Calculating radiation doses received by the embryo, foetus and breastfed infant

December 2017

Clinical Resources

Country of origin: UK

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has published new guidance on how to calculate radiation doses received by the unborn child and breastfed infants when exposed to environmental radioactivity ingested or inhaled by the mother. The guidance describes how to interpret, in the UK, recent advice published by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). Estimates of radiation dose are used to determine what, if any, impact on public health will result from exposure to ionising radiation.

The HPA Guidance covers a range of different situations including chronic intakes of environmental radioactivity by the mother over a year, chronic intakes from solid radioactive waste disposals and short term intakes, e.g. in the event of an accidental release. The guidance advises that doses to embryo, foetus and breastfed infant only need to be calculated explicitly when the unborn child or breastfed infant could receive higher doses than children or adults. It describes the cases where this would apply and also advises how to undertake these calculations.

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