Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Understanding the Health Impacts and Risks of Exposure to Radiation


In this chapter, the biological effects of exposure to radiation are summarized and explained from the perspective of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. First, a series of fundamental concepts in radiation biology are addressed to define the different types and sources of ionizing radiation, and resulting paths of human exposure. The health effects prompted by exposure to radiation are then broadly categorized and correlated with the nature of exposure and its extent. Finally, those concepts are revisited to assess the potential health impacts and risks endured by the workers and general population affected by the uncontrolled release of radiation around the Fukushima area. In the wake of the 2011 accident, a surge of public concern over the safety of nuclear energy and potential health risks from radiation exposure has re-surfaced. To evaluate, understand, and mitigate those health risks, it is essential that scientific data be meticulously gathered, rigorously analyzed, and accurately communicated. Taking a systematic knowledge-based approach to accurately capture the risks of exposure to radiation will not only alleviate mass confusion, but also help public health officials and emergency responders better prepare and implement logistics, should another such unfortunate event take place. The topics discussed in this chapter are intended to provide basic tools for understanding how health effects and risks related to radiation exposure are evaluated.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View