The Fukushima reactor crisis in Japan has brought the risks associated with exposure to ionising radiation very much into the forefront of public consciousness. Workers attempting to bring the reactors under control are being exposed to higher than normal levels of radiation and there are concerns about radiation escaping into the environment and affecting the wider population.
Ionising radiation doesn’t normally fall into the remit of occupational hygienists, but although the hazards and effects are different from those we normally deal with, the general principles regarding assessment and control are the same as those we’d apply to other hazardous agents such as chemical carcinogens.
Radiation is inevitably an emotive issue and the risks are not always fully understood. Andrew Maynard, Director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan, has written a good summary on “The Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster and its implications to public health” on its blog.
Radiation is briefly covered in the OHTA “Basic principles in occupational hygiene” course and as we’re planning to run this later this year, I’ve been doing some work on the presentation materials and I’ve posted the slides on Slideshare.