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Issue 27 - October 2010

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Editorial - European ALARA Network: a practical pillar in the global organisation of radiation protection

By F. Vermeersch (EAN Chairperson - SCK-CEN Mol, Belgium), P. Croüail (EAN Vice-Chairperson - CEPN, France) and P. Shaw (EAN Secretary - HPA, UK)

In the UNSCEAR presentation at the IRPA conference in Helsinki, the European ALARA Network was mentioned as part of one of the pillars of the global organisation of radiation protection. Our organisation was mentioned together with ISOE, EURADOS and IRPA as a contributor to the dissemination of the practical implementation of the ALARA principle.

This means that the activities of our organisation are recognised at the international level, and that our approach of gathering experience in the field and redistributing this through our network workshops and newsletters is seen as an effective way to disseminate the practical application of ALARA. EAN is considered a valuable tool for the rapid exchange of information and reporting as well as for benchmarking, and  organisations such as IRPA and WHO expressed great interest in our activities.

However EAN needs to be alert and keep its focus on ALARA and the associated new challenges. In order to respond to future radiation protection needs we need to consider issues such as the increase in medical exposures, concerns about natural exposures, the ageing of existing installations and the development of new ones. For each of these we need to find the most effective way of disseminating information and stimulating the practical implementation of ALARA.

This newsletter contains two contributions relevant to the medical sector. The first, based on inspections performed in Norway, points to a lack of practical knowledge on basic radiation protection issues among hospital personnel. This emphasises the importance of education and training in the radiation protection field. Elements from the inspection also showed the lack of awareness of certain responsibilities in the radiation protection field within the hospitals. This indicates that education and training in basic radiation protection is not enough  by itself and should form part of a broader ALARA/safety culture which covers the human factor and organisational aspects.

The second article discusses the setup of a sustainable network on application of the ALARA principle in the medical sector (EMAN) and identifies a set of success factors to achieve the goal. An interesting and an important element is that the EMAN project, from the beginning, broadens the scope to address the safety culture in the sector.

The issues raised in these articles will certainly be further discussed in our next ALARA workshop on "ALARA in the medical sector" which will consider how the ALARA principle can be effectively implemented with regard to both patient and staff exposures in diagnostic and therapeutic uses of ionising radiation.

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