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Activists Urge Obama To Adjust EPA Standards For Radiation Exposure

Inside EPA
Friday, January 9, 2009

Environmentalists are urging the incoming Obama administration to adjust EPA standards for human radiation exposure to account for how such exposure effects women and children, arguing the EPA standards are still largely based on a so-called “Reference Man” model applicable to Caucasian men in their 20s.

In the report, The Use of Reference Man in Radiation Protection Standards and Guidance with Recommendations for Change, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) argues EPA guidance documents -- along with air and drinking water regulations -- are still largely based on assumptions of how radiation exposure would affect a hypothetical white “Reference Man” in his 20s, even though Robert Meyers, of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, told then-Sen. Obama and Rep. Henry Waxman in a July 24 letter that the agency “generally stopped” making assumptions based on the Reference Man in 1990.

EPA “does not believe in continued use of Reference Man,” Meyers’ letter added.

The IEER report welcomes Meyers’ statement. “An explicit statement along these lines is long overdue and it is a sign of great progress that it has been made.” However, IEER disagrees with EPA’s assertion that it stopped using the Reference Man in 1990 and notes that Meyers admits in the letter that it is still used in “some regulatory applications.”
Meyers letter was a reply to a May 30 letter in which Obama and Waxman inquired about the use of Reference Man in EPA guidelines and standards and plans to phase out the use of the Reference Man model.

The report is a follow up to a more extensive report IEER issued on the same subject in 2006, which prompted a coalition of activist groups to write a letter to President Bush urging him to abandon the use of Reference Man. EPA science advisers have tentatively supported adoption of the sensitive subpopulations as a basis for assessing risks from radiation exposures.Environmentalists are urging the incoming Obama administration to adjust EPA standards for human radiation exposure to account for how such exposure effects women and children, arguing the EPA standards are still largely based on a so-called “Reference Man” model applicable to Caucasian men in their 20s.

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