Radiation and Local Public Health

The relationship between radiation and health is a large and varied topic. The health effects of radiation exposure are influenced by the dose of exposure, the type of radioactive material involved in the exposure, the exposure pathway, and the duration of the exposure and can be de minimis or can produce severe immediate and delayed health effects. Immediate health effects of radiation exposure may include Acute Radiation Syndrome and Cutaneous Radiation Injury. Delayed health effects of radiation exposure may include cancer and genetic mutations. Radiation emergencies may also cause significant mental health problems for those affected.


Local Health Department (LHD) Roles With Regard to Radiation

The roles of LHDs with regard to radiation are varied and depend on the LHD and on the radiation-related matter. With regard to radiation emergencies, LHDs may be involved in preparedness planning, population monitoring, decontamination, population sheltering, communications, or other activities. Other radiation-related roles of LHDs may include inspecting medical, research, industrial, or other users of radioactive material to ensure proper storage, use, and disposal; providing radon education and testing; monitoring tanning facilities; investigating non-emergency radioactive material releases and exposures; and conducting environmental sampling.

NACCHO Radiation Program

NACCHO, with support from the National Center for Environmental Health’s Radiation Studies Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), supports LHD capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from radiation emergencies by providing resources, tools, education, and training. Current NACCHO radiation work includes the development of guidance for public sheltering during a radiation emergency and a multifaceted radiation legal preparedness project assessing state and local legal authorities related to the response to and recovery from radiation emergencies.

NACCHO is a member and one of the tri-chairs of the National Alliance for Radiation Readiness (NARR), a coalition of public health, healthcare, and emergency management organizations, that serves as the collective “voice of health” in the radiological preparedness community.

2014 Preparedness Summit Radiation Sessions

Planning for radiological emergencies continues to be a top priority for preparedness professionals. Recognizing this important priority, the 2014 Preparedness Summit includes at least one radiation-specific session each day. These sessions feature radiation experts from state and local jurisdictions, as well as CDC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Library of Medicine and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Get a preview of some of the sessions that will examine radiation preparedness, including a hands-on six-hour workshop. For more information, please visit the 2014 Preparedness Summit website.

CDC Radiation Resources

CDC shares many valuable resources for radiation emergency planning, response, and recovery. Visit CDC’s Radiation Emergencies website for information, research reports, guidance documents, training materials, tools, and more.

Of note, CDC has recently developed the Internal Contamination Clinical Reference (ICCR) app. The ICCR app estimates reference concentrations of radionuclides in urine using standard biokinetics models and assuming intakes equal to one Clinical Decision Guide for each radionuclide. The app can be used to conduct hypothetical assessments for contamination scenarios involving particular radionuclides and provide information about medical countermeasures. Obtain the app.

Other Radiation Resources

About Andrew Elligers
Andrew Elligers serves as a Senior Program Analyst for Environmental Health at NACCHO. His current work focuses on public sheltering during radiation emergencies, climate change, environmental health services, and Health in All Policies.

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