Fool Irradiation: A Potential Unwanted Byproduct of Food Irradiation?


D. J. Strom, C. R. Watson


What is the rate of fatal or serious accidents at industrial irradiators? The numerator of this rate is surprisingly high. In the past 30 years, there have been at least eight serious accidents with sterilizers; Norway, 1982 (40 Gy); Israel, 1990 (15 Gy); Italy, 1975 (14 Gy); Peoples Republic of China, 1980 (8.3 and 3.2 Gy); El Salvador, 1989 (5.3 Gy); New Jersey, USA, 1974 (4.1 Gy); New Jersey, USA, 1977 (2.1 Gy); and Peoples Republic of China, 1987 (1.35 Gy). There have been at least 50 serious accidents involving sealed sources of all kinds. In too many cases, safety procedures were foolishly violated or safety systems intentionally defeated, resulting in "fool irradiation." For food irradiation to be acceptable, acute radiation deaths or injuries of food irradiation workers must not be substituted for the rare consumer death attributable to E coli 0157:H7. The recent IAEA review "Lessons Learned from Accidents in Industrial Irradiation Facilities" and ICRP Publication 76, "Protection from Potential Exposures: Application to Selected Radiation Sources" show the way to prevent future "fool irradiation," thereby making possible the benefits of food irradiation.


This abstract was presented at the 32nd Annual Midyear Meeting, "Creation and Future Legacy of Stockpile Stewardship Isotope Production, Applications, and Consumption", Sealed Sources, Recycling, and Transmutation Session, 1/24/1999 - 1/27/1999, held in Albuquerque, NM.

Index of Midyear Meeting Abstracts