Safety Precautions, Side Effects and Risks for Operators and Patients of Ionising Radiation

Safety Precautions, Side Effects and Risks for Operators and Patients of Ionising Radiation

Safety Precautions for Ionising Radiation

  • Ionising radiation is radiation that carries enough energy to free electrons from atoms or molecules, turning them into ions.
  • Safety precautions are crucial as exposure to ionising radiation can cause damage to living tissue, and result in radiation sickness or even cancer.

Restricting Exposure

  • The three basic principles of radiation safety are time, distance, and shielding.
  • Time: Limit the exposure time. The amount of radiation exposure corresponds to the duration of exposure.
  • Distance: Maximise distance from the radiation source. The intensity of ionising radiation decreases as distance from the source increases.
  • Shielding: Use of barriers made of lead or concrete is essential to block or reduce the emitted radiation.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Use of PPE, such as lead aprons or thyroid shields, is a must when in proximity to ionising radiation.
  • Protective eyewear, gloves, and other shielding devices can offer additional protection.

Radioactive Materials Handling

  • Special care should be taken while handling radioactive materials. They should be handled with forceps rather than directly.
  • Contaminated materials must be disposed of properly to avoid radiation exposure.

Side Effects and Risks of Ionising Radiation

For Patients

  • Some patients may experience side effects from radiation therapy. These can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) side effects.
  • Acute side effects may include fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, and nausea.
  • Chronic side effects can include fibrosis (hardening of tissues), heart or lung damage, infertility, or secondary cancers.
  • The risk of side effects is generally balanced against the benefits of treating cancerous cells.

For Operators

  • It is crucial to maintain radiation exposure within safe limits to avoid health risks.
  • Repeated exposure may increase the risk of cancer and cataracts.
  • For pregnant workers, there are additional risks to the foetus like birth defects.
  • Radiation workers are required to wear personal dosimeters for monitoring radiation exposure.

Prevention and Response

  • Regular checks on radiation protection equipment should be performed.
  • Any suspected overexposure incident should be reported immediately.
  • Workers should undergo routine health surveillance to ensure exposure has not exceeded the acceptable limit.

Completion of adequate training in handling radiation equipment and understanding the potential risks and side effects are integral components of Medical Physics.