About Federal Guidance: Overview
Federal Guidance is a reference for federal and state agencies in developing rules and regulations to protect the American public from the harmful effects of radiation. It is developed and issued by EPA, with input from other federal and state agencies, and is signed by the President. Federal Guidance promotes protection of both the general public and the people who work with and around radiation every day.
EPA provides both guidance documents, which provide principles and policies for radiation protection, and technical reports, which provide current scientific and technical information used in radiation dose and risk assessment.
On this page:
- Who develops federal guidance documents?
- Who uses federal guidance?
- What is the difference between the policy recommendations and the technical reports?
- How does EPA develop federal guidance policy recommendations and federal guidance technical reports?
- Must federal and state agencies follow the federal guidance policy recommendations?
Who develops federal guidance documents?
EPA has responsibility for developing federal guidance. This responsibility was transferred from the Federal Radiation Council to the newly formed EPA in 1970 under Executive Order 10831 and Reorganization Plan No. 3.
The authority to develop federal guidance policy recommendations was given to the Federal Radiation Council (FRC) by executive order in 1959. Over the next decade the FRC developed guidance dealing with a range of subjects from exposure of the general public to estimates of fallout from nuclear weapons testing. The FRC guidance reports are included on the Technical Documents page as Reports 1-8.
FRC's federal guidance provided the basis for most regulation of radiation exposure by federal and state agencies prior to the establishment of the EPA.
Who uses federal guidance?
Federal and state agencies refer to federal guidance in developing radiation rules and regulations that affect public health.
What is the difference between the guidance policy recommendations and the technical reports?
Federal guidance policy recommendations are signed by the President and issued by EPA. By signing these, the President provides a framework for use by federal and state agencies in developing regulations that ensure the public is protected from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Federal guidance policy recommendations are also an opportunity for the President to promote national consistency in radiation protection regulations.
The federal guidance technical reports provide agencies and the public with up-to-date scientific and technical advances in radiation protection. Federal guidance technical reports are issued by EPA.
How does EPA develop federal guidance policy recommendations and federal guidance technical reports?
The intent of federal guidance policy recommendations is to recommend broad radiation protection policy and to develop the tools for its consistent implementation across federal agencies. These recommendations are signed by the President.
Federal guidance policy recommendations focus on protection of the public under normal circumstances, protection of workers, and protection of workers and the public during emergencies.
In all of these areas, federal guidance recommendations are developed through a consensus-building process. EPA convenes interagency work groups to help draft and review these documents.
Federal guidance technical reports provide standardized methods and conversion tables for dose and risk assessment. There are several important sources of data that EPA relies on for developing radiation dose and risk coefficients, and some of these data change as science improves. Important examples include:
- Epidemiological studies of workers and members of the public exposed to radiation above background levels, such as the ongoing study of survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan;
- Baseline U.S. health statistics (updated every 10 years), because the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radiation can depend on the baseline rate of that cancer in the U.S.; and,
- Biokinetic models that predict both the distribution of radionuclides among organs following ingestion and inhalation and the resulting organ doses over time from those intakes, such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s revised human respiratory tract model which was issued in 1995.
EPA closely follows the developments in science, but also relies on national and international expert groups for independent advice. Periodic assessments of the risk from radiation exposure are performed by expert committees of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences who issue reports on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR). There have been 7 BEIR reports thus far. EPA is now reviewing its radiation cancer risk assessment methods in light of the 2006 BEIR VII report and other new data.
Must federal and state agencies follow federal guidance policy recommendations?
Federal guidance policy recommendations provide non-binding advice; it is not legally enforceable. Federal and state agencies have the authority to determine the details of their own regulations. Federal guidance recommendations and technical reports are intended as basic guidelines.