Techs sue over excessive radiation exposure

Five radiology technologists are suing a Tennessee hospital, alleging that they were exposed to excess radiation for several years because the walls in and around the radiology imaging center in the emergency department were built without the required lead shielding.

The technologists--two of whom were pregnant at the time they claim they were exposed to excessive radiation--say the walls in the emergency department at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, Tenn., did not have the required protective radiation shielding due to building design and inspection error.

The lawsuits filed by the technologists claim that the defendants in the case--Covenant Health of Knoxville, Rentenbach Engineering Co. of Knoxville, and TEG Architects LLC of Jeffersonville, Ind.--"failed to have qualified personnel check or survey the installation and construction parameters, or conduct proper barrier determinations for lead barrier thickness, to ensure that the walls in the radiological areas would adequately reduce scatter and leakage radiation," Oak Ridge Today reported.

The hospital disputes the allegations.  

"Methodist Medical Center places the highest priority on employee and public safety," the hospital said in a statement. "We maintain an active and ongoing radiation quality and compliance program with specific procedures to monitor safety. Based on the results of this program, it has been verified that we have met all safety standards for radiation exposure. We intend to refute these accusations vigorously."

The lawsuits allege that two of the technologists now suffer from thyroid problems, headaches, sleeping problems and other issues, while another has suffered seizures and is experiencing memory loss. They also claim that the technologists have a greater risk of developing future health problems, including cancer.

The lawsuits were filed in Anderson County Circuit Court.

Radiologic technologists have been the subjects of an ongoing study--now more than 30 years running--to determine any health effects from radiation exposure in the workplace. The study--a collaborative effort of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists--has surveyed more than 146,000 U.S. radiologic technologists since it began in 1982.

To learn more:
- read about the lawsuits in the Oak Ridge Today article
- check out the details of the U.S radiologic technologists study

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