The Push to Fire “Reference Man”

By Staff
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If we were all 5 feet 7 inches tall, 170 pounds, 24-years-old, and white male, then everyone would be much safer from radiation. That’s because “reference man,” a model used to test for safe radiation exposure levels on x-rays, mammogram machines, and smoke detectors conform to those dimensions. People who aren’t adult white males simply aren’t as safe, reports Julie R. Enszer of Women’s eNews.

The use of “reference man” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t adequately protect women and children, according to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, quoted in the article. Women are 52 percent more likely than men to develop cancer from radiation, but “reference man” doesn’t take them into account. Radiation is most dangerous to children and fetuses, because of their vulnerability to genetic mutations and neurological problems, but the EPA doesn’t use a “reference child” nor a “reference fetus.”

The EPA has been urged to change “reference man” into a “hypothetical maximum exposed individual” that would test the effects of radiation on the people most vulnerable, including pregnant women and young girls. “We believe the government has an obligation to protect more than just adult white men from the hazards of radiation,” says Lisa Ledwidge, outreach director at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. “Until these standards are changed, the government is not fulfilling its responsibility.”

Cara Binder

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