In light of the fact that health workers could be exposed to radiation during delegated tasks that they are expected to diligently carry out, the Ministry of Public Health is working on the implementation of a Radiation Protection Act.
A move in this direction yesterday saw the start of a five-day Radiation Legislation Workshop in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC]’s Reference Library Conference Room. Declaring the official start of the workshop was Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, who pointed out that radiation laws are designed to protect workers who may be exposed to sources of radiation while working with certain types of radiation-emitting equipment.
According to Minister Cummings, “We must be cognizant that over a period of time, radiation exposure can be insidious and consequently dangerous to human health and safety. Thus, standards need to be put in place.”
She explained that the implementation of a Radiation Protection Act and Regulations will certainly help to address Health and Safety Issues that apply to workers who install, operate or service x-ray equipment and high-power lasers.
“The Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with other concerned stakeholders will continue to work to develop and implement safe work practices and procedures for workers who work with this equipment,” Minister Cummings asserted.
In this regard, she added, “we will monitor and ensure that owners of designated types of radiation equipment are required to have it inspected and registered.”
Even as she addressed the importance of the eventual implementation of radiation legislation, Dr. Cummings informed that “Any exposure to ionising radiation carries a risk of causing cancer, and above certain levels there is also a risk of tissue effects such as erythema, hair loss and cataracts.”
“For most common radiographic exposures, this risk is extremely small. However, as the risk is proportional to the level of exposure, it is important to ensure exposures are kept as low as possible,” continued Dr. Cummings.
Moreover, she admitted that the Ministry is cognizant that effective radiation legislation will help protect human health as well as the environment from unnecessary exposure to radiation by setting protective limits, providing technical advice, and preparing for and responding to radiological emergencies.
She also told those in attendance yesterday, “As you deliberate and exchange ideas this week, let your focus be on protecting those exposed to radiation either through work and/or medical procedure. Let your participation here during this week serve to provide timely identification of new and emerging issues, to analyse their possible implications and to recommend or take action to address these issues to further enhance radiation protection regulation and implementation in Guyana”.
According to the World Health Organisation [WHO], every year an estimated seven million health workers are exposed to radiation above background levels. WHO has deduced too that, annually, worldwide there are more than 3,600 million x-ray examinations, 37 million nuclear medicine and 7.5 million radiotherapy procedures.
As the use of radiological medical practices expands to developing countries, but without sufficiently stringent safety procedures, WHO has determined that more workers will be at risk of exposure. Radiation, WHO said, has been known to produce both acute effects as well as delayed injuries with the cumulative effects of radiation. These effects include gene mutation and chromosomal alteration, delayed/improper cell division, interference with metabolic processes and various types of cancer.
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