Physical hazards are workplace agents, factors, or circumstances that can cause tissue damage by transfer of energy from the agent to the person.
Radiologists, dental care providers, and other healthcare personnel can face exposure to radiation during x-ray or other diagnostic or therapeutic interventional nuclear medicine procedures. The amount of exposure that may produce harmful effects isn’t always clear. Some common health effects from radiation exposure include cataracts, thyroid, cardiovascular, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) damage, suppression of the immune response, and latent-brain cancer (time taken from the exposure to diagnosis of brain cancer).
There are two types of radiation: Ionizing and non-ionizing radiation differentiated on the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. Medical diagnostics use both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.
- occurs at the higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths on the EM spectrum.
- is used in X-rays, nuclear medicine radioisotopes, medical therapeutics (e.g., Radioiodine I-131), computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, and fluoroscopy. Spills of liquids containing radioisotopes represent another source of exposure.
- may create exposure for patient care aides, nurses, nurse aides and other healthcare personnel when handling bedpans, soiled linens and clothing, and other materials in contact with excreta or emesis from patients receiving nuclear medicine isotopes.
- may create exposure resulting in in erythema, dermatitis, acute radiation syndrome, and cancer.
- occurs at the lower frequencies and longer wavelengths on the EM spectrum (compared to ionizing radiation).
- Is used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and laser techniques, ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection.
- exposure (depending on the source of the radiation) can result in eye damage and skin burns.