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Culture Shift Needed to Achieve Patient Radiation Safety

Senior Nuclear Regulators Meet to Discuss Greatest Challenges in the Field

Regulators

Panellists answer questions during the Senior Regulators Meeting held during the IAEA´s 54th General Conference.

Medical diagnosis and treatment exposes patients to more radiation than ever before; and accidents are by no means limited to developing countries. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 3,000 patients have been affected by radiotherapy incidents and accidents in the last 30 years.

Radiation accidents involving medical uses of radiation have accounted for more acute radiation deaths than any other source, including Chernobyl.

Senior nuclear regulators from around the world met during the fourth day of the IAEA´s 54th General Conference to discuss the pressing issue of medical exposure to radiation and its regulation.

Regulators agreed that in order to solve the problem, not only does there need to be more intensive training for regulators, doctors and technicians dealing with these powerful machines, but there also needs to be consistent application of the IAEA Basic Safety Standards.

Online training is already available on the IAEA website and regional training courses are also organized by technical support organizations.

The regulators said these training opportunities should be developed further and professional organizations should also play an active role and further promote safety culture.

Eliana Amaral, Director of the IAEA Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety said safety would be greatly enhanced if a global incident reporting system could be implemented where doctors and technicians share the circumstances of their mistakes with others in the profession, facilitating learning on a larger scale.

Participants also stated the importance of only ordering procedures involving radiation when they are absolutely necessary.

They also discussed the problem of abandoned radioactive sources from medical applications, noting that they can be controlled if a country has a strong regulatory authority.

See Story Resource for more information.

-- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information