Sunday, December 16, 2018

Radioactive materials exposure among us

WHERE can we find the licensed users of radioactive materials in the Philippines? They are found in all 12 regions plus the Caraga, Cordillera Administrative and National Capital regions. The highest concentration of licensed users is in the NCR, representing 52.5 percent of all users in the country. Region 7 has only 3.4 percent of all the licensed radioactive materials users.

The largest users of radioactive materials are Industry (42.5 percent) and Medical (32.5 percent) users. The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) reported that since 2012, the use of radioactive materials, in terms of total doses, in nuclear medicine and radiotherapy for cancer patients, is far lower than among Industry users.

In 2017, the PNRI disclosed the issuance of 386 licenses for radioactive materials around the country. In Cebu, the first proposed medical cyclotron facility outside NCR is planned to be constructed by Chong Hua Hospital in Mandaue City. A medical cyclotron is a machine that can produce radioisotopes that are used in positron emission tomography and other applications for disease diagnosis.

We can assume that PNRI ensures that our exposure from these facilities are within our tolerable limits annually. However, if we add additional exposures through other means, such as frequent flying, then we are facing a different health prospect in the future. It is so because radiation exposure tends to accumulate in the body over time.

Unfortunately, the PNRI has issued five notices of violations, and 40 enforcement letters for non-compliance, and two enforcement orders. These nodes of non-compliance and violations represent 47 areas of potential sources of radiation exposures. The PNRI did not disclose the names and locations of these facilities. Thus, there is no certainty if these facilities are near our homes or the level of risks for exposure Filipinos have in our homes and workplaces.

So far, we have covered two sources of radiation this month: cosmic radiation through frequent flying and radiation-using industries throughout the country. The only protection available to us, readers, is increasing our antioxidant food intake, such as fruits and vegetables. Food supplements are good if you are confident that these substances are not synthetically produced as that too can increase risk for liver toxicity. Have a healthy mid-week then!


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