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The team of employees with the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Radiological Health Program (RHP) work diligently to protect us from unnecessary exposure to radiation. RHP regulates radioactive materials, x-ray devices and mammography equipment in over 5,370 facilities that include hospitals, medical offices, construction firms and academic institutions. Inspectors perform periodic inspections of approximately 10,000 x-ray machines used by dentists and veterinarians and more than 600 locations where radioisotopes are used.
Protecting Public Health
So why is there a program dedicated to regulating and inspecting radiation machines and radioactive materials? X-rays are wonderful tools in the world of medicine as they let doctors look inside a patient without using more invasive methods such as surgery. But x-rays can be harmful. Ionizing radiation from radioactive materials has enough energy to damage cells in the human body if excessive exposure occurs. Inspectors ensure that x-ray machines and other medical devices are used properly and are administering appropriate dosages to prevent harm to both patients and the technicians operating the equipment.
RHP inspectors are also involved in several “non-routine” activities designed to protect public health. According to Roland Fletcher, program manager for RHP, MDE inspectors join with emergency management agencies and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in response to any actual, or simulated, emergencies at the two nuclear power plants that provide electricity to Maryland.
“Our inspectors also provide assistance to first responders when the presence of radioactive materials is known or suspected,” explains Mr. Fletcher. Inspectors carry detection equipment in their vehicles and respond day or night when needed. “Marylanders can rest assured that state employees in the RHP program will suit up for potential emergencies and risk their own well being to see if conditions are safe for others to do their jobs,” added Fletcher.