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EU moves closer to exempt MRI from workplace restrictions

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | December 14, 2012
The European Union is moving closer to a deal that would exempt MRI from legislation that limits how much time a worker can spend near powerful electromagnetic fields.

A committee of the European Parliament voted Dec. 6 to approve a proposal that includes the "derogation" of MRI from an EMF directive, effectively exempting it from the rule.

The draft report containing the MRI exemption amendment was put forward to the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs by Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, a member of the European Parliament from France who belongs to the European People's Party, a center-right coalition and the largest block in the parliament.

Thirty-nine members voted in favor of the resolution, and two abstained, Javeni Hemetsberger, with the European Society of Radiology, told DOTmed News.

The vote is the latest chapter in an eight-year saga to protect MRI services from a European Commission directive that sought to put a cap on EMF exposure in the workplace over fears time-varying electromagnetic fields were endangering the health of workers.

Alliance for MRI, which was formed by radiologists and cancer specialists as a result of the directive, says there is no evidence EMF from MRI poses a threat to hospital or clinic workers.

"MRI has been used for almost 30 years, imaging up to 600 million patients without evidence of harm to workers due to exposure to electromagnetic fields," the group said in a statement.

The 2004 directive that limited EMF exposure in the workplace was delayed several times, in part because of opposition of doctors and the medical community. It's set to go into effect in October 2013.

As the rules initially stood, the 2004 directive would have prevented MRI scans on children, those with dementia or anyone else who needs someone in the room during the scan, Alliance for MRI said. It would also have interfered with service and maintenance by limiting how much time repairmen could spend near the machines.

But the new draft proposal carves out an exception for the "installation, testing, use, development, maintenance of or research related to MRI-equipment for patients in the health sector" under appropriate conditions.

In June 2011, the European Commission put forward an earlier proposal that would also have cleared MRI, but some members of the European Parliament opposed the MRI derogation and the "lack of reference to long-term health effects due to exposure to MRI," the Alliance for MRI said in an e-mail to DOTmed News.

"However both concerns have been addressed, as evidenced by the EMPL (Employment and Social Affairs) Committee vote on 6th December, where the MRI derogation is included in the Committee's report as well a reference to long-term effects," the group said.

But the fight isn't entirely over. Before the approved draft proposal can become law of the land, the European Parliament, European Commission and the Council (which represents the 27 EU member states) have to agree on a common text for the directive, which only then would be adopted in parliament by a plenary vote and then by the member states, the Alliance for MRI said. The plenary vote would likely happen in the spring, Hemetsberger said.

"Once this common text has been adopted by both institutions, the directive will become law in the EU and Member States will have three years to implement it," the group said.

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