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Considerations before a radiation shielding project

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | October 11, 2021
Business Affairs X-Ray
From the October 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Regulatory requirements for X-ray radiation shielding can vary significantly from state to state. This can make it challenging for shielding equipment vendors and providers to determine exactly what needs to be done for every project.

There is no central document that lists every state’s requirements, but Adam Evearitt, co-owner of Atom Physics, has put together his own personal one from years of experience in the field. He is registered in all 50 states and estimates that he does roughly 100 radiation shielding designs per year.

Almost every state has some variation of similar requirements, except Wyoming, where there is no mandate for a qualified expert to create an official plan and no inspectors are required to come look at it. That’s not to say that facilities in Wyoming don’t consult with a physicist anyway, but it’s not something that needs to be done before an X-ray room opens for operation.

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“Shielding calculations are quite complex and require a number of assumptions to be made, and it is really important that the source of the radiation is understood and everything has been taken into account,” said Jason Launders, director of operations for device evaluation at ECRI.

In theory, radiation shielding designs should be based on the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) 147 and 148 reports for diagnostic imaging and NCRP 151 report for radiation therapy, according to Evearitt. Any physicist is going to base their design on those national recommendations but, he says, each state has individual regulations that govern the process.

NCRP 148 and 147 recommends that the shielding be confirmed after install by a qualified expert, but very few states take that recommendation and have it required as a regulation. It’s important to note that this is the case for X-ray, but the rules are much stricter for CT, fluoroscopy and radiation therapy.

To give an idea of the situation in other states — Iowa and South Carolina require shielding designs be submitted and approved before construction, Georgia requires submittal for approval but not necessarily before construction and Colorado doesn’t require submitted approval but an approved qualified expert from the state must have the design on file.

Illinois doesn’t require shielding designs for chiropractor’s offices, but does for CT and other higher-end X-ray equipment. New Mexico and New Jersey don’t require a physicist to do the shielding designs, but state inspectors do measure the radiation leaking through the walls.

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