A+| A| A-

Understanding the Debate

Impact of Natural Background Radiation on Health

High natural background radiation is a constant presence in the lives of those inhabiting some coastal regions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. While there is agreement about the existence of radiation, some studies claim that it has no impact on the health of the population, while others disagree. There is a need to examine these findings critically, because of implications for public health, and to understand some of the technical reasons for why some papers appear to find no support for evidence (lack of statistical significance) of impact on health due to high levels of background radiation.

There has been a long-standing debate about the impact of nuclear radiation on human health (Beyea 2012). This debate becomes most contentious when dealing with impact of severe accidents like the ones at Fukushima in 2011 and Chernobyl in 1986. In the case of Chernobyl, for example, the estimates of the number of deaths resulting from the accident range from a few tens to nearly a million (Ramana 2006). The official Soviet Union death count for years was 31 (Marples 1988: 31–36), and this number was repeated by many, for example, in India’s annual conference on radiation protection in 1989 (Nagaratnam 1989).

Although there have been no severe accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima in India, there has been a debate about the impact of radiation on human health. This debate is over a more quotidian source of radiation prevalent in some coastal regions in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The sand on the beaches in these areas contains large quantities of a naturally occurring radioactive material called monazite, and this results in high levels of radiation which is a constant presence in the lives of the inhabitants of these regions. There is agreement about the occurrence of the high levels of radiation. The debate has been about whether these high levels of radiation have resulted in any observable impact on health, and this question has resulted in many academic papers and articles over the decades. Some of these studies have concluded that there are no increased risks while others disagree. In this article, we discuss some of the technical reasons for why some papers appear to find no support for evidence (lack of statistical significance) of impact on health due to high levels of background radiation.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Updated On : 16th Oct, 2020

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

The contribution of Dalit journals is virtually undocumented in the history of Tamil print media, and the only historiographic trends that have...

The Industrial Relations Code, one of the four labour codes codified from the erstwhile central labour laws, aims to promote the ease of doing...

The roping in of tertiary care mental health institutes by the government in providing individualised (tele) counselling services to migrant...

A significant divergence characterises girls’ socialisation at home and at school, on the one hand, and their intellectual development through...

The use of information technology in public administration is seen as a significant tool for improving efficiency, transparency and accountability...

On the basis of an independent study, measures are suggested to check the rapid degradation of forests and develop quality forests based on...

The changes in labour laws announced during the lockdown period in several states reflect a lack of concern for the highest levels of unemployment...

The swings in the Indian nominal exchange rates, associated with global events, are driven more by surges in global capital. No evidences of...

Following the liquor ban in Bihar in 2016, many people from Dalit and Adivasi backgrounds were arrested under the prohibition law. A majority of...

The ongoing protests by the students against the fee hike in Jawaharlal Nehru University have brought to the fore the contentious issue of...

Back to Top