Lawmaker not Satisfied with Response from NRC on Protecting People from Unwitting Out-patient Exposures

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Greg Jaczko, expressing his continued concern that the Commission may be failing to sufficiently oversee the regulations designed to protect patients treated with radioisotopes and those who may be exposed to them following medical treatment.
Under current NRC rules, patients treated with such materials whose bodies are emitting high levels of radiation can be sent home, even if they have small children. Patients can also be sent to hotels for recovery, even though hotel workers or other hotel guests, which could include children, could come into contact with them and may be unwittingly exposed.

I remain extremely concerned that the Commission is abdicating its responsibility to protect the health and safety of the American people as it does not seem to be taking the necessary steps to ensure that patients treated with radioactive materials are kept away from people who should not be exposed to them,” said Markey.

Chairman Markey’s concerns came following a November 17 letter from NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko responding to an October 13 letter Chairman Markey sent the NRC regarding the safety considerations associated with patients treated with radioisotopes. In the October letter, Chairman Markey expressed concerns over rules that govern the treatment of patients with radioisotopes, which allow for much higher levels of public exposure to radioactive materials than those adopted by other countries, including the European Union.

The November NRC response indicated that it believes that the public is sufficiently protected from the risk of unwitting exposure provided that “adequate instructions are given at discharge to patients and family members,” and that these same considerations - including the need to perform an individualized analysis of a patient’s living situation and the determination that the patient will not emit radiation above a threshold level - would also apply to those patients who go to hotels after their release from the hospital.  However, it is unclear how such an individualized analysis could be performed for a patient who planned to go to a hotel, because every hotel has a different design. Additionally, it is unclear whether or not the NRC takes adequate steps to ensure that hospitals provide patients with this analysis and appropriate guidance.  Chairman Markey’s letter requests additional information and documentation regarding the NRC’s efforts in this area, and asks for a response by February 3, 2010.

A copy of Chairman Markey’s latest letter to NRC Chairman Jaczko can be found here:

A copy of the earlier correspondence between Chairman Markey and the NRC on this matter can be found here:


                                                # # #