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Effects of Large Doses

Radiation doses above 3 Gy (300 rad) can be fatal and doses above 6 Gy (600 rad) are almost certain to be fatal, with death occurring within several months (in shorter times at higher doses). [Note: Very high doses are commonly expressed in grays, because the standard quality factor is not appropriate. For gamma rays and electrons, 1 Gy corresponds to 1 Sv.] Above 1 Gy, radiation causes a complex of symptoms, including nausea and blood changes, known as radiation sickness. For doses below 1 Sv (100 rem), there is little likelihood of radiation sickness, and the main danger is an increased cancer risk. The most important data base and analyses are from the RERF studies of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. In these studies, the exposure and medical histories are analyzed for an exposed group (50,113 people) and an unexposed, or minimally exposed, group (36,459 people). Through 1990, there have been 4,741 cancer fatalities in the exposed group, of which 454 are attributed to radiation exposure. There is a statistically significant excess for both solid cancer tumors and leukemia for doses above 0.2 Sv (20 rem). These data, in a succession of updated versions, have provided much of the information used in comprehensive studies of radiation effects.


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