Thursday, 25th April 2019


The science of radiation protection involves the prevention of damage from ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation includes particle radiation and high energy electric radiation, which is only used in industry and medicine, but is highly dangerous for human health and the environment.

Radiation plays an extremely important role in modern healthcare and industry, and its development has revolutionised the ways in which doctors can diagnose and treat an array of conditions, and the ways in which how energy sources are maintained.

Radiation protection practitioners work in the study and analysis of ionizing radiation, trying to understand its damaging effects and aiming to prevent any dangerous exposure occurring.

Although extremely beneficial under the right circumstances, radiation can also cause a lot of harm to humans. Ionizing radiation can cause severe damage to skin tissue, radiation sickness, and in some cases it can be the catalyst for certain cancers and genetic damage. This is why all procedures and equipment that use radiation must be monitored closely and used under extremely strict regulation.

For example, some common clinical procedures which rely on radiation include:

  • X-rays – used primarily in imaging to view bones and organs avoiding the need for invasive procedures
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – used to produce images of organs and tissues
  • Gamma knife treatment/radiosurgery – this allows the precise, non-invasive treatment and removal of certain types of tumours and lesions
  • Computed tomography (CT scans) – CT scans can be used to create 3D images of the anatomy
  • Radioisotopes – these are radioactive substance ingested or injected into the body to treat certain tumours and cancers

Companies using radiation in medicine or industry are legally required to adhere to strict health and safety regulations, so hospitals and industrial companies may appoint a radiation protection practitioner to monitor the situation and check that their working practice meets all regulations. Radiation protection practitioners working in the NHS or the nuclear industry may work under different titles (health physicist or radiation protection advisor) but, by and large, they will have similar responsibilities.

Some of the areas that radiation protection practitioners might work in specifically include:

  • Contamination and radioactive waste disposal
  • Medical health
  • Risk analysis and protection
  • Public information regarding radiation
  • Protection

Radiation protection practitioners need to stay well aware of all health and safety measures in their profession and must keep up-to-date with all relevant development in radiation and radiation protection. There are also some radiation protection practitioners that work with non-ionizing radiation, from sources such as mobile phone masts, lasers and radars.