How much radiation is OK in an emergency? (June 2016)

The New Mexican | New guidelines proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would significantly increase the amount of radiation that people can ingest in the days and years following a radiological accident — levels far higher than existing limits set by the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.

Watchdog groups, academics and even some EPA officials worry the change could severely compromise public health.

The agency’s proposal, released in early June and open for public comment until July 25, suggests a two-tiered system to advise the public when water is too dangerous for consumption after a radiological release — an event ranging from an accident at a nuclear power plant, such as the 1979 reactor meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, to a roadside spill of Cold War-era transuranic waste from Los Alamos to a deliberate act of terrorism. The agency has capped the proposed limits at 500 millirems per year for people over 15, and no more than 100 millirems for younger children, the elderly, and pregnant or nursing women.

The new emergency guidelines are at least 25 times higher than the current guidelines, which cap public consumption of radiation at 4 millirems per year. Opponents of the proposal say it will allow radiation exposure equivalent to 250 chest X-rays each year without medical need or consent. Others, however, say the limits are conservative and far more restrictive than international standards.

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By Rebecca Moss, The New Mexican,Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2016 11:00 pm | Updated: 11:26 pm, Sat Jun 18, 2016, as posted at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/how-much-radiation-is-ok-in-an-emergency/article_b2eee300-1f19-5374-a83d-5f95c5df1853.html

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