Address radiation fears

Security is paramount in public buildings and institutions, especially in the towns in these days of increased terrorist threats, and also to prevent common robberies. This is why institutions spend substantially to acquire equipment for use by security guards.

One of the most common of these gadgets is a metal detector. It has become common as it is used to screen visitors before being allowed into compounds and buildings for safety reasons. The use of detectors has become more prevalent as a result of the rising instances of terror attacks in the cities and big towns. Wielding the gadget makes it impossible for criminals to sneak weapons into buildings and attack unsuspecting occupants and visitors.

However, the speculation that Kenyans may have been exposed to dangerous radiation, given the widespread use of hand-held and walk-through metal detectors, calls for an assurance from the public health authorities that they are safe.

Security personnel man baggage scanners, especially at airports, sea ports, train stations, shopping malls, hotels and other public spaces where checkpoints are mounted. It has been proposed that walk-through metal detectors and luggage scanners should undergo mandatory calibration and inspection every six months and compliance certificates issued.

However, Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Deputy Secretary-General Dennis Miskellah has rubbished the proposed measures to regulate the gadgets as “nonsensical” as the detectors are used globally. According to him, even if there is some radiation, “it is very, very minimal”. He sees this as a ploy by scaremongers to make money, explaining that X-rays are not radioactive.

But the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority sees the need to address potential radiation risks. The first step, it believes, is the provision of appropriate training on safety. Although prolonged exposure to X-ray radiation is a health and safety risk for the general public, it cannot come from metal detectors.