According to the press release (pdf file) “Medical Radiation Exposure of the U.S. Population Greatly Increased Since the Early 1980s” by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, people in the United States were exposed to seven times more ionizing radiation (such as x-rays used in CT scans) in 2006 as they were in 1980.
The report, which was released on March 3, 2009, during the annual meeting of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A., stated that most of the seven-fold increase in radiation exposure was from the medical procedure called computed tomography, or CT scans, and the use of nuclear medicine.
Nuclear medcine is a branch of medicine whose medical professionals use radioactive isotopes (or, radionuclides) for the medical diagnosis of diseases.
Dr. Kenneth R. Kase, chairperson of the committee that produced the NCRP report and senior vice president at NCRP, stated, “The increase was due mostly to the higher utilization of computed tomography (CT) and nuclear medicine.”
Kase adds, “These two imaging modalities alone contributed 36 percent of the total radiation exposure and 75 percent of the medical radiation exposure of the U.S. population.”
The NCRP press release went on to say, “The number of CT scans and nuclear medicine procedures performed in the United States during 2006 was estimated to be 67 million and 18 million, respectively."
Dr. Kase stated, “The increase in medical [radiation] exposure was not a big surprise to anybody. We expected [radiation] exposures for medical uses to increase dramatically because of the increase in the use of CT scanning in the last 20 years." [ABC News: “Americans' Radiation Exposure Rises 6-Fold in 29 Years”]
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