The ICRP protection quantities, equivalent and effective dose: Their basis and application

John D. Harrison*, C. Streffer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    46 Citations (Scopus)


    Equivalent and effective dose are protection quantities defined by the The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). They are frequently referred to simply as dose and may be misused. They provide a method for the summation of doses received from external sources and from intakes of radionuclides for comparison with dose limits and constraints, set to limit the risk of cancer and hereditary effects. For the assessment of internal doses, ICRP provides dose coefficients (Sv Bq-1) for the ingestion or inhalation of radionuclides by workers and members of the public, including children. Dose coefficients have also been calculated for in utero exposures following maternal intakes and for the transfer of radionuclides in breast milk. In each case, values are given of committed equivalent doses to organs and tissues and committed effective dose. Their calculation involves the use of defined biokinetic and dosimetric models, including the use of reference phantoms representing the human body. Radiation weighting factors are used as a simple representation of the different effectiveness of different radiations in causing stochastic effects at low doses. A single set of tissue weighting factors is used to take account of the contribution of individual organs and tissues to overall detriment from cancer and hereditary effects, despite age- and gender-related differences in estimates of risk and contributions to risk. The results are quantities that are not individual specific but are reference values for protection purposes, relating to doses to phantoms. The ICRP protection quantities are not intended for detailed assessments of dose and risk to individuals. They should not be used in epidemiological analyses or the assessment of the possibility of occurrence and severity of tissue reactions (deterministic effects) at higher doses. Dose coefficients are published as reference values and as such have no associated uncertainty. Assessments of uncertainties may be appropriate in specific analyses of doses and risks and in epidemiological studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)12-18
    Number of pages7
    JournalRadiation Protection Dosimetry
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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