The Future of Radiological Protection


TG 110: Protecting Animals Within a Revised Radiological Protection Framework

Author(s): J.R. Pentreath
(Emeritus Member, ICRP)


Diagnostic and monitoring procedures are now escalating, and their number is also rapidly increasing within veterinary medicine, raising concerns about the lack of advice with respect to the exposure of animals as patients. This fact has now been recognised by the ICRP, and its current strapline is that of ‘Protecting people, animals and the environment around the world from the harmful effects of radiation’. But if that is the case, what revisions to the framework are necessary in order to achieve it?

The overall scope of RP certainly needs to be redefined, and an overall ethical framework drawn up to underpin it, particularly in relation to justification of exposures. At present, although the ICRP has recently reviewed its ethical basis for human RP protection, that in relation to the environment is somewhat different, and that with respect to veterinary medicine will be found to be different again. More important, however, is the need to reconsider the science base upon which RP is founded across these three areas. DRLs are available for patients, based on Reference models and data bases, and Reference models and data bases also exist for fauna and flora in an environmental context from which DCRLs have been derived. Both DRLs and DCRLs serve to aid optimisation of protection. The latter are, admittedly, very crude in many respects, but there will be little improvement until radiobiology/radioecology provides the science in order to do so. But there are as yet no Reference models or data bases for animals in relation to veterinary medicine. The risks for animals under such exposure circumstances are also different from those of concern in relation to environmental protection. The focus in the past has been on how the effects of radiation on animals can be interpreted in a human context, but the ability to interpret them in the context of one type of vertebrate compared with another is extremely poor, and unreliable.

Much could therefore be done within a revised framework. There are various dosimetric models available, and reference data bases that could be compiled in order to provide draft DRLs for animals (DRLAs) relevant to veterinary medicine. Avenues could also be developed to gather, collate, and interpret new data bases. The chance to do all of this now within a revised ICRP set of Recommendations should not be missed.

Keywords: protection of animals; Veterinary medicine; DRLAs