Radionuclides are released into the atmosphere during the nuclear fuel cycle and other activities such as the burning of coal. These radionuclides (especially if they are long-lived) eventually end up in the food or water of humans where their ionizing radiation causes damage to ‘Human Health’.
Radionuclides can be emitted to different environmental compartments (freshwater, seawater or air). Depending on the emission compartment and the radionuclide the human population will be exposed to a larger or smaller part of the ionizing radiation.
A marginal approach is used to calculate the effect factors. Semi-empirical data (based on well recorded historic emissions of ozone depleting substance) is used to determine the effect of the different substances on the EESC (Equivalent Effective Stratospheric Chlorine). The EESC is a measure for how much stratospheric ozone can be destroyed. By calculating the resulting (optical) ozone layer thickness the amount of radiation that reaches the earth can be estimated. The increase in skin cancer (and cataract) can be determined from the amount of radiation, however this is dependent on the amount of skin pigment the population has (more pigment means less chance of getting skin cancer). Whether or not exposure to UV radiation causes cataract is uncertain.