Public misperception of radiological risk consistently directs limited resources toward managing minimal or even phantom risks at great cost to government and industry with no measurable benefit to overall public health. The public’s inability to comprehend small theoretical risks arrived at through inherently uncertain formulae, coupled with an irrational push to eliminate all risk with no contextual understanding of overall benefit, results in a forfeiture of valuable advances in technology in favor of an illusion of safety.
Radiation Risks in Perspective uses general concepts underlying radiological risk as a model to illuminate the fundamental problems in public perception, reaction, and policy when faced with possible health risks. Presenting three distinct themes, the author summarizes the causes for the failure of the current system and proposes methods for correction. Beginning with a discussion of the methods used to measure threat, the author weighs the nebulous assessment of risk with the use of a quantifiable assessment of hazardous dose, which uses actual numbers that the public can readily understand and that decision makers can confidently use to enact policy and measure success.
Secondly, the author addresses the contextual balancing of cost versus benefit when prioritizing expenditure, specifically emphasizing that it is inappropriate to analyze and discuss individual risks without regard to the presence of other risks. Finally, the author analyzes the public’s tendency to push toward zero risk tolerance, an extremist approach that leads to unreasonable restrictions on technologies, excessive regulatory compliance costs, and the ultimate loss of goods and services.
With detailed explanations and illustrative case studies, Radiation Risks in Perspective offers scientists, lawyers, engineers, policy makers, and public health professionals, the skills they need for a rational evaluation of risk.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Risky Business. Scientific Guesswork. No Safe Dose. Uncertain Risk. Zero or Bust. Misplaced Priorities. Avoiding Risk. Radiation from the Gods. Hold the Phone. PR Campaign: Proportion, Prioritization and Precaution. Glossary. Index.
Kenneth L. Mossman is a professor of health physics in the School of Life Sciences and affiliated faculty member of the Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he has also served as assistant vice president for research and director of the university’s Office of Radiation Safety. Prior to his arrival at Arizona State University, Dr. Mossman was a faculty member of the medical and dental schools at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and was professor and founding chairman of the Department of Radiation Science at Georgetown’s Graduate School. His research interests include radiological health and safety and public policy. Dr. Mossman has authored more than 150 publications related to radiation health issues. He served as president of the Health Physics Society and received its prestigious Elda Anderson Award, the Marie Curie Gold Medal, and the Founder’s Award. He has been a Sigma Xi distinguished lecturer and is a fellow of the Health Physics Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served on committees of the National Research Council, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (Vienna). Dr. Mossman earned a BS in biology from Wayne State University, MS and PhD degrees in radiation biology from the University of Tennessee, and an MEd degree in higher education administration from the University of Maryland. Dr. Mossman is also author of The Radiobiological Basis of Radiation Protection Practice (1992) Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, with William Mills and Arbitrary and Capricious (2004) AEI Press, Washington, DC with Gary Marchant.