The low-level nuclear threat via Nature

Europe is making a good start on learning about the health risks of low-dose radiation with a programme to share cold-war data and set research priorities. But the effort needs to be global.

Fear of the effects of an atomic strike haunted the politicians and scientists of the cold war. For years, researchers around the world worked on massive and systematic programmes to understand how ionizing radiation might affect survivors of a blast. Almost half a billion animals in the United States, the Soviet Union, Europe and Japan — mostly rats and mice, but also thousands of dogs and some rabbits and monkeys — were deliberately irradiated. These experiments were well designed and worked to identify the pathological consequences of doses of various types of radiation, delivered at different rates and by different routes, including inhalation or ingestion. Results were documented in detail and tissue samples were kept.

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