independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Worker tested X-ray on himself to see if equipment worked

Chest X-ray image
Chest X-ray

A SERVICE engineer was bombarding himself unnecessarily with X-rays to check if equipment he was maintaining was working properly.

The unidentified man was found to be testing repair works by subjecting himself to doses of radiation, and only after the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) stepped in did the dangerous practice stop.

The details are contained in the RPII's annual report, which also highlights a dramatic reduction in the stock of disused radioactive sources which have been safely disposed of since 2010.

Some 3,000 separate sources from medical and educational facilities have been disposed of by the UK, US and Germany, a drop of 99pc, including 2.5 tonnes of uranium donated by the US government and held at University College Cork since the 1970s.

It has been stored since 1983 in UCC, but was not weapons grade.

RPII chief executive Dr Ann McGarry said that notwithstanding the success of the reduction programme, there was a need for a dedicated waste store for managing disused sources.

"The recent theft of seven radioactive lightning preventers in Dublin demonstrates the importance of having an appropriate waste management facility in place in Ireland," she said, adding the preventers had not yet been recovered.

The report also says that four directives were issued by the safety watchdog last year to holders of radioactive waste, including one where a company in liquidation was told to properly secure disused sources.

HOMES

In another case, a dentist was told to stop using a hand-held X-ray machine bought over the internet because it was not licensed for use here.

The report also says that the annual dose of cosmic radiation among airline crews has risen due to an increased number of flights, but doses remained within safe levels.

But it raises concerns about high levels of cancer-causing radon gas in homes, saying that up to 110,000 are located in high-risk areas, but that just 7,642 homes have been tested.

Some 54,000 homes have been tested for the gas nationally, but many homes in counties with high levels of the gas including Sligo, Waterford, Galway and Carlow had not been identified.

While levels of artificial radioactivity in the environment are "detectable", they are low. Most people are exposed by eating fish.

"The highest concentration of Sellafield-derived radioactivity is found along the northeast coast. Concentrations measured south of Dublin are lower, while those measured along the south and west coasts are generally consistent with global fallout levels."

The report also reveals a radiation leak from Sellafield in May last year, when a temporary loss of power resulted in fans used to ventilate part of a storage facility breaking down. While discharges were higher than normal, they were below the annual discharge limits.

Irish Independent

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