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In October 2006, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) released a report entitled Science for the Vulnerable: Setting Radiation and Multiple Exposure Environmental Health Standards to Protect Those Most at Risk. The research of Dr. Arjun Makhijani leads to a troubling conclusion: federal radiation protection standards are dangerously skewed, thus ignoring the most vulnerable members of the American public.
Currently, the Department of Energy’s “Reference Man” is a hypothetical adult Caucasian male, 20 to 30 years old, weighing 154 pounds, five foot seven inches tall, “Western European or North American in habit and custom.” In other words, the government evaluates safe levels of radiation based on what can be handled by a strong, fit, well-fed, full-grown man in the prime of life.
IEER and a growing coalition of groups have launched a campaign to change radiation protection standards to protect the members of our society who are at the highest risk of exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals— pregnant women, nursing mothers, fetuses, and children. As Dr. Makhijani points out, society pays a great deal of attention the reproductive rights of a woman who does not want a child, but very little attention to the rights of women who want to be mothers of healthy babies.