Bosnia and Herzegovina has a well-built infrastructure for protecting its approximately 3,000 workers who are exposed to radiation as part of their jobs, according to the conclusions of a recent Occupational Radiation Protection Appraisal Service (ORPAS), the second to be hosted by a European country.
The 7-16 October mission found that the State Regulatory Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and the technical support organizations working in medicine and in industry, agriculture and other fields are committed toward ensuring the safety of workers in line with the IAEA safety standards.
Burcin Okyar, an IAEA Radiation Safety Specialist and the coordinator of the IAEA ORPAS team, noted that the country requested the mission just nine years after establishing a regulatory body.
“The ORPAS team was impressed with the national arrangements in occupational control set up in a relatively short period of time that has passed since its legislation was drafted and enacted,“ he said.
The team, which comprised 10 occupational radiation protection experts from Belgium, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine and the IAEA, also noted that the country has created a written policy on the safety of radiation sources accompanying the established legislation.
“We were very satisfied with the ORPAS recommendations, which represent a great support for my country,” said Emir Dizdarevic, Deputy Director, State Regulatory Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The team found that the regulatory body, technical support organizations and end users such as hospitals all benefited from a well-established information exchange.
The team recommended that occupational exposure control should be strengthened in fields such as mining and mineral processing industries, where industries and workers might not always be aware of the exposure due to natural radioactive materials.
In 2003, the expert team investigated fourteen sites that were targeted with DU munitions during the conflict. There were clear indications that DU munitions had been used at three of these sites. A number of fragments of DU munitions were collected from these sites and about 300 contamination points were observed.
The report found that the only risk of “any potential significance” would be if someone came in contact with DU fragments or ingested DU dust soil. The radiological risk from ingestion of DU would be “insignificant”, while from a toxicological point of view, “the possible intake might be somewhat higher than normal health standards,” the report said.
Very low concentration of depleted uranium was found in one sample of water used for cooking and drinking. Although the report found the corresponding radiation dose was insignificant and would not pose any health risk. As a precautionary measure, it calls for water sampling to continue for several years.
One of the tasks of the mission was to assess the information on numbers of cancers and the possible link with DU. This part of the investigation was carried out by the WHO. It found “due to the lack of a proper cancer and reporting system, claims of an increase in the rates of adverse health affects stemming from DU cannot be substantiated”.
“The extremely low exposure identified in this UNEP mission indicates that it is highly unlikely that DU could be associated with these reported health effects”, the report said.
Of greater concern, is the need to improve the country´s radiation safety infrastructure, which had to be rebuilt after the war. A key task of the mission, carried out by the IAEA, was to investigate the country´s radiation protection infrastructure.
The report stresses the need for the Bosnian authorities to account and safely dispose of radioactive sources such as sources for industrial radiography and those used in lightning rods and smoke detectors – a large number of which were lost or damaged during the war.