Keeping radiation at bay

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Por Clare Naden
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Exposure to ionizing radiation is a potential risk in many situations, and ISO has a score of standards that help ensure exposure levels are kept within safe limits. Now, two new standards have been published that focus on the dosimetric monitoring of medical staff and the radon that emanates from building materials.


We are all exposed to ionizing radiation in our daily lives. It is generated by natural sources such as soil and water and widely used in the medical setting for treatments and diagnoses. But exposure to excess levels can cause potentially fatal diseases – the radioactive gas radon, for example, is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Because radiation types and settings vary widely, ISO has a growing range of standards to assess and manage radiation exposure, and two new additions have just been published.

In the medical field, the increasing use of radionuclides means that the need for effective programmes that monitor staff exposure to radiation is growing, and ever more complex.

ISO 16637:2016, Radiological protection – Monitoring and internal dosimetry for staff members exposed to medical radionuclides as unsealed sources, specifies requirements for the design of programmes to monitor workers exposed to the risk of internal contamination via inhalation in nuclear medicine imaging and therapy departments. ISO 16637 aims to complement a number of ISO standards involved in monitoring and dose assessment, such as ISO 20553, ISO 27048 and ISO 28218.

Radon is a potentially life-threatening radioactive gas that can be found naturally in soil but can also emanate from building materials. This process is known as “radon exhalation”.

ISO 11665-9:2016, Measurement of radioactivity in the environment – Air: radon-222  Part 9: Test methods for exhalation rate of building materials, specifies a method for the determination of the exhalation rate of radon from building materials. This was recently supplemented by ISO 11665-11:2016, Measurement of radioactivity in the environment – Air: radon-222 – Part 11: Test method for soil gas with sampling at depth, which gives general requirements for sampling in situ radon-222 activity concentrations in soil gas. It is the latest in the ISO 11665 series that provides a range of testing methods for different settings, from underground mines to public buildings.

Alain Rannou, Chair of ISO/TC 85/SC 2, the technical committee that developed the standards, said the demand for standardized test methodologies and monitoring programmes is growing as legal requirements for managing activities where radiation exposure is a risk become more stringent.

“There has been an increasing need for a standard methodology to assess radon exhalation rates in building materials in order to make countries comparable. ISO 11665-9 will enable that, and also help legal bodies set safe limits,” he said.

In addition, there are future standards in this field currently being developed by ISO/TC 85/SC 2, including:

  • ISO 11665-12, Measurement of radioactivity in the environment – Air: radon 222 – Part 12: Determination of the diffusion coefficient in waterproof materials: membrane one-side activity concentration measurement method
  • ISO 11665-13, Measurement of radioactivity in the environment – Air: radon 222 – Part 13: Determination of the diffusion coefficient in waterproof materials: membrane two-side activity concentration measurement method

ISO 11665-9:2016 and ISO 16637:2016 are available from your ISO member or through the ISO Store.

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