Assessing ecological risk from environmental radioactivity: Concepts and developments
Congress title :NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Ecotoxicology, Ecological Risk Assessment and Multiple Stressors
Congress town :Poros
Congress date :13/10/2004
Book title : NATO Security through Science Series Pages: 41-55
Stimulated by the apparition of large-scale environmental problems, the protection of the environment is becoming increasingly prominent within current concerns of human societies. Industrial and economical activities are experiencing detrimental impacts, which sometimes only become apparent after some delay, making it difficult or illusory to set corrective measures. Hence, a better capacity for anticipation needs to be targeted with a concomitant emphasis on regulation efforts to promote "sustainable development", where there is a balance achieved between technological innovation and the potential for mastering the associated environmental risk. It is within this general context that radioprotection is called on today not only to fulfil the goal of protecting man, but also to that of protecting biota within a wide variety of complex environments. This has led the ICRP to reconsider its prior position which stated that protecting humans would implicitly also protect the environment to an adequate extent. This view particularly needed reconsideration due to the lack of an explicit scientific demonstration of its validity and because some exceptions have been identified. Since 2000, the ICRP has therefore worked at constructing a general framework for the radiological protection of non-human biota which is currently based on 4 main elements: 1) an approach channelled through the definition of "reference organisms" to circumvent the difficulty of tackling the overall biodiversity of life forms, and the variety of their life spans, habitats, and metabolisms, 2) units and reference dosimetry models scaled to these reference organisms to be able to estimate radiation doses received by various biota, 3) a set of endpoints that would both ensure fulfilling the protection goals, and be accessible to quantification, and 4) a scale of risk based on the best interpretation of the information available on dose-effects relationships at the level of individuals. These concepts will be reviewed and discussed.