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From time immemorial life on earth has been exposed to a continuous background of natural radiation from rocks, soil, and outer space. During the past half-century human beings have been exposed to additional radiation from luminescent clocks and watches, from x-rays and radium used in medical diagnosis and treatment, from x-rays used in fitting of shoes, and, more recently, from nuclear fission used for power and for research. Very little is known about the effects of such low but prolonged background exposure on genetic damage or on the health of individuals. The consensus of scientific opinion is that "there is no level of radiation exposure below which one can be absolutely certain that harmful effects may not occur in subsequent generations, or to the health of at least a few individuals in this generation." However, one can say that at the present increased radiation levels following the recent Soviet atomic
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