1 May 2012

Underestimating effects: Why causation probabilities need to be replaced in regulation, policy, and the law

Sander Greenland

Sander Greenland is Professor of Epidemiology and Statistics at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has specialized in research on epidemiologic statistics, theory, and...

Causation probabilities are often a component of decisions on awarding compensation for radiation exposure and descriptions of the number of cancers caused by radiation releases. In many instances, the use of epidemiologic data to calculate such probabilities may seriously underestimate the number of people harmed and the percentage of cancers induced or accelerated by the radiation exposure. Epidemiologic studies can more reliably underpin systems that award compensation using years of healthy life lost due to the exposure. Such a system has its own imprecisions but is more scientifically supportable than using causation probabilities to award compensation.