Opinion: The U.S. needs to revitalize research on the health effects of low-dose radiation

People are exposed to low-dose radiation in many ways: having a CT scan, working as a medical technician or in a nuclear power plant, or living in an area contaminated by radiation. The health effects of these low-dose exposures are not well understood — but a revitalized research program could change that.

Decades of research have revealed a number of adverse health effects that have occurred in individuals exposed to high doses of radiation, with most of this work focused on cancer. Much less is understood about the effects of low doses experienced by millions of Americans, although there is increasing evidence of its links to cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, immune dysfunction, and cataracts, as well as cancer. These possible connections raise questions as to whether the public and workers are adequately protected by current radiation standards and regulations.

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