Seeks details from States on system adopted to prevent radiation

Concerned over lack of proper facilities for disposal of radioactive substances used in government hospitals, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked States to provide it with information on the disposal of radioactive waste from hospitals.

The States have been asked to respond within eight weeks failing which the Commission would take action for non-compliance.

Taking suo motu cognisance of incidents in the recent past across the country following improper disposal, the NHRC has sought information on the number of hospitals under the administrative control of the government and how they were dealing with the matter.

Also, it wanted to know what steps were being taken by the hospitals to prevent radiation from this material. The Commission has expressed a desire to interact with the hospitals directly.

In 2010, an expert committee of the University Grants Commission suggested setting up university committees to review safety in handling such material at educational institutions.

Mishandling

The University Safety Committee (USC) is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board regulations and the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) rules are strictly implemented. The expert group was constituted following the mishandling of Cobalt-60 isotope by the Delhi University in April 2010 that led to the death of one person and injuries to 10 others.

The panel recommended formation of an apex committee at the UGC level to monitor safety committees at the university level. This committee will have experts from the fields of radiation safety, radioactive waste and hazardous material management. The universities will have to send their annual reports to the apex committee.

Refresher courses

The UGC will also encourage the universities to promote refresher courses for staff members and students. The syllabus for new entrants must include such safety courses also, it said. Depending on the usage of radio isotopes, hazardous chemicals and materials, the laboratories should prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) which will have to be displayed prominently in English and vernacular languages in laboratories.