In response to my blog about health risks of X-ray imaging Anonymous said... "Radiation Risks -- keep these risks in quantitative perspective!" Anonymous then went on to list a variety of hazards, including mercury in fish, radon in houses, arsenic in plants and so on.... Read the complete posting here Anonymous concluded with: "All in all you can get totally paranoic - keep risks in perpective - don't worry about the tsunami if you're living on MtRuapehu! " ____________________
Riposte by Gary Moller
Thank you, Anonymous, for raising some interesting points which I am most appreciative of. Here is my response: She was a small woman so, when she got pregnant, her doctor ordered x-rays of her pelvis to determine the size of her birth canal. Further x-rays were ordered as the pregnancy progressed to compare the baby's head with the mother's pelvis. A healthy baby was born; but at about 7yrs, deadly leukaemia was diagnosed. She died a slow and horrible death at about 14 years of age. The mother, racked with guilt and grief, was prescribed various medicines to dull the pain. She died years later of liver cancer, the consequence of too many years on these medicines. This was not an unusual scenario that was played out many times over during the 50's, 60's and even during the 70's. Keeping risks in perspective means being aware of them and doing what is easily practical to minimise them such as:
insisting on an MRI or ultrasound scan rather than a ct scan
- no x-rays of the head, neck, chest or abdomen
- fitting a lead gonad shield during all x-rays, including dental ones
- no x-rays of children
Testis and children have rapidly dividing cells that are most susceptible to genetic damage by x-rays, so this is why they must be protected with extra care.
Now, what about other hazards like radiation during jet travel, tv sets, and what about toxins like mercury and arsenic that are in our waterways? Not too many generations ago, there was little prospect of living past 40-50 years. Pre-European Maori, for example, seldom lived past 30 years, partly due to wearing their teeth out on the highly fibrous foods. Environmental toxins and radiation damage usually take time to express themselves as diseases and we simply did not live long enough for them to have much significance on health.
Things are different nowadays: We should all be able to live to 90 or 100 years. But this is dependent on our minimising the damage to our genetics. This means avoiding damaging radiation from all sources because the damage to our genetic code is cumulative and this is a key determinant of life expectancy and many dieases, including cancer.
Not only do we have more time for this damage to accumulate nowadays; we have also devised many ways to expose us to the perpetrators - air travel, dental x-rays, ct scans and so on. With regards to mercury and other heavy metals being found in waterways like the Waikato, these are not "natural"; they are principally the consequences of geothermal electricity generation and industries like the big Kinleith paper mill. Toxic compounds that were previously locked deep in the ground water, or in solid rock formations or chemically neutralised, have been extracted, concentrated and finally discharged to find their way into the food chain where they are again concentrated with deadly consequences. Mercury poisoning is matter close to my heart: My older sister left her job as a school dental nurse due to ill-health from mercury poisoning, caused by inhaling the fumes given off while heating mercury amalgum. About 22 years later,and in good health, she returned to her chosen profession.
I think we have every reason to be very concerned and we should be doing everything we can to minimise these damaging exposures. Imaging professionals are obliged to minimise the risks of x-ray imaging; the BEIR report quantifies those risks and my impression is many are still downplaying or casully dismissing those risks despite the clear evidence that more could and should be done to reduce exposure over the course of a lifetime and not just single x-ray exposures. Insisting on an mri instead of a ct scan is a most sensible action.
When you go to the dentist, is a lead body and gonad shield automatically fitted, or do you have to ask? I always have to ask. What is your experience?