"There's been a sentiment in the community that because we don't see obvious effects in some of these places, or that what we see tends to be small and localized, that maybe there aren't any negative effects from low levels of radiation. But when you do the meta-analysis, you do see significant negative effects."
Researchers culled 46 peer-reviewed studies from 5,000 candidates. Each of the 46 chosen examined both a control group and a more highly irradiated population and quantified the size of the radiation levels for each group. Each paper also reported test statistics that allowed direct comparison between the studies, and the researchers controlled for publication bias, a common obstacle in meta-analysis. Perhaps tellingly, researchers qualify their efforts by saying: "Crucially, however, these studies are few and scattered, suggesting that a concerted effort to address this lack of research should be made." However, they go on to say two things:
1. "There's an attempt in the [nuclear power] industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting [from accidents], because maybe it's only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level. But they're assuming the natural background levels are fine."
2. "And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants, medical procedures, and even some x-ray machines at airports."
Can slashdotters more in-the-know please comment on the impact this study may have on the scientific community and perhaps future policy? What about the validity of the study itself?