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Title: Human radiation experiments: Looking beyond the headlines

Abstract

There has been a great deal of publicity recently about experiments supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and its predecessors, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration, in which human subjects were exposed to radiation. Media stories give the impression that these experiments were done in secret, without informing the subjects, and that these subjects suffered horrible consequences. As a prelude to understanding the situation, it is useful to review the bases for judgement in deciding on this type of experiment. When it was first recognized that radiation can be harmful, national and international groups promulgated the concept of {open_quotes}maximum permissible dose{close_quotes} (MPD) on the basis that with a comfortable factor of safety (e.g., a factor of 10), there was no evidence of harm at that level. This had always been the principal method of providing safety, applied to everything from chemicals to bridges. In the 1940s, the MPD was 100 mrem per day, and it was assumed that there would be no harmful health impacts at that level. Current regulations require that experiments involving radiation exposure to human subjects be approved by a review board at the institution where they are carried out.more » National guidelines for these review boards require that whole-body doses to subjects be kept below 2 rem except in extraordinary circumstances. As an example of how these regulations are currently implemented, consider positron emission tomography (PET), a very active medical research topic for the past few years. In one major medical center, this involves exposing about 300 subjects per year, normally recruited through newspaper advertisements, with an average dose of about 400 mrem to each. There are about 50 comparable medical centers throughout the United States.« less

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Univ. of Pittsburgh, PA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
467887
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Nuclear News
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 37; Journal Issue: 3; Other Information: PBD: Mar 1994
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
56 BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, APPLIED STUDIES; HUMAN POPULATIONS; BIOLOGICAL RADIATION EFFECTS; RADIATION DOSES; RADIATION PROTECTION

Citation Formats

Cohen, B.L. Human radiation experiments: Looking beyond the headlines. United States: N. p., 1994. Web.
Cohen, B.L. Human radiation experiments: Looking beyond the headlines. United States.
Cohen, B.L. Tue . "Human radiation experiments: Looking beyond the headlines". United States.
@article{osti_467887,
title = {Human radiation experiments: Looking beyond the headlines},
author = {Cohen, B.L.},
abstractNote = {There has been a great deal of publicity recently about experiments supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and its predecessors, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration, in which human subjects were exposed to radiation. Media stories give the impression that these experiments were done in secret, without informing the subjects, and that these subjects suffered horrible consequences. As a prelude to understanding the situation, it is useful to review the bases for judgement in deciding on this type of experiment. When it was first recognized that radiation can be harmful, national and international groups promulgated the concept of {open_quotes}maximum permissible dose{close_quotes} (MPD) on the basis that with a comfortable factor of safety (e.g., a factor of 10), there was no evidence of harm at that level. This had always been the principal method of providing safety, applied to everything from chemicals to bridges. In the 1940s, the MPD was 100 mrem per day, and it was assumed that there would be no harmful health impacts at that level. Current regulations require that experiments involving radiation exposure to human subjects be approved by a review board at the institution where they are carried out. National guidelines for these review boards require that whole-body doses to subjects be kept below 2 rem except in extraordinary circumstances. As an example of how these regulations are currently implemented, consider positron emission tomography (PET), a very active medical research topic for the past few years. In one major medical center, this involves exposing about 300 subjects per year, normally recruited through newspaper advertisements, with an average dose of about 400 mrem to each. There are about 50 comparable medical centers throughout the United States.},
doi = {},
journal = {Nuclear News},
number = 3,
volume = 37,
place = {United States},
year = {1994},
month = {3}
}