Reference Man, used as the basis for evaluating radiation exposure risks, ignores the fact that
girls are 10 times more vulnerable to the exact same radiation exposure, and
women are 2 times more vulnerable.
A Radiation Girl standard would provide better protection for men, women, girls, and boys.


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This Week’s Featured Interview:

Reference Man is the standard first developed in 1949 to establish maximum permissible amounts of radioactive materials in the human body.  BUT because humans are so diverse in age, gender, weight, height, lifestyles, geographic locations and other factors, no Reference Man definition can possibly reflect anything other than a scant few individuals from the total population, however he is defined.  But there is a better standard that can be developed to protect the health of us all, and that’s what this week’s interviewees talk about.

  • Mary Olson is founder and Acting Director of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project. She served from 1991 to 2019 as Staff Biologist and Senior Radioactive Waste Policy Analyst at Nuclear Information and Resource Service. Her work on radiation education lead her to the question of whether biological sex is a factor in radiation harm, and she has presented her findings at Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons; the UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review of 2015; the International Committee of the Red Cross Asia regional meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, and twice at the EU Gender Summit, in Brussels in 2016 and in London, 2018. In 2020 Olson served at an expert consultation on an update on the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons for the International Committee of the Red Cross / Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland.She founded the Gender and Radiation Impact Project in 2017.

Mary Olson (pictured) is currently raising funds to support a 2021 project to define a new, female-inclusive basis for radiation protection standards to help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure and reduce radiation harm.  Reference Man would be replaced by Reference Girl, providing greater protection for all.  Learn more at:

  • Dave Lochbaum was, for more than 20 years, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is a certified nuclear engineer who has taught reactor technology for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and co-author – with Edwin Lyman and Susan Stranahan — the book, Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster. He’s a board member of Gender and Radiation Impact Project.

Dave Lochbaum (r)