The majority of the time, we view ionizing forms of radiation as dangerous – and that’s a good premise to hold. In high doses, or in low exposure doses over an extended period of time, ionizing radiation damages DNA, which leads to defects, cancer, and other radiation-related illnesses.
The flip side of that story is medical radiation, which uses varying levels of radiation to treat cancer and other medical diagnoses, and radiation hormesis, a theory that states very low doses of ionizing radiation is not only good for you, the absence of any radiation may even be harmful. This article pertains solely to the concept of radiation hormesis, and how exposure to low doses of radiation may be helpful rather than harmful to human existence.
Radiation Hormesis Theory: Low-Dose Radiation May Be Good For You
NOTE: Please know that this concept is only a theory. The effects of low-level radiation are very difficult to observe and highly controversial. Science has yet to prove whether small doses of radiation are beneficial or not. Currently, there is no evidence for hormesis in humans and in the case of the National Research Council hormesis is outright rejected as a possibility.
The theory of radiation hormesis states, “low doses of ionizing radiation (within the region of and just above natural background levels) are beneficial, stimulating the activation of repair mechanisms that protect against disease…”
While evidence is clear that higher doses of radiation, or regular doses of radiation over long periods of time (think nuclear emergencies, the long term effects of the atomic bomb, or for employees regularly exposed to ionizing radiation in the workplace), it has difficult to prove whether the theory of radiation hormesis is legitimate.
As a company that manufactures radiation shielding products, and that has been dedicated to keeping people safe from harmful doses of radiation for nearly 50 years, we do not support any government policies that would diminish nuclear energy/weaponry regulations – or that would put humans at risk. What we can say is that there may be something to the idea that very low, everyday levels of radiation may be beneficial since they have been a regular part of human evolution.
In many ways, the radiation hormesis theory is similar to what we know about the human immune system. Just as the human immune system has evolved to respond and defend itself against bacterial, viral, and fungal invaders, the radiation hormesis theory states that the cells of humans and other living organisms may have inherent repair mechanisms that are the result of their constant, natural exposure to low-doses of ionizing radiation.
Thus, just as lack of exposure to bacteria leave an immune system weakened or ill-equipped, supporters of radiation hormesis theory propose that eliminating all sources of radiation exposure from humans could potentially diminish cellular capacity to repair and heal the body.
Perhaps normal daily doses of radiation are enough
What we mean by that is while we don’t support changes in public policy around known, harmful doses of radiation exposure, there is a common-sense logic to the fact that humans and other living species on our planet may have evolved to build cellular defense/repair mechanisms in response to the daily doses of radiation we are exposed to all the time.
Visit our post, Radiation Doses in Our Daily Lives, to learn about these sources in more detail.
Some of the most common and natural sources of very low-grade, ionizing radiation include:
- The sun
- Drinking water
- The soil (don’t forget that radiation occurs naturally via many of the earth’s elements)
- Foods we eat since they pull radiation up from the soil beneath
- Radon (a naturally occurring source of radiation that emerges from beneath the earth’s crust)
- Cosmic rays that make their way into the earth’s atmosphere
Since these are a natural occurrence, the theory that our body’s cells created a system to monitor and repair any damage related to exposure to daily radiation sources seems logical. Again, this natural, evolutionary process would be similar to the way the immune system is able to respond to common bacterial or viral invasions.
Beware Higher-Levels of Radiation Doses
While the theory behind basic, radiation hormesis theory is logically sound – it has not been proven. And, the concept has gained the attention of the press lately as the Trump administration has been raising the question of whether radiation hormesis is true, and whether current legislation designed to prevent harmful radiation exposure leading to cancer, radiation poisoning or sickness, and other deficiencies should be reevaluated.
Those wary of the administration’s willingness to rethink federal standards for radiation doses received by the public and by workers cite the administration’s appointment of key radiation hormesis supporters to the Radiation Advisory Panel at the Environmental Protection Agency.
While we aren’t interested in using our company’s website or blog to promote political beliefs or opinions, we do think is is always important for the public to pay attention to any new policies proposed by the EPA’s Radiation Advisory Panel. Their findings, policies, and legal mandates are essential to American (and global!) health and safety with regards to radiation.
The Benefits of the 3 Principles of Radiation Protection Are Proven
Regardless of the EPAs fluctuating views on radiation exposure, and whether low doses are beneficial or not, the team here at Lancs Industries always adheres to the three principles of radiation protection:
- Limit the amount of time you’re exposed to radiation
- Limit radiation dosage
- Optimize your level of protection
These three principles will never lead you astray.
Interested in more ways to protect yourself from harmful doses of radiation in the workplace or at home? Contact us here at Lancs Industries.
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