Health studies

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) continuously conducts and reviews health studies on a variety of areas associated with the production, possession or use of nuclear substances. The information gathered in these studies serves to guide the CNSC in decisions affecting its regulatory framework.

Part of the CNSC's mandate is to provide objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public on nuclear-related health and safety topics. The following are highlights of that work.

New Study of Consequences of a Hypothetical Severe Nuclear Accident and Effectiveness of Mitigation Measures

Hot topics and relevant third party research

Useful tools

Health studies

Hot topics and relevant third party research

CNSC staff constantly review literature from peer-reviewed journals as well as pertinent non-peer-reviewed literature to ensure that the most up-to-date information is used to support our regulatory framework. Comments and interpretations are provided here for selected topics.

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently published a booklet titled Radiation: Effects and Sources. Its purpose is to answer three questions: What is radiation? What does radiation do to us? And where does radiation come from? Intended for the general public, the booklet is easy to understand and offers excellent graphics to help the reader better understand the basics of radiation. This booklet is largely based on previous UNEP reports and presents the most up-to-date scientific information from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).
  • Fact sheet: Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident
    The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine was the largest uncontrolled radioactive release in history. The health consequences of radiation exposure from the accident have often been misunderstood. To clarify, the CNSC has published a fact sheet based on the 2011 United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) report entitled Health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident which summarizes findings based on more than 20 years of follow-up.
  • Several international studies, published between 1997 and 2014, discuss potassium iodide (KI) pills. Some of the most notable examples include The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid Axis in Infants and Children: Protection from Radioiodines; Distributing KI pills to minimize thyroid radiation exposure in case of a nuclear accident in France; Potassium Iodide for thyroid blockade in a reactor accident: administrative policies that govern its use; and Managing terrorism or accidental nuclear errors, preparing for iodine-131 emergencies: a comprehensive review.

    These studies explore and describe the benefits of distributing KI pills in advance to citizens living within a 300-mile (483 kilometres) radius of a nuclear power plant, and the need for timely and correct consumption of these pills in the case of a nuclear accident. The studies indicate such preventative measures can greatly reduce the accumulation of radioiodines in the thyroid gland, as well as the resulting radiation dose. This is an essential measure, since thyroid cancer –, most specifically in children and infants – is one of the most frequently observed consequences of a nuclear accident. The studies also highlight the need for appropriate administrative policies and increased research on the topic of children and infant consumption of KI pills, to better understand both the effectiveness and the safety of these measures.

  • New report on the uranium industry: Managing Environmental and Health Impacts of Uranium Mining (PDF). Read the extended executive summary: Perceptions and Realities in Modern Uranium Mining – Extended Summary (PDF) (source: Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), a specialized agency within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
  • This recent international report issued by the NEA provides a factual account of how modern uranium mining is the most regulated and one of the safest and environmentally responsible forms of mining in the world. The report confirms that current mining practices and regulations protect the health and safety of the public, workers and the environment. The report uses case studies, which highlight the leading regulatory framework and practices applied in Canada, by the CNSC, provincial authorities and the uranium industry, throughout the lifecycle of a uranium mine.
  • New study on childhood leukemia: Leukemia in young children in the vicinity of British nuclear power plants: a case-control study (source: British Journal of Cancer)

    A recent British case-control study has found that young children who were born or live near a nuclear power plant sometime between 1962 and 2007 do not have a greater risk of developing childhood leukemia or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The study was led by researchers from the Childhood Cancer Research Group in Oxford, England and published in the September 2013 edition of the British Journal of Cancer. The results draw the same conclusions as those recently published in the CNSC cancer study.

Useful tools

To assist readers in their understanding of our technical reports, the CNSC has put together a group of useful resources. These lay the foundation for understanding the different kinds of studies and highlight important factors to consider when reviewing a study. They provide details on the basics of topics like radiation, epidemiology and explain related terminology.

Health studies – topics

CNSC staff conduct health studies on various topics, including tritium, uranium mining and milling, other mining activities, nuclear energy workers and members of the general population. These studies are conducted in order to enable the effective management of radiation risks and to set regulatory limits that will protect workers and the public from ionizing radiation.

Tritium

Port Hope

Uranium miners

Other miners

  • Radon progeny exposure and lung cancer: A Mortality study of Newfoundland Fluorspar miners 1950–2001 ( RSP-0193 Summary)

Canadian nuclear facilities

General population studies