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Shipment Of Radioactive Lifesaving Isotopes Urgent

UN Nuclear Watchdog Urges Speeding Shipment Of Radioactive Lifesaving Isotopes

With doctors and patients in many countries facing increasing problems in receiving lifesaving isotopes for a range of illnesses due to denials or delays in shipping radioactive materials, often for security reasons, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency is calling for revamping the system to speed up delivery.

"If an airline refuses to take a shipment, or is unable to take a shipment, then this increases the prospect of someone missing a cancer treatment," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Unit Leader for Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, Michael Wangler, said of airline restrictions on radioactive materials.

"There is a risk that if more airlines do deny, particularly where few airlines serve key regions, then this does raise a serious issue," he added. "It potentially means that medical clinics and hospitals in specific areas are at risk from being shutout for shipment."

The IAEA has hosted two meetings of experts on the issue so far this year and its General Conference will consider related recommendations and proposed actions in September.

Most countries around the world import isotopes for medical purposes, including treating cancer, diagnosing heart attacks or sterilizing equipment. Hospitals and clinics depend on these international shipments to arrive on time, particularly if the isotope has a short half-life and must be sent by air.

Industry representatives have told the IAEA of increasing difficulties in delivering lifesaving isotopes that require urgent international transport. The precise number of denials occurring worldwide is not known.

"Radioactive materials are very safely transported, based on standards developed by the IAEA which have been operating for 43 years," Mr. Wangler said. "What the current regulatory system lacks are special provisions to facilitate the rapid distribution of medical isotopes when warranted."

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