Genesis of Radiation Control Legislation for Electronic Products

F.J. Bradley (Health Physics Consultant, New York, NY 10028)

The genesis of electronic product radiation goes back over 100 years to the discovery of the x-rays by Roentgen in 1895. Initially, such products were specialized and used mainly by persons with varying degrees of skill. This changed rapidly after World War II with the introduction of consumer products, such as TV sets and microwave ovens. The microwave ovens made possible as a result of improvements in microwave tube advancement put an oven in everyone's kitchen, It was realized that the TV tube, due to the high voltage, could generate x-rays and were designed with lead glass that easily controlled radiation to within acceptable limits. Radiofrequency radiations around radar sets caused a stir and scared some people, and eventually lead to Congressional hearings on the subject. Amidst the hearings, the color TV scare erupted. A TV manufacturer reported that certain sets were emitting x-rays above the acceptable limit of 0.5 mR/h on the surface of the set. Part of the problem arose, not from the picture tube as had been assumed in the past, but the high voltage circuits, which for color TV operated at 25 to 30 kV rather than the 10 to 12 kV for black and white sets. Potential radiation exposure extended across the population spectrum – from factory, service and public. All these concerns coalesced in Congress and led to the enactment of Public Law 90-602. This gave the U.S,. Public Health Service, and other federal agencies, authority to regulate the manufacture and importation of such electronic products with potential for production of radiation - broadly defined. The legislation spurred State and City health departments to increase their vigilance in these areas when they were alerted to the potential public and occupational danger. It also alerted standard-setting organizations to improve the quality of their standards and their certification by outside agencies such as the Underwriters Laboratory. It was stated – "we can have stringent standards, but without enforcement of some type they can be meaningless".

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