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Accidental Radiation

Volume 940: debated on Monday 28 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what research is being done in the problems of accidental radiation and its consequences.

The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) tells me that in considering the effect of ionising radiation on man, the source of the radiation, accidental or otherwise, is immaterial. Work in this field is being carried out at present in the United Kingdom by the Medical Research Council, NRPB and a number of university departments and research institutes. A wide variety of studies is being undertaken, ranging from work with animals in which the effects of radiation on cells and organs and the metabolic pathways of radioactive substances are being investigated, to follow-up studies on groups of men exposed to ionising radiation during the course of their work. The subject has been recently comprehensively reviewed by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of ionising radiation in their publication "Sources and effects of ionising radiation" (United Nations, New York, 1977).

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish the latest available figures showing the number of people who have suffered from accidental radiation; and if he will list the kind of illnesses which might be expected, and which have developed.

Figures showing the number of persons subject to the Factories Act 1961 who have received doses of radiation in excess of the statutory permitted levels are published in the annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Factories (HMSO). The recent figures are as follows:

NUMBER OF PERSONS
196887
196964
197052
197178
197241
197338
197428
197534*
197637*
* not yet published.
My Department also collects figures of successful claims for benefit, other than death benefit, made under the industrial injuries scheme in respect of radiation-caused diseases—prescribed diseases number 25—but these are not published. The figures since 1948 are as follows:

NUMBER OF SUCCESSFUL CLAIMS
1948 to 195763
1958–5911
1959–604
1960–612
1961–622
1962–630
1963–642
1964–651
1965–661
1966–674
1967–681
1968–690
1969–701
1970–710
1971–724
1972–733
1973–742
1974–752
1975–761
Exposure to radiation may cause a number of conditions, including inflammation of malignant disease of the skin or subcutaneous tissue, or of the bones, and alterations in the blood such as anaemia, which affects the red blood cells, and certain types of leukaemia, which affect the white blood cells. It may also affect the eyes.