Answer to Question #10450 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Security Screening — Airport Screening

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Q

I work at an airport x raying luggage. My personal radiation detector reads around 0.3 µSv h-1 and sometimes it goes up to 2.4 µSv h-1 when a bag goes through the machine. When the machine is not x raying it is 0. I am concerned about radiation exposure. What are the health effects of this exposure to radiation? Can this damage my reproductive system?

A

Thank you for your question. There are no documented health effects from radiation exposures at these low levels.

The regulatory limit for staff who are occupationally exposed to radiation is 50,000 µSv y-1. This is a level of radiation that is considered safe and is well below the risk of harmful effects.

You are receiving between 600 and 4,000 µSv y-1 based on the information you provided.

The exposure you receive on the job each hour (the 0.3 µSv y-1), is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure you receive from natural background radiation sources (about 0.34 µSv y-1). Your total annual dose from natural background radiation is just over 3 µSv.

The radiation doses where we begin to see clinical biological changes (blood cell changes) are on the order of 250,000 to 500,000 µSv.

The level of exposure you are receiving will not damage your reproductive system.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 16 January 2013. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.