The devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami seriously damaged some of the Japanese nuclear power plants. Massive amounts of radiation leaked from the damaged reactors and will likely have affected thousands of people. However, the number of injured and the extent of their injuries may likely not be known for decades. The atmospheric risk to Americans on American soil from these leaks is very, very small, and likely non-existent.
What you may not know is that we Americans are exposed to radiation on a daily basis, right in our homes, at work, school and at play. We all generally know that we are exposed to radiation from medical diagnostic equipment such as X-Rays and mammograms. What most Americans do not know is that we are exposed to radiation from common, household and work-place items. The FDA lists the following non-medical products and procedures as being regulated for radiation emission:
- Cell Phones
- Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
- Laser Light Shows
- Lasers – Non-medical devices, including Industrial, Scientific, and Consumer Laser equipment, Laser Light Shows, and Laser Pointers
- Microwave Ovens
- Security Systems
- Sunlamps and Sunlamp Products (Tanning Beds/Booths)
- Televisions and Video Display Monitors
It makes sense that even frequently repeated exposures at very low doses can cause injury. We know radiation can cause an array of injuries from serious skin irritation, to severe burns and cancer. We do not know how much radiation exposure we are receiving from these products, and what that exposure will mean in terms of bodily injuries. Intense, close exposure will result in a burning of the skin. Prolonged exposure at lower levels may produce tumors after a 20 to 30 year period (latency period). As with pharmaceutical and medical device product liability litigation, litigation over injuries sustained as a result of exposure to radiation emitting products will require scientific evidence that unequivocally demonstrates a least a doubling of the risk of injury from these products. Further, it is unlikely that such scientific evidence exists for all radiation emitting products and whether the product warnings at the time of exposure were sufficiently detailed and specific at the time of the radiation exposure to warn of their potential for serious injury.
Think about this: We are all exposed to a number of these low radiation emission products multiple times if not constantly – throughout the day. We likely will not know we have suffered an injury for the entire 20 to 30 year latency period. The law will make it our responsibility to read the warning labels on these products and do our part to avoid injury. We would be well advised to read warnings, check radiation emission levels of the products we use every day, and reduce the risk as much as possible. That could mean not using or at least reducing the use of cell phones, microwave ovens, security systems, and televisions. That likely will not happen, and would result in a whole host of immediate social and psychological injuries. You might say we are damaged if we do and damaged if we don’t.