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What Are Ionizing Radiation Regulations?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Ionizing radiation regulations are government regulations pertaining to the safe use of ionizing radiation, aimed at protecting workers at risk of exposure. They are part of a larger family of nuclear laws surrounding the use, control, and disposal of radioactive materials, from missiles to cancer therapies. Many nations have their own very strict regulations for environmental health and safety, and may periodically revise and update them in response to changing practices and concerns.

Individuals exposed to ionizing radiation are at risk for health problems. In the short term, very high doses can cause radiation sickness, a potentially fatal disease. Exposures over time contribute to elevated cancer risk as a result of the cellular damage caused by radiation. Workers who use and interact with radioactive compounds experience occupational exposure. Ionizing radiation regulations limit the amount of exposure legally allowed in a year, and set out specific safety procedures employers must follow.

Governments usually cap yearly exposure under ionizing radiation regulations, requiring radiation workers to wear badges to monitor their cumulative exposure over time. These badges are subject to regular checks to see if workers are exceeding recommended dosages. Workers must also be provided with gear to protect them from exposure, like lead aprons for radiation technicians in hospitals, and shielding in radioactive areas within a nuclear power plant.

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Industries that use ionizing radiation must submit to these regulations. They have to be able to provide proof that they are establishing and following safety procedures, and must keep pace with regulatory changes. Workers have to receive radiation training so they know how to work safely, while safety officers audit the workplace to confirm that no employees are taking shortcuts that might put them at risk. The ionizing radiation regulations spell out everything, from the provision of decontamination areas for employees to use in the event of high exposures, to the need to submit annual reports on the use of radioactive materials to regulatory authorities.

Even with protective regulations, occupational exposure to radiation can be dangerous, particularly in the event of malfunctioning equipment. Employees with a history of working with or around radioactive substances may need additional screening for warning signs of cancer and other illnesses, and must make sure they follow procedures to limit their exposure to radiation as much as possible. Ionizing radiation regulations are particularly concerned with pregnant women and children, as both are at much higher risk of severe complications from radiation exposure.

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