[ RadSafe ] Radioactive medicine being tracked through rivers

Brad Keck bradkeck at mac.com
Sun Mar 25 13:26:23 CDT 2012

The discrepancy between what is unsafe from an industrial source (a power reactor or a lab) and what is unsafe from a medical source is of great curiosity to me.    This dichotomy persists across environmental concerns and the very roots of science and public policy.  

In an industrial setting, we fight every millirem and resist the release of every microcurie, yet in a medical setting, radiation doses to treat and even to PREVENT cancer  exceed those of occupational limits by orders of magnitude - these are what medical science finds to be necessary to REDUCE risk.  Releases to public sewer, vastly exceeding what industry would even contemplate are commonplace and done without a moment's thought - the very same treatment works we defend against every Bq are of course shared with the hospitals.  And, perhaps most surprisingly, the public and it's elected officials are knowledgable of and quite satisfied with this arrangement.   

As Stewart notes below, this has been well known and thoroughly documented for decades.  Yet, we make no progress in the arena of public perception or public policy toward an appropriate association of risk to industrial necessity nor toward some equivocation to medical practices in this regard.  Indeed we strive daily to further limit already tiny risks (If indeed risks at all) - only to widen this perception gap.  

If nuclear power, science and even medicine are to be relevant to a better future, this perception gap must be closed; if anyone has an understanding…….    send along :}  

Brad Keck, PhD, CHP

On Mar 23, 2012, at 1:49 PM, Stewart Farber wrote:

> The issue of radioactivity in discharges by hospitals into sanitary sewers
> and the contamination of sewerage plant sludge and effluents has been
> discussed widely and well regognized since the 1980s.  I recall seeing a
> document issued by the NRC in the late 1980s specifically on this subject.
> In 1991 the NRC modified 10CFR20 in issuing the following, which reads in
> part as quoted below:
> ==========================
> http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part020/part020-2003.html
> (b) Excreta from individuals undergoing medical diagnosis or therapy with
> radioactive material are not subject to the limitations contained in
> paragraph (a) of this section.
> [56 FR 23403, May 21, 1991, as amended at 60 FR 20185, Apr. 25, 1995]
> ================================
> So a Hospital can discharge I-131 from patient excreta undergoing thyroid
> ablations, each of which patient might receive 50 to 100 mCi or more. 
> There is probably no major hospital in the US that does  not discharge many
> multiples of 1 Curies [ 37 GBq ] of I-131. I believe there is no nuclear
> plant in the US which comes close to discharging 1 Ci of I-131 either in
> liquid or gaseous release.
> In the 1970s when I was involved with the Maine Yankee Radiological
> Environmental Monitoring Program [REMP], this 800 MWe generating plant
> airborne Tech Spec release limit for I-131 was 50 millicuries, or less than
> the I-131 administered in a single thyroid ablation procedure.
> And this researcher mentioned immediately suspected when he found some
> measurable I-131 that a nuclear plant must have been responsible for the
> trace levels of I-131 he detected in his sediment studies. Humorous.
> Apparently the Delaware academic has been listening too much to the
> anti-nuke activists, who manage not just to deceive the general public with
> crude manipulations of facts, but mislead scientists that one would hope
> might know better. Of course when we hope for something sensible we are only
> being hard on ourselves.
> Stewart Farber, MS Public Health
> SAFarber at optonline.net
> 203-441-8433
> -----Original Message-----
> From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
> [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Dan McCarn
> Sent: Friday, March 23, 2012 1:56 AM
> To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List;
> cs at udel.edu
> Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Radioactive medicine being tracked through rivers
> Hi Roy:
> So another one of those wild & woolly "natural scientists" gets some
> insights via radioactive tracers!  Sounds interesting!
> Dan ii
> Dan W McCarn, Geologist
> 108 Sherwood Blvd
> Los Alamos, NM 87544-3425
> +1-505-672-2014 (Home – New Mexico)
> +1-505-670-8123 (Mobile - New Mexico)
> HotGreenChile at gmail.com (Private email) HotGreenChile at gmail dot com
> On Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 11:34 PM, ROY HERREN <royherren2005 at yahoo.com>
> wrote:
>> http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2012/mar/medicine-rivers-sediment-032212.html
>> Sediment sleuthing
>> Radioactive medicine being tracked through rivers
>>  10:56 a.m., March 22, 2012--A University of Delaware oceanographer has
> stumbled
>> upon an unusual aid for studying local waterways: radioactive iodine. Roy
> Herren
>> _______________________________________________
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