ISO standard for early assessment of radiation exposures and health risks

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A new International Standard will help protect workers from radiation exposure and contribute to the overall safety of the work environment.

Occupational exposure to ionizing radiation can occur in a range of industries, mining and milling, medical institutions, educational and research establishments and nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Although exposure to ionizing radiation – whether accidental or chronic – carries risks, a monitoring programme plays a key role in greatly minimizing them.

The new standard offers guidance for deciding whether a monitoring programme is required and how it should be designed, established and maintained. Its intention is to optimize the efforts of such a monitoring programme, consistent with legal requirements, and with the aim of the overall radiation protection programme, which starts with an assessment to identify work situations where there is a risk of radionuclide intake by workers.

According to the 2000 Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), an estimated 11 million workers are monitored for exposure to ionizing radiation. They incur radiation doses attributable to their occupation, which range from a small fraction of the global average background exposure to natural radiation up to several times the value of natural radiation.

"Recommendations of international expert bodies and international experience with the practical application of these recommendations in radiation protection programmes have been considered in the development of the standard," says Dr. María Limson Zamora, Convener of the ISO working group that developed the standard.

"Application of ISO 20553 will enhance the harmonization of monitoring practices and facilitate the exchange of information between regulatory bodies, supervisory institutions and employers which may include nuclear facilities, hospitals, research organizations, radio pharmaceutical companies, governmental or private laboratories."

Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

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