Human exposure to medical diagnostic X-rays can be reduced by 90% without loss of benefit. Scientific evidence of damaging biological effects indicates it should be reduced, and health physicists have a major professional and ethical role to play in reducing potentially harmful exposure. However, unnecessary and avoidable exposure persists as the rate of use of X-rays increases, about 2% annually since 1964. Solutions to this problem are available through policies to ensure improved equipment, qualified operators, medical and dental professionals who are knowledgeable about radiation protection principles, and mandatory performance standards and enforcement mechanisms. The long-standing medical stewardship over diagnostic X-rays in these areas is found wanting. Resistance by the medical and dental professions to corrective actions, the drive by critics, including health physicists, for public accountability in medical X-ray uses, and the non-administration of the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968 by officials of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare are examined. Programmatic recommendations to strengthen the law and its administration are suggested.
©1975Health Physics Society