data that were released (Vartabedian, 2011). Yet the cover-up of information is not restricted to those observing the crisis but also involved those responsible for producing it.

to be continued...

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