The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a rule change that would loosen regulations regarding radiation exposure. The change, which is called “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” requires scientists to disclose more details about the cases behind public health studies and mandates that for regulations and other decisions, the EPA can only use scientific data and findings for which all of the underlying data can be made publicly available and reproducible. It also moves the agency away from its no-tolerance position on ionizing radiation.

Up until now, the EPA has held the stance that any amount of radiation exposure could lead to cancer and other health risks, following a “linear no-threshold” model. Supporters of the rule change say that the original policy leads to unnecessary spending while managing accidental radiation exposures. They want to require regulators to consider “various threshold models across the exposure range,” meaning that there are certain exposure levels at which radiation exposure is not harmful. Critics of the rule change say it would set the bar unnecessarily high and prevent the EPA from using many high-quality studies, which would lead to fewer regulations. Even though the EPA is delaying its decision on the controversial rule change by at least a year (until January 2020), it has already changed its website to reflect its leadership’s change in outlook. While the website formerly stated that “there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation,” it now says that “radiation exposures of 5–10 rem (5,000–10,000 millirem or 50–100 millisieverts) usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk.”

So — do the changes within the EPA affect health care providers? The guiding principle of radiation safety is ALARA — As Low As Reasonably Achievable. In other words, radiation should only be used if it has a direct benefit for a patient, and even then, the lowest dose possible should be used. Studies have shown that radiation exposure over a long period of time can have harmful effects, which should always motivate anyone working with radiation to exercise extreme caution.






The EPA is considering a “transparency in regulatory science rule.”

This rule moves the EPA away from its no-tolerance position on ionizing radiation.

Always abide by the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle when using radiation.