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Health, Science & Environment

Radiation Agency Merger Bill Worries Docs, Dentists

Proponents say SB244 will save money while preserving current oversight of radioactive materials and solid and hazardous waste by blending two state agencies. But doctors and dentists fear that important professional input is being lost by the elimination

State Senators are expected to take up a bill later this week to merge the agencies that oversee radiation and waste disposal. Doctors and other medical professionals are criticizing the move.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality says it can save money by blending the state’s Division of Radiation Control with the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste. It’s backing legislation to create a new Division of Waste Management. Scott Baird is director of government affairs for DEQ.

“We’re confident that we’ll be able to improve the quality of our services for our customers and for Utahns as a whole and have better regulatory oversight,” says Baird, who maintains the new agency will have the same authority.

But doctors, dentists and other professionals worry about the bill, especially because it eliminates the Radiation Control Board. It sets policies not just for big radioactive waste sites like the one owned by EnergySolutions. It also gives advice on thousands of radiation devices and to the professionals who operate them.

Critics say SB244 puts the waste industry in charge of evaluating medical radiation exposures, cancer treatments and dental x-rays.

“If you don’t understand the complexities and the use of radiation in the medical field,” says Ulrich Rassner, University Hospital neuroradiologist and member of the Radiation Control Board. “I think it’s easy to write rules that inadvertently might be very cumbersome to physicians and medical offices or might even impeded proper patient care.

EnergySolutions and two other companies would have three permanent seats on the new, 11-member waste board. One seat is designated for a dentist or doctor. 

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