|Depiction of a scene from |
Voltaire's Candide (1759)
And it’s worse than just a couple isolated cases
A Scripps Howard News Service investigation looked at NRC records and the current state of reporting on radioactive materials, turning up numerous flaws in the U.S.'s current system, and finding a wide range of cases in which radioactive materials and products were brought to the U.S.
NRC records show 18,740 documented cases involving radioactive materials in consumer products, in metal intended for consumer products or other public exposure to radioactive material. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates there are some 500,000 unaccounted for radioactively contaminated metal objects in the U.S., and the NRC estimates that figure is around is 20 million pounds of contaminated waste. [emphasis added]
Radiological Hazards for Patients and Medical Professionals
Bryant Furlow. “How to Keep Radiation Therapy Safe for Patients.” Oncology Nurse Advisor. December 19, 2011:
“For patients, unnecessary procedures (usually imaging procedures) and radiation dosing errors represent the bulk of risk from medical radiation, whereas incidental, unintended radiation exposure is the primary concern for nurses and other health care workers…
Radiotherapeutic advances like intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), for example, allow escalated radiation dose delivery to tumors while minimizing irradiation of a patient’s healthy, nontarget tissue. However, these advances have come with increased risks when targeting errors occur, such as those caused by patient movement or improper patient setup. IMRT also requires complex three-dimensional (3-D) computed tomography (CT) planning examinations that may frequently involve unnecessarily high radiation doses. Combined with an upward trend in patient radiation doses over recent decades, and improved cancer patient survival times, such considerations raise troubling questions about medically unjustified radiation doses and secondary tumor risks…. Medically unnecessary CT scans are prescribed for up to 20 million American adults and 1 million children each year. A 2007 analysis concluded that up to 2% of cancers diagnosed in the United States may be attributable to CT examinations. The justification of any radiological imaging must always be scrutinized, particularly in pediatric cancer patients, for whom any radiation poses a larger lifetime risk for secondary cancer than for older cancer patients. The availability and sufficiency of alternative imaging modalities that do not involve ionizing radiation, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), should always be considered. Despite numerous calls for electronic medical records (EMRs) to include cumulative radiation dose information, only a handful of US hospitals and medical groups have adopted such systems to date.”
Jane Kiah. “The Importance of Radiation Safety for Healthcare Workers as Well as Patients.” Cathlab Digest Volume 20, Issue 1. January 2012
About the author: RN, Director of Invasive Services, Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute, Miami, Florida; Program Director, Innovations in Cardiac and Vascular Care: Advanced Interventions for Nurses and Technologists, The International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy (ISET):
“One of the root causes of excessive radiation exposure arises from the fact that many in the healthcare field who work with radiation have received only rudimentary radiation training. Whereas interventional radiologists are trained in the safe use of radiation, interventional cardiologists and vascular surgeons, for instance, typically receive minimal radiation training. Because they typically are unfamiliar with all of the sources of radiation exposure, they may know little about risk-reduction and safety strategies. Compounding the problem is that, while a radiologist’s key team member is a radiologic technologist (who also has received radiation safety training), an interventional cardiologist or vascular surgeon’s key team member may be a nurse, who likely has received little to no radiation safety training. That’s not to say that all radiologists employ best radiation safety practices, either. Despite their training, many of them have become complacent.
Additionally, we often use far more radiation than necessary. In the United States, there is an increased emphasis on ensuring the highest quality images, which means more radiation. That’s not the case in Europe and Japan, where safety is more highly valued. The ideal dose is the least amount of radiation possible to produce an acceptable image. A good operator knows how to produce good images without excess radiation.”