Hormesis and radiation safety norms: Comments for an update

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Abstract

Hormesis can be explained by evolutionary adaptation to the current level of a factor present in the natural environment or to some average from the past. This pertains also to ionizing radiation as the natural background has been decreasing during the time of the life existence. DNA damage and repair are normally in a dynamic balance. The conservative nature of the DNA repair suggests that cells may have retained some capability to repair damage from higher radiation levels than that existing today. According to this concept, the harm caused by radioactive contamination would tend to zero with a dose rate tending to a wide range level of the natural radiation background. Existing evidence in favor of hormesis is substantial, experimental data being partly at variance with results of epidemiological studies. Potential bias, systematic errors, and motives to exaggerate risks from low-dose low-rate ionizing radiation are discussed here. In conclusion, current radiation safety norms are exceedingly restrictive and should be revised on the basis of scientific evidence. Elevation of the limits must be accompanied by measures guaranteeing their observance.

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