How does risk from Rocky Flats contamination compared to everyday risks?
Risk-based values for contaminants, i.e., concentrations that may induce cancer in excess of normal rates, are useful for comparison and for making regulatory decisions. Environmental risk is generally expressed as the odds of an exposed individual contracting cancer and these odds are expressed as a regulatory range of acceptable risk: one in ten thousand to one in a million. For plutonium, this risk range for a rural resident equates to from 183 picocuries (trillionths of a curie) per gram (pCi/g) to 2 pCi/g of plutonium in soil.
The cleanup goal at Superfund sites is to reduce excess cancer risk to somewhere between one in ten thousand and one in a million. These risk levels can be compared to the American Cancer Society’s reported average lifetime risk of contracting cancer: one out of every two men and one out of every three women in the U.S.