US Screening of International Travelers for Radioactive Contamination After the Japanese Nuclear Plant Disaster in March 2011.
ABSTRACT On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex in Japan, resulting in radionuclide release. In response, US officials augmented existing radiological screening at its ports of entry (POEs) to detect and decontaminate travelers contaminated with radioactive materials. During March 12 to 16, radiation screening protocols detected 3 travelers from Japan with external radioactive material contamination at 2 air POEs. Beginning March 23, federal officials collaborated with state and local public health and radiation control authorities to enhance screening and decontamination protocols at POEs. Approximately 543 000 (99%) travelers arriving directly from Japan at 25 US airports were screened for radiation contamination from March 17 to April 30, and no traveler was detected with contamination sufficient to require a large-scale public health response. The response highlighted synergistic collaboration across government levels and leveraged screening methods already in place at POEs, leading to rapid protocol implementation. Policy development, planning, training, and exercising response protocols and the establishment of federal authority to compel decontamination of travelers are needed for future radiological responses. Comparison of resource-intensive screening costs with the public health yield should guide policy decisions, given the historically low frequency of contaminated travelers arriving during radiological disasters.
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ABSTRACT: During routine screening in 2011, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) identified 2 persons with elevated radioactivity. CBP, in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, informed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that these people could have increased radiation exposure as a result of undergoing cardiac Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans several months earlier with rubidium Rb 82 chloride injection from CardioGen-82. We conducted a multistate investigation to assess the potential extent and magnitude of radioactive strontium overexposure among patients who had undergone Rb 82 PET scans. We selected a convenience sample of clinical sites in 4 states and reviewed records to identify eligible study participants, defined as people who had had an Rb 82 PET scan between February and July 2011. All participants received direct radiation screening using a radioisotope identifier able to detect the gamma energy specific for strontium-85 (514keV) and urine bioassay for excreted radioactive strontium. We referred a subset of participants with direct radiation screening counts above background readings for whole body counting (WBC) using a rank ordering of direct radiation screening. The rank order list, from highest to lowest, was used to contact and offer voluntary enrollment for WBC. Of 308 participants, 292 (95%) had direct radiation screening results indistinguishable from background radiation measurements; 261 of 265 (98%) participants with sufficient urine for analysis had radioactive strontium results below minimum detectable activity. None of the 23 participants who underwent WBC demonstrated elevated strontium activity above levels associated with routine use of the rubidium Rb 82 generator. Among investigation participants, we did not identify evidence of strontium internal contamination above permissible levels. This investigation might serve as a model for future investigations of radioactive internal contamination incidents.Biosecurity and bioterrorism: biodefense strategy, practice, and science 02/2014; 12(1):42-48. DOI:10.1089/bsp.2013.0072 · 1.64 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: On 11 March 2011, northern Japan was struck by first a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the eastern coast and then by an ensuing tsunami. At the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), these twin disasters initiated a cascade of events that led to radionuclide releases. Radioactive material from Japan was subsequently transported to locations around the globe, including the U.S. The levels of radioactive material that arrived in the U.S. were never large enough to cause health effects, but the presence of this material in the environment was enough to require a response from the public health community. Events during the response illustrated some U.S. preparedness challenges that previously had been anticipated and others that were newly identified. Some of these challenges include the following: (1) Capacity, including radiation health experts, for monitoring potentially exposed people for radioactive contamination are limited and may not be adequate at the time of a large-scale radiological incident; (2) there is no public health authority to detain people contaminated with radioactive materials; (3) public health and medical capacities for response to radiation emergencies are limited; (4) public health communications regarding radiation emergencies can be improved to enhance public health response; (5) national and international exposure standards for radiation measurements (and units) and protective action guides lack uniformity; (6) access to radiation emergency monitoring data can be limited; and (7) the Strategic National Stockpile may not be currently prepared to meet the public health need for KI in the case of a surge in demand from a large-scale radiation emergency. Members of the public health community can draw on this experience to improve public health preparedness.