Hinton, T. G., Bedford, J. S., Congdon, J. C. and Whicker, F. W. Effects of Radiation on the Environment: A Need to Question Old Paradigms and Enhance Collaboration among Radiation Biologists and Radiation Ecologists. Radiat. Res. 162, 332–338 (2004).
A historical perspective is given of the current paradigm that does not explicitly protect nonhuman biota from radiation but instead relies on the concept that if dose limits are set to protect humans, then the environment is automatically protected as well. We summarize recent international questioning of this paradigm and briefly present three frameworks for protecting biota that are being considered by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the International Commission on Radiological Protection. We point out a controversial component in each of the three frameworks and suggest topics that need additional research. We emphasize that to properly address radiation protection of the environment, we need to understand how effects are integrated across different levels of biological organization. We caution that the proposed use of molecular end points to estimate ecological risks from radioactive contamination is applicable only if we understand the extent of the impact that molecular damage has on individual organisms and populations of exposed biota. To accomplish the latter, enhanced collaborations are required among the traditionally separate disciplines of radiation biology and radiation ecology.