[ RadSafe ] Communicating with the public and the press

Wed Aug 21 09:28:12 CDT 2013

Part of the problem with using the word "safe" is that some people use it qualitatively and others use it quantitatively. Clayton is using it qualitatively - which is what most non-scientists tend to do. As he pointed out, having a beer with friends is safe - even though we know in the back of our minds that we might drive afterwards or the bar might have a natural gas leak or the beer might be adulterated or whatever. But the risk from any of those is low and in the back of our minds (if thought of at all) - we just consider having a beer to be safe.

The problem is that - as scientists - we can't seem to take such a light view of things. So we have to insist on a quantitative measurement - is one chance in 1000 safe? What about one in a million? At what point (numerical risk estimate) can we call something "safe?" If we are trying to be quantitative about a term that everyone we're communicating with is using qualitatively then we're not likely to be able to reach any sort of consensus on whether or not we can use the word "safe" with regards to anything.


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Clayton J Bradt
Sent: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 1:38 PM
To: sperle at mirion.com
Cc: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Communicating with the public and the press


I think "safe" is easy as no quantification is necessary. In the common
usage: Riding a bike is safe. Driving a car is safe. Crossing the street is
safe. Spending a day at the beach is safe. Having a few drinks with friends
is safe. Travelling by commercial airline is safe. And doing all of these
things regularly is safe.

Exposure to low levels of radiation compares favorably with these sorts of
everyday activities and can be accurately described as "safe".

Clayton Bradt
Principal Radiophysicist
NYS Dept. of Health

Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2013 21:34:41 +0000
From: "Perle, Sandy" <sperle at mirion.com>
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Fwd:  Communicating with the public and the
To: "The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing
		 List"		 <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>

<A4696FE53D1D8E4F9F9BA2265A58C99804E3BB1D at 406845-EXCH2.mirion.local>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="Windows-1252"

I would also be careful using the term "safe". A few years ago a request
came into N13 to consider forming a Working Group to define what is safe,
and this was rejected since it is not something that easily defines
quantitatively or qualitatively.


You are currently subscribed to the RadSafe mailing list

Before posting a message to RadSafe be sure to have read and understood the RadSafe rules. These can be found at: http://health.phys.iit.edu/radsaferules.html

For information on how to subscribe or unsubscribe and other settings visit: http://health.phys.iit.edu

More information about the RadSafe mailing list