Reported Incident and Compliant Events Involving Sources of Radiation in Texas from 1956 to 2000
Since 1956, the Texas Department of Health Bureau of Radiation Control (TDH BRC) has documented incident and complaint events associated with the use of radiation sources within the state. These text-based records represent a wealth of information, but unfortunately are not maintained in a configuration that lends itself to ready analysis. If the data were encoded in a computerized spreadsheet using a standardized format, trends could be revealed and possible interventions or strategic adjustments could be put into place. So to access the valuable information contained in these records, six graduate students associated with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHSCH) encoded 44 y of incident and compliant event information using a pre-established set of codes. The coding system used in the project stemmed from previous work that examined regulatory compliance activities, incidents, and complaints in Texas over a 10 y period (Emery et al 2000). This previous work resulted in a number of educational interventions designed to make users of radiation sources aware of common deficiencies. The most notable of these interventions was an educational effort specifically directed towards the prevention of radioisotope misadministrations and dose irregularities (Charlton and Emery 2001). The database created by the students now represents the most comprehensive analyzable dataset of its kind in the country. The ability to objectively answer questions about various radiation related matters in a rapid manner proved to be very valuable when questions arose about lost or stolen sources of radioactivity after the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Of particular concern was the possible use of sources of radioactivity in radiological dispersion devices, or so called "dirty bombs." In addition to providing information on lost and stolen sources of radioactivity, other radiation-related event types can be examined, such as overexposures, transportation accidents, and equipment malfunctions. The data system also holds the potential for being a model for other states to use so that benchmarking comparisons can be made on a consistent basis.
This abstract was presented at the 36th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Radiation Safety Aspects of Homeland Security and Emergency Response", Regulatory Issues Session, 1/26/2003 - 1/29/2003, held in San Antonio, TX.