Avoidable Radiation Exposure in Biomedical Research Laboratories


A. Fellman, T. Mercer


Core components of an effective radiation safety program are procedures and strategies designed to keep occupational radiation doses at levels as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). At most biomedical/research licensees, this responsibility is shared among the radiation safety officer (RSO), radiation safety committee, health physics staff, and authorized users of radioactive materials and their staff. The radiation safety program typically requires mandatory worker training to meet or exceed regulatory requirements. When the procedures and other instructions covered in radiation training courses are successfully implemented, ALARA objectives should be easily achieved and both contamination and overexposure events kept to a minimum. Why do some workers at biomedical research facilities occasionally receive a measurable radiation dose exceeding that due solely to the normal, uneventful use of radioisotopes? Why are some workers forced to relinquish personal property due to unacceptable levels of contamination? An anecdotal evaluation of events at a large Federal research facility found that most contamination and dose-generating episodes fall into one of two categories: (1) failure to follow standard documented procedures and (2) failure to apply fundamental knowledge of basic radiation physics, specifically the properties of different types of radiation and detection instruments.


This abstract was presented at the 34th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Radiation Safety and ALARA Considerations for the 21st Century", RSO Section Session, 2/4/2001 - 2/7/2001, held in Anaheim, CA.

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