From October to December 2010, just before the radiological accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 71 radiation professionals from radiation facilities in Japan were asked what they considered as a "safe dose" of radiation for themselves, their partners, parents, children, siblings, and friends. Although the 'safe dose' they noted varied widely, from less than 1 mSv y-1 to more than 100 mSv y-1, the average dose was 35.6 mSv y-1, which is around the middle point between the legal exposure dose limits for the annual average and for any single year. Similar results were obtained from other surveys of members of the Japan Radioisotope Association (36.9 mSv y-1) and of the Oita Prefectural Hospital (36.8 mSv y-1). Among family members and friends, the minimum average "safe" dose was 8.5 mSv y-1 for children, for whom 50% of the responders claimed a "safe dose" of less than 1 mSv. Gender, age and specialty of the radiation professional also affected their notion of a "safe dose." These findings suggest that the perception of radiation risk varies widely even for radiation professionals and that the legal exposure dose limits derived from regulatory science may act as an anchor of safety. The different levels of risk perception for different target groups among radiation professionals appear similar to those in the general population. The gap between these characteristics of radiation professionals and the generally accepted picture of radiation professionals might have played a role in the state of confusion after the radiological accident.
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