Radiation Protection Today - Spring 2022 | Page 26


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
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