Health Physics Service / Radiation Safety Office
Our mission is to provide Health Physics and Radiation Safety Support to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center and Fort Bliss Community. Our staff is a highly trained and professional organization, ready and capable of handling any and all radiation safety matters, from area monitoring to Weapons of Mass Destruction response. We use state of the art radiation monitoring and detection equipment to ensure all users of ionizing and nonionizing radiation sources are in compliance with Federal and Department of the Army radiation safety regulations.
To ensure that the radiation dose to the public and to Occupationally Exposed Individuals is below the Federally mandated limit, the Health Physics staff is involved with planning, testing and measuring all radiation producing procedures in the hospital and industrial environments. From the medical x-rays needed to diagnose an injury or illness to therapeutic administration of radionuclides for the treatment of disease, the Health Physics staff works to ensure radiation exposures are kept to "As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA)" levels.
X-rays are essential in modern diagnostic medicine. When you get an x-ray who is it that checks the x-ray machine and the procedures that ensure that you, the patient doesn't receive an excessive dose of ionizing radiation? Health Physics and maintenance personnel work hand in hand to ensure the x-ray machines are properly functioning. Malfunctioning x-ray machines can result in excessive radiation exposures to the patient. Malfunctioning fluoroscopy machines can result in overexposures to patient, technicians and physicians. New diagnostic or therapeutic procedures must be evaluated, monitored and measured to determine exposures to all persons involved in the examination or therapy.
Nuclear medicine is the clinical application of radioactive materials to patients either for diagnostic or therapeutic reasons. A short lived radioisotope is either injected or swallowed by the patient. The radioactive material migrates to the point of interest as selected by the physician. Large radiation detectors then map the area where the radioactive material accumulates. This is an invaluable tool in determining many clinical conditions. The radioactive material is highly regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) who mandates and controls the use of all reactor derived radionuclides. In order for a hospital to use these radioisotopes, the hospital must apply for and receive a certification or license which is an agreement between the hospital and the NRC that all federal mandates will be followed regarding radiation exposures to the patient, staff and general public. Health Physics personnel act as the enforcing agent to ensure that the conditions of the NRC license are strictly adhered to.
Many research projects require the use of radioactive material in the research protocol. The use of licensable quantities of radioactive material require an established radiation safety program. This program ensures the protocol does not result in the loss of the radioactive material, the contamination of the environment, or the exposure of members of the public.
Radiation producing devices are used every day in many industrial operations. The Department of the Army uses radioactive material to protect soldiers in the combat environment from chemical and biological weapons. Radioactive material is used to enhance optical characteristic of lenses and mirrors. It is used to illuminate dials and switches in electronics equipment. It is used to increase the efficiency of microwave energy transmission. It is used in watches and compasses, in telescopes and electronics. It is used in industrial x-ray systems and in large scale antimicrobial sterilization systems. It is used to determine the density of soil and rocks. It is used to detect lead in paints. It is used to detect smoke in our homes, where countless lives have been saved because the radioactive material in the smoke detector ionized the smoke particles so they could be detected. All these uses require safety monitoring to ensure the safety of the public. Health Physics personnel are essential in control and disposal of this material, when its useful life has been exceeded.