Research Directions in Human Biological Effects of Low Level Ionizing Radiation

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Biomedical and Health Research, Environmental Health, Military and Veterans Health
Board: Board on the Health of Select Populations

Activity Description

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) has asked IOM to pursue a study to review the state of scientific knowledge about the health effects of low dose ionizing radiation exposures from medical, occupational, and environmental sources and examine the research program of their Armed Forces Radiobiological Research Institute (AFRRI). Human health effects from exposures to ionizing radiation have received a great deal of attention from researchers and the public since the Second World War. However, more recent concerns have served to heighten this interest, including terrorist attacks involving improvised nuclear devices and dirty bombs, releases of radioactive materials into the environment from nuclear power plant accidents, and increased exposures to radiation from diagnostic medical procedures and radiation-based imaging devices for homeland security. At the same time, scientific advances are providing new opportunities to understand the effects of ionizing radiation at sub-cellular levels and to translate this understanding to whole organisms.

The primary focus of this study is to identify current directions in radiobiology research and advise AFRRI on opportunities consistent with its mission to advance the understanding human health risks from exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation. In addition, AFRRI’s ability to advance its mission will depend on its ability to attract top-level research scientists with training in radiobiology and closely allied fields. There appears to be a dwindling number of investigators active in relevant research areas. The study will therefore also examine the pipeline of radiobiology researchers and provide advice to AFRRI on addressing any supply imbalances.

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