On Defining a De Minimis Risk Level for Carcinogens

  • Curtis C. Travis
  • Samantha A. Richter
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Risk Analysis book series (CIRA, volume 2)


Several attempts have been made to use the variation in the levels of natural background radiation to define an acceptable level risk for man-made radiation. The philosophical basis for such proposals is that since no correlations have been detected between variations in natural background radiation and adverse health effects, small additions to natural exposure should be acceptable. The difficulty lies in defining “small.” In 1978, Adler and Weinberg proposed using the standard deviation of background radiation levels as a method for establishing radiation exposure limits (Adler and Weinberg 1978). The Adler and Weinberg proposal results in the suggestion that a lifetime cancer risk of about 10−4 is de minimis.* The Adler and Weinberg de minimis risk level was based on the standard deviation of human exposure to background terrestrial and cosmic radiation. We propose to determine the risk levels associated with the standard deviation of human exposure to other radioactive and chemical carcinogens.


Risk Level Cosmic Radiation Chemical Carcinogen Indoor Radon Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Curtis C. Travis
    • 1
  • Samantha A. Richter
    • 1
  1. 1.Health and Safety Research DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

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