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Now Available: Two New IAEA Safety Guides on Radiation Protection of Patients and of Workers

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 (Photo: F. Nassif/IAEA)

Two new IAEA safety guides provide extensive recommendations and guidance to enhance radiation protection of patients subjected to radiological procedures for diagnosis and treatment, and workers who are exposed to radiation in their jobs. The guides support the implementation of IAEA Safety Standards on radiation protection and safety of radiation sources.

The Safety Guide SSG-46, Radiation Protection and Safety in Medical Uses of Ionizing Radiation offers comprehensive recommendations for enhanced radiation protection and safety in medical uses of ionizing radiation, said Jenia Vassileva, an IAEA radiation protection specialist.

“We hope that the new safety guide on radiation protection addresses the essential attention to procedures and methods to further strengthen safety radiation procedures for patients,” she added. “It includes a structured guidance covering specific areas of diagnostic radiology and image-guided interventional procedures, nuclear medicine and radiation therapy.”

The use of radiation in medicine results in substantial health benefits. There are approximately 3.6 billion diagnostic and interventional radiological procedures, over 30 million nuclear medicine procedures, and over 5 million radiation therapy treatments performed annually worldwide.

If not used accurately and safely, ionizing radiation can cause harm, Vassileva highlighted. One of the key goals of this document is to support countries to enhance and implement effective systems of radiation protection for all medical uses of ionizing radiation, embedded in good overall medical practice.

“SSG-46 is aimed primarily at end users in the medical radiation facilities in which radiological procedures are performed, including managers, radiological medical practitioners, medical radiation technologists and other relevant health professionals who refer patients for such procedures,” Vassileva said.

This Safety Guide is the result of the IAEA’s close collaboration with its Member States, the World Health Organization, the International Labour Office (ILO) and the Pan American Health Organization. It supersedes IAEA Safety Standards Series Radiological Protection for Medical Exposure to Ionizing Radiation, No. RS-G-1.5, issued in 2002, and several Safety Reports issued by the IAEA in 2005 and 2006.

Radiation safety for all workers

The other publication — General Safety Guide GSG-7, Occupational Radiation Protection (ORP), — jointly developed by the IAEA and the ILO, incorporates guidance on the control of occupational exposure in compliance with the relevant IAEA Safety Standards  into one single document.

“The core purpose of this document is to offer an itemized step-by-step guidance on how to be vigilant in enhancing safety standards for workers across a range of industries, medical institutions, educational and research establishments, and nuclear fuel cycle facilities using nuclear or related technology,” said Burcin Okyar, an IAEA radiation safety specialist.

Occupational exposure to radiation can occur as a result of various human activities, such as working with nuclear fuel, the use of radiation in medicine, scientific research, agriculture and industry; and occupations that involve exposure due to natural sources. It is essential to have “appropriate radiation protection measures for workers for the safe and justified use of radiation, radioactive material and nuclear energy,” Okyar said.

The transient workforce of nuclear professionals who offer their services internationally are exposed to radiation at several different facilities and sometimes do not get proper records of radiation dose and health surveillance, Okyar explained, adding that regulations require facilities to track exposure of those involved at other facilities and stipulate the proper recording in compliance with Safety Standards.

Some of the key areas of practical guidance relate to the specific radiation protection programmes for occupational exposure to be established, including the setting up of monitoring programmes to assess radiation doses to workers arising from exposure due to external sources of radiation and from exposure due to intakes of radionuclides as well as in emergency and existing exposure situations.

He highlighted the fact that this Safety Guide supersedes the previous five Safety Guides namely: Occupational Radiation Protection, Assessment of Occupational Exposure Due to Intakes of Radionuclides, Assessment of Occupational Exposure Due to External Sources of Radiation, Occupational Radiation Protection in the Mining and Processing of Raw Materials and the Management System for Technical Services in Radiation Safety.

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