from childhood leukaemia in the 1980s to circulatory diseases in the 2020s
Professor John Harrison is an Honorary Fellow of SRP and was formerly Director of the Centre for Radiation , Chemical and Environmental Hazards at PHE and a member of ICRP . He currently chairs the government expert Committee on the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment ( COMARE ).
Many readers will be familiar with the work of COMARE and particularly its work on childhood leukaemia cases occurring around nuclear installations in the UK , most notably Sellafield . The first COMARE report , issued in 1987 , was on this topic , as were a total of 10 reports , the most recent being in 2016 . The sustained conclusion has been that radiation doses received by members of local communities around these installations are too low to account for the observed incidence of leukaemia . The most likely explanation for these clusters of disease is exposure to infections in early childhood associated with large influxes of workers in the early years of plant operations . Clusters have been observed elsewhere in situations where exposure to radiation could not be a cause .
COMARE is a Scientific Advisory Committee of the Department of Health and Social Care . Its remit is to advise government and the devolved administrations on the health effects of natural and man-made radiation and to assess the adequacy of available data and the need for further research . It covers both ionising and non-ionising radiation . It currently has 17 members who are independent scientists , with two lay members to reflect the public interest . Meetings are also attended by a similar number of “ assessors ” representing government departments and agencies . The Committee responds to requests for advice from government but is also proactive in determining priorities .
Topics addressed over the almost 40 years of COMARE ' s existence include UV exposure and health risk from tanning devices , impact of CT scanning on asymptomatic individuals , doses and risks in interventional radiology , and considerations of risks from radioactive particles on beaches . The next full report will be on risks of circulatory diseases at low radiation doses ( below 100 mSv ). This is an important topic because current risk estimates include cancer and heritable effects but not other diseases . There have been suggestions that diseases of the circulatory system , such as heart attack and stroke , could be increased by low-dose radiation . However , the available epidemiological evidence and results from biological studies of mechanisms do not currently provide a clear picture . Inclusion of circulatory diseases would make a substantial difference to overall low-dose risk estimates .
COMARE reports , progress reports , future plans , and minutes of meetings are available on the government website https :// bit . ly / 3FpS5p3