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Emery Robert J.; Felknor, S. A.
Health Physics: May 2002
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In response to the Health Physics Society's recent “radiation safety without borders” initiative, the South Texas Chapter of the Health Physics Society selected Costa Rica as its partner country of choice. To develop an understanding of the radiation safety needs of this country, the fall 2001 University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health Environmental Radiation and Radioactivity class was tasked with the assignment of assessing the possible radiation safety needs and concerns for this country. The assignment culminated in a class presentation to the membership of the South Texas Chapter during its annual fall meeting. Using library and web based resources, the students reviewed a number of public health and radiation-related topics. Life expectancies were found to be equivalent to the United States, even though significant differences in per capita health expenditures were noted. Costa Rica exhibited lower population mortality rates from major causes such as cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms, and external sources. Maternal and infant mortality rates were found to be much higher in Costa Rica than in the United States. Naturally occurring radiation sources such as uranium deposits were not identified as apparent major radiation issues of concern, although ultraviolet radiation exposures are consistently high. Several recent events in the country and the region involving patient overexposures suggest that concerns are likely focused on ensuring the proper use and maintenance of healing arts radiation equipment. The lack of available information on radioactive waste disposal suggests that waste handling also may be an issue warranting attention. The exercise proved to be very educational for the students, and the information gathered will serve to focus the Chapter's efforts when technical exchanges are initiated. The importance of linking this initiative to other existing programs within the country is also discussed.

©2002Health Physics Society