Environmental Physics Department
The research task of the Environmental Physics Laboratory is multidisciplinary research in the field of environmental impact of energy fuel cycles. Two research groups are active in this field. The main research field of the low dose group of the Institute is the numerical simulation of the biological effects of ionising radiation. The algorithms and methods developed in the frame of this topic can partly be applied to model the airway transport and deposition of aerosols other than radioactive, as well. Members of the research group are Imre Balásházy, Árpád Farkas and Balázs Gergely Madas. Establishing a plausible dose-effect relationship for the low doses of atomic radiations is certainly one of the biggest challenges of current radiation protection, radiation biology and toxicology. The research area is considered one of the most distinguished and top priority scientific topics in the developed countries in general and in the European Union in particular. Recognising the scientific importance of the topic a research group dedicated to the study of low dose health effects was established in our Institute in the late nineties. In the frame of the above mentioned research area, the research group of the Institute focuses on revealing the health consequences of radon progeny inhalation. One of the reasons for choosing this approach is that at the beginning of our efforts directed towards the analysis of radiation action in the airways the group already owned one of the most sophisticated lung deposition models in the world. Studying the effect of radiations through radon progenies is also underpinned by the fact that they are responsible for more than the half of the natural radiation burden of the general population and huge epidemiological datasets concerning radon induced detrimental health effects are available in the published literature. In addition, it is constantly accumulating scientific evidence that radon is the most important risk factor of lung cancer in case of non smokers and passive smokers, and the second cause of it in case of smokers. It is worth mentioning that, unfortunately, Hungary leads the international lung cancer statistics. Finally, from technical point of view it is important that radon daughters are alpha-emitters and thus relatively easy to model. Since human and animal experiments are ethically restricted and the extrapolation of data from in vitro cell experiments is full of uncertainties our scientific method is numerical modelling. Radiation induced cancer development is a rather complicated process, thus its description is only possible by integrating the relevant outcomes of experiments with advanced computational methods. The related work is done in the frame of national and international cooperation, the results being presented on academic conferences and published in highly ranked international peer reviewed journals.