For information only – not an official document
6 September 2022
GENEVA/VIENNA, 6 September (UN Information Service) – The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has launched its latest evaluation of occupational exposure to ionizing radiation. The Committee analysed the latest available data for the period 2003–2014 and compared the results with previous UNSCEAR reports.
Working in the medical sector is the main source of exposure from human-made sources of radiation, while mining is the major natural source of radiation exposure for workers, according to the UNSCEAR 2020/2021 Report, annex D. The report has been presented today at the International Conference on Occupational Radiation Protection – Strengthening Radiation Protection of Workers – Twenty Years of Progress and the Way Forward, being held in Geneva from 5 to 9 September, organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and co
-sponsored by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Scientific Committee estimated that approximately 24 million workers were exposed to natural and human-made sources of ionizing radiation in the period 2010–2014. About 52 per cent (12.6 million) of those were employed in sectors that involve exposure to natural sources of radiation (such as coal miners and aircrew) and about 48 per cent (11.4 million) worked in sectors that involve exposure to human-made sources of radiation (such as nuclear power plant workers, industrial radiographers and medical staff). The total number of workers has increased slightly compared with the period 1995–1999, when it was estimated that about 21.5 million workers were exposed for both sources combined. The worldwide average annual exposure for all workers during the period 2010–2014 was estimated to be around 1.2 mSv - about two thirds of the value estimated for the period 1995–1999 (1.8 mSv).
The Scientific Committee’s evaluation on occupational exposure is based on information obtained from scientific publications and data provided by United Nations Member States. There have been considerable improvements in the provision of data compared to the Committee’s previous evaluation. This is the result of new analytical tools and increased cooperation with a number of international organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which provided data on the number of air crew, and other international organizations (IAEA, ILO, Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (NEA/OECD), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Nuclear Association (WNA). “International cooperation is essential to be able to produce comprehensive reports with minimal burden on the United Nations Member States,” said Dr Jing Chen, Chair of UNSCEAR. “The evaluation assists United Nations Member States to identify emerging issues and situations that should be subjected to more attention and scrutiny by relevant stakeholders.”
At the launch, UNSCEAR Secretary Borislava Batandjieva-Metcalf highlighted the importance of strengthening the engagement with all United Nations Member States in future global surveys on occupational, as well as medical and public exposure, to enhance representativeness and geographical balance of the Committee’s evaluations.
The Scientific Committee’s evaluation on occupational exposure is among four scientific annexes that have been provided to the United Nations General Assembly as part of its 2020/2021 report. The main conclusions of this evaluation are scheduled to be presented at a scientific online webinar to be held on 17 November 2022 at 13:00 CET.
More information about the UNSCEAR 2020/2021 Report, annex D and the online webinar is available on the UNSCEAR website (www.unscear.org).
The mandate of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), established in 1955, is to undertake broad reviews of the sources of ionizing radiation and the effects on human health and the environment. Its assessments provide a scientific foundation for United Nations agencies and governments to formulate standards and programmes for protection against ionizing radiation. It does not deal with or assess nuclear safety or emergency planning issues. The secretariat in Vienna, which is functionally linked to the UN Environment Programme, organizes the annual sessions and manages the preparation of documents for the Committee's scrutiny.
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