The quantification of the effects of low‐level radiation is based mainly upon epidemiological studies. Recent reassessment of the data from Japanese survivors of the effects of radiation from Second World War bombing and from ankylosing spondylitis patients reveals an increased risk of leukaemia from low level exposures. The implications for the health of radiation workers and the management of the nuclear power industry are important. There is controversy over possible hormetic effects. A true hormetic effect has to be seen to affect the whole person. Although there is evidence at the cellular level that low‐level radiation may enhance the body′s immune system, this is not sufficient to justify widespread scientific support. This is particularly since the speculation on the effects of low‐level radiation and the connection with the occurrence of leukaemia is creating concern. The increases in the incidence of disease and the pattern of distribution remain difficult to explain while the task of translating the evidence from individual cases proves increasingly difficult in the context of varied types of radiation and the properties of particular radionuclides.
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