Critical Areas for Improvement in Communications Regarding Radiological Terrorism

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The fear of ionizing radiation exceeds the actual risk in many circumstances. Dramatic evidence from radiological events such as nuclear power plant accidents (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima) or the theft or misuse of radiological material (Goiânia), have established that fear of radiation contributes to immediate and late health effects. The academic, professional, and government individuals and organizations who either study radiation safety or who are responsible for preparing against a radiological terrorist attack understand this. Those experts are encouraged to do more to help protect members of the public against the damage that fear of radiation would do in the event of exposure to a radiological dispersal device by proactively educating the public that the actual risk of ionizing radiation is far lower than commonly believed. Perspectives are offered on why more of this work has not yet been done. Suggestions are offered on how to address those impediments and advance such public education efforts.

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