Radiation Patients Endanger Public, Congressman Says

Cheryl Clark, October 21, 2010

The public is being unwittingly exposed to potentially dangerous levels of radiation from patients released from the hospital after undergoing therapy with radioactive isotopes, according to Rep. Edward J. Markey, (D-MA).

In a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he said this has occurred "because of weak NRC regulations, ineffective oversight of those who administer these medical treatments, and the absence of clear guidance to patients and to physicians that provide procedures to ensure that such exposures do not occur."

The rules were weakened in 1997, when standards required hospitalization of patients emitting high levels of radiation in order to protect children and other members of the public.  Today, those radiation treatments are permitted on a less expensive outpatient basis, he wrote.

Many patients responded to a federal survey that they were never told that their treatment could expose vulnerable patients to potentially harmful radiation.

Markey says the NRC should immediately revise its 1997 rule making hospitalization mandatory for patients treated with levels of the isotope I-131 at doses above internationally accepted thresholds. It should also aggressively enhance its oversight of both its medical licensees and the agreements states to better identify, track and respond to regulatory violations.

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