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Opinions of Saturday, 9 September 2006

Columnist: Opoku, Yaw S.

Death Scare at SSNIT - The Reality

When I read on the Ghanaweb page a news item captioned "Death Scare at SSNIT" and statement attributed to Dr Darius Osei that as far as he was aware, radiation rather cures some cancer cells but does not cause cancer, I felt compelled to contribute to the debate. However, I would like to believe that Dr. Osei was quoted out of context but it would be sad and indeed dangerous if such statement reflected the true knowledge base of the said Dr. Osei

In as much as the deaths of the four nurses might not be due to the imagined or real emission of radiation from the CT Scan at the Hospital, I would like to warn the general public that unnecessary exposure to ionized radiation is known to have caused several cancers , in the past including breast cancer, leukemias etc. Cancers can occur anytime in the exposed person's lifetime and this effect might not appear for many years. Cancer is produced if radiation does not kill the cell but creates an error in the DNA blueprint that contributes to eventual loss of control of cell division, and the cell begins dividing uncontrollably.

Cancers induced by radiation do not differ from cancers due to other causes, so there is no simple way to measure the rate of cancer due to radiation. Ionizing radiation is a known cause of cancer and other adverse effects. Radiation is one of the most extensively studied human carcinogens and may account for about 3%of all cancers. In view of the hazards associated with radiation, it becomes absolutely important that our health professionals appreciate these dangers so that the population would not be subjected unnecessarily exposure. Many a times, people are subjected to needlessly and repeated chest x-rays and other imaging procedures by medical practitioners. One area of great concern is the caliber and the competency of the people who administer ionization radiation in Ghana especially those in some District Hospitals and even in some Regional Hospital. Radiation protection ought to attract the attention of the Government, and as a matter of urgency a Regulatory Body (referring to the proposed Allied Health Professionals Council) should be set up in Ghana to regulate the use of radiation for medical by certifying and licensing all health workers who administer radiation to patients to avert "radiation induced cancer epidemics" in future.

The present conceptual framework for radiation protection, as proposed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), provides the basis for operational criteria and guidance, applicable to the various protection situations medical applications of radiation, chronic exposure to natural radiation), which are developed by international intergovernmental organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other United Nations (UN) agencies, the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) and OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). Essentially all countries incorporate ICRP concepts in their radiation protection regulations and operations. Radiation protection concepts can only be implemented through an effective infrastructure which includes adequate laws and regulations, a well structured complex of experts and operational provisions, and a "safety culture" shared by all those involved with protection responsibilities, from the workers up through management levels. If we fail to do the right thing today, we get destroyed soonest. Mark my word

S.Yaw Opoku
City University
Institute of Health
Dept. of Radiology
Radiation Laboratory
London UK


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.