ACR, AAPM address radiation incident in Ariz. crematory

The American College of Radiology (ACR) and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) have issued a statement to allay growing concern over radiation exposure after researchers identified radioactivity being emitted from crematory equipment.

Dr. Nathan Yu and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix recently published a detailed report covering the incident in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Traces of lutetium-177 (Lu-177) were found on equipment used to cremate a man who had been treated with the radiotracer before his death.

The ACR and AAPM have prepared several points to address the possible alarm the group's findings may have caused among members of the general public:

  • Radioactive materials, including Lu-177, are commonly used in medical practices to help improve overall health with little risk of harm.
  • The healthcare providers who employ radioactive materials must have an onsite radiation safety officer certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Installing a radiation detector in hospital morgues, funeral homes, and crematoriums would help warn staff of the presence of radioactivity.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numerous public health organizations have provided consensus guidelines on appropriate ways to identify radioactivity in patient remains and dispose of them.
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