Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Shortly after the discovery of natural radioactivity and of x-rays(now more properly known as roentgen rays) during the final decade of the last century, it became apparent that these invisible radiations could produce serious effects on the human body in a relatively short period of time. Three or four decades ago additional effects became apparent in individuals who had received relatively large radiation exposures. The cumulative nature of radiation effects and the fact that detectable changes may be delayed for many years have become increasingly apparent with the passage of time. The rapid expansion in potential exposure accompanying the discovery of the process of nuclear fission and the development of atomic weapons was accompanied by a greatly accelerated research program to investigate the actual and potential damage which might result from protracted or repeated low level radiation exposures. Although much of this work has tended to heighten concern over possible radiation injuries, the magnitude of the problem, the similarity of certain effects to diseases and abnormal conditions ordinarily present in the population, and the inherent difficulty of compiling satisfactory human data have combined to leave unanswered many questions concerning the biological effects of low level continued or repeated radiation exposures.