The EPA is moving to weaken regulations concerning radiation exposure, a move that comes as little surprise given the Trump administration’s animosity toward regulating environmental dangers. But this change comes with something that the weakening of air and water quality standards does not: An argument that the bad stuff is actually good.
Current EPA regulations abide by the theory that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. As the EPA itself said as recently as March, “Current science suggests there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation.” There are, however, people who think this standard results in “unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents, at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites,” the Associated Press reports.
So the EPA has proposed a new rule:
The proposed rule would require regulators to consider “various threshold models across the exposure range” when it comes to dangerous substances. While it doesn’t specify radiation, the release quotes [University of Massachusetts toxicologist Edward] Calabrese calling the proposal “a major scientific step forward” in assessing the risk of “chemicals and radiation.”
Calabrese has some interesting ideas about radiation.
Calabrese and his supporters argue that smaller exposures of cell-damaging radiation and other carcinogens can serve as stressors that activate the body’s repair mechanisms and can make people healthier. They compare it to physical exercise or sunlight.
Mainstream scientific consensus on radiation is based on deceptive science, says Calabrese, who argued in a 2014 essay for “righting the past deceptions and correcting the ongoing errors in environmental regulation.”
Jan Beyea is one of the mainstream scientists who disagrees with Calabrese. A physicist and expert on radiation exposure, Beyea tells the AP that the new EPA rule would result in “increases in chemical and radiation exposures in the workplace, home, and outdoor environment.” He said that the individual risk of cancer from radiation exposure would remain low, “but not the cumulative social risk.”
The EPA is set to have a congressional hearing on the new rule Wednesday, with Calabrese as the lead witness.