16 November 2007

DIapers as radiation carriers: Canada

Capital Health moves to catch radioactive waste in hospitals


Capital Health is considering installing high-tech sensors in its hospitals to catch radioactive waste before it's hauled off to the city dump.

Rob Stevenson, a spokesman for the health authority, told Sun Media that sensors at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre have detected radioactive material in Capital Health waste 15 to 20 times this year alone.

"We're working very hard with the city on this because of course it's a concern," he said.

All vehicles entering the dump must pass through radiation sensors. In the case of Capital Health, the alarms were set off by soiled diapers.

Stevenson said the garments contained urine with trace amounts of nuclear isotopes, which would have entered a patient's system while undergoing diagnostic testing, like PET scans.

Typically, Stevenson said Capital Health holds on to diapers for four days - enough time for the short-lived "nuclear garbage" to disintergrate.

He acknowledged sometimes there can be mix-ups, particularly when a patient is transferred between wards, and the diapers can wind up in the garbage too early.

When the sensors at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre were activated, Stevenson said Capital Health was contacted.

"It becomes a big hassle because then we send someone from our nuclear medicine department up to talk with them and figure it out."

The offending waste is then held by Capital Health for four days, before being returned to the dump, he said.

The low level of radiation is generally not considered to be much of a risk. (????)

One solution, Stevenson said, is installing radioactive waste sensors at all waste facilities inside hospitals.

No comments: