The House of Representatives today passed the Low-Dose Radiation Research Act of 2014 (H.R. 5544), a bipartisan bill introduced by Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-Ga.) to increase our understanding of low-dose radiation. This type of research has been touted as critical for physicians and decision-makers to more accurately assess potential health risks in this area. H.R. 5544 passed by voice vote.
Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Broun: "I am pleased by the bipartisan efforts of my colleagues to advance this common-sense bill and help resolve what we do not yet know in the field of low-dose radiation. Every day, more humans are exposed to a wide range of low-dose background radiation -- but there exists only limited research on the health-risks associated with low-dose radiation. This bill seeks to address the current gaps in knowledge by leveraging the nation's current expertise in the area, and then proposing a long-term strategy to tackle the issue. At the same time, this legislation does not authorize any additional funds and requires the Department of Energy to carry out this work using only their existing appropriated funds. This bill is a common-sense win, and I hope that Senator Reid and President Obama will act swiftly in passing this vital legislation and signing it into law."
Many Americans are exposed to a broad range of low doses of ionizing radiation, ranging from cosmic background radiation to medically based procedures, which include X-rays and CT scans. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Low Dose Radiation Research Program within the Office of Science focuses on the health effects of ionizing radiation and resolving the uncertainties in this area that currently exist.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Our current approach to radiation safety relies on an outdated assumption that because high doses of radiation are harmful that much lower radiation doses are also harmful. This assumption is not based on a reliable scientific foundation and prevents patients from making informed decisions about diagnostic exams and can lead to overly restrictive regulations. Unfortunately, the Low-Dose Radiation Research program has not been a priority at DOE in recent years and has seen systematic budget cuts. This bill ensures the continuance of important research conducted through this program."
H.R. 5544 directs the National Academies to formulate a long-term strategy to resolve uncertainties of whether and to what extent low-dose radiation may pose health risks to humans. The bill also stipulates that the Academies must consider the most up-to-date studies in this field of research. Finally, it requires DOE to develop a five-year research plan that responds to the Academies' recommendations.
H.R. 5544 now awaits consideration by the U.S. Senate.