By Lindsay Potter
Newsweek recently featured biologist Mary Olson’s work on the disproportionate impact of radiation on young girls, citing, “young girls could be up to 10 times more vulnerable, with girls [under] five twice as likely to develop cancer as boys of the same age.” Olson, who recently retired from a long career with the nonprofit Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Maryland, told Newsweek that rapid cell division in infants and children makes “their DNA more vulnerable to tumor-inducing damage.” This is particularly true in young girls because, Olson explains, stem cells are sensitive to harm from radiation and young females have higher concentrations of stem cells than males or pubescent females.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s archaic and grossly biased standard called “Reference Man” estimates health risks from ionizing radiation based on a male who is “20 to 30 years old, weighs 154 pounds, is 5-foot and 6 inches tall, and is Caucasian with a Western European or North American lifestyle” — a reference nothing like the profile of the most vulnerable — girls under five. Olson’s work demonstrates that “Reference Man” exposes girls and young women to dangerously high radiation, “not just from nuclear warfare but also from more routine radiation exposures like CT scans, air travel, and medical x-rays.” — Sources: Newsweek, October 10, 2022; and the Gender and Radiation Project at genderandradiation.org.
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