Environmentalists Blast EPA "Dirty Bomb" Guidelines

A pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency document on responding to a "dirty bomb" incident recommends letting people drink water with thousands of times higher levels of radiation than is generally approved for consumption, the Risk Policy Report reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 11, 2005).

Environmental activists have objected to the guidelines.

"Somebody should go to jail for putting numbers in (the new guidance) like that," one said.

"There is no safe level of radioactivity and the EPA drinking water standards are usually the most protective we have," said another.

The Protective Action Guidance for Radiological Incidents is expected to be released in the near future.  It adds dirty bomb response guidelines to a 1992 document that provided information to emergency management agencies on dealing with a radiological incident at a nuclear power plant.

The federal agency said the figures apply solely to short-term consumption of irradiated drinking water, while general environmental remediation standards address allowable exposure levels over a person's entire lifetime.

"The proposed drinking water (protective action guide) allows decision-makers to balance the risk to the public from short-term exposure to radiation with other potential risks associated with the protective actions themselves," which could include not drinking water, according to an EPA spokeswoman (Douglas Guarino, Risk Policy Report, Dec. 4).

December 5, 2007
About

A pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency document on responding to a "dirty bomb" incident recommends letting people drink water with thousands of times higher levels of radiation than is generally approved for consumption, the Risk Policy Report reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 11, 2005).