Federal regulators charged with protecting the public against harmful levels of radiation are "neither equipped nor inclined to carry out his responsibility," according to a report of the Senate Government Affairs Committee scheduled for release next week.
In part of its overall study of regulatory agencies, the committee found that eight executive departments, two independent commissions and five agencies are assigned to regulate products and factories with potential radiation dnagers, "but none of these government agencies is doing an adequate job."
The two-year study recommends that all aspects of government regulation to control radiation levels should be assigned to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The report says "responsibility (for regulation) is scattered and uneven, resulting in jurisdictional disputes and regulatory confusion. Too many agencies are charged with administering too many laws. And nobody has the clear ability to overview the total situation, or the power to guide and coordinate that dispersed authority."
"As a result," the report continues, "coordination is often less than systematic, the extent of the risk is not fully understood and some potentially significant hazard are not subject to any federal controls at all."
The committee found that the Food and Drug Administration alone has five different bureaus assigned to regulate some aspects of radiation.
Dozen of federal departments, agencies, bureaus, commissions, boards and other entities also are involved in protecting the public from warmful radiation, the report says.
"Authority has been parceled out in a piecemeal fashion," the report says, "in accordance with the ways in which a risk might occur or even the product that might present a potential hazard.
"Therefore, transportation agencies are concerned with transport aspects; consumer product agencies are involved safe product aspects; and so forth."
The study asserts that the EPA is adequately organized and "could effectively provide that needed central focus."
"What is needed is not more agencies involved in radiation protection - but one agency with the resources, the mission, and the determination to see that the job gets done," said Sen. Abe Robicoff (D-Conn.), the committee's chairman. "EPA should be designated the action agency in this effort."
Ranking minority member Sen. Charles Percy (R-III.) said: "If someone were to set out to devise a flawed, cumbersome, ineffective scheme to deal with harmful levels of radiation, he probably could not do better than what we have now."
Many of the growing dangers of increased radiation are mentioned in the report.
"Recent times have witnessed a vast increase in the number of consumer products which emit low-level radiation into the environment," the report states. "For example, an estimated 13 million television receivers are manufactured annually in the United States, million more are imported each year, and there are now some 100 million televisions in use in this country alone."
The report also points out that more than 15 million microwave ovens and produced annually, compared with only 55.000 six years ago.
Other products that can contain some radioactive materials include smoke detectors, watches and laser systems used by supermarkets in their new checkout machinery.
Although the report concedes that no one knows effects of these radiation emissions will be it also points out that federal law does not require that new products and devicew using radioactive materials be proven safe prior to public distribution.