Get the Dose Right, Save Lives: IAEA on World Metrology Day

Kilometres, minutes, grammes, litres, miles, inches, parts per million… We use them every day to communicate what we do, how far we go, how much we eat… But what about millisieverts and grays that save lives?

In 1976, the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) established a Network of Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratories (SSDLs). Together with the IAEA’s own dosimetry laboratory in Seibersdorf, these laboratories play a major role in providing calibrations that assist countries in performing accurate dosimetry in their radiotherapy and diagnostic radiology departments. Calibration gives assurance that the measurements being performed on the equipment are reliable.

With the aim of transferring skills, particularly to developing countries, through the SSDL Network, the IAEA trains staff from around the world in performing calibrations for various fields. Since 1987, more than 300 scientists from 122 countries have been trained in various aspects of dosimetry. This has enabled several countries to provide accurate dosimetry services, and therefore safe and effective radiation therapy and diagnosis.

Kenya is one country that benefitted from this fellowship training scheme when radiation metrology officers from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Grace Ateka and Collins Omondi, received training in radiation therapy, diagnostic radiology and radiation protection calibration as well as in developing a quality management system (QMS) at the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA) in 2019. The training was arranged and financed by the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme.

“Knowledge gained during the fellowship will assist us in ensuring that KEBS performs dosimetry calibrations covering all the areas needed,” said Ateka. “The Kenyan Government is currently upgrading more than 50 county hospitals with state-of-the-art facilities that include many radiology units.”

Omondi added: “Our laboratory is in the process of establishing a calibration service for radiotherapy. And we are also preparing to undergo formal accreditation for the current services. This was made possible through the assistance of the IAEA and by being part of the SSDL Network.”

From Serbia to Saudi Arabia

The list goes on: Staff from the SSDL of Serbia, the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, received specialized training through four fellowships and two scientific visits, and the technical capacities of the laboratory were significantly improved with the installation of a new calibration X ray unit and the upgrading of the dosimetry and auxiliary equipment used for routine calibrations. The laboratory’s calibration services have been improved, as have the accuracy of their measurements including the calibration of dosimetry equipment used in mammography and superficial radiotherapy. This has contributed to the improvement of calibration procedures in diagnostic radiology, particularly in high dose procedures such as computed tomography or interventional radiology and cardiology, said Milos Zivanovic, Technical Manager of the Calibration Laboratory at the Vinca institute.

Experts from Saudi Arabia took part in a fellowship training programme at the IAEA laboratory. Omar Noor, a radiation metrologist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, completed a one-month fellowship in diagnostic radiology calibration at the IAEA’s Dosimetry Laboratory.

“Upon my return to our centre, I have been supporting the SSDL in the establishment of new diagnostic qualities as well as contributing to the finalization and implementation of the SSDL Quality Management System,” Noor said. “I was also able to share the knowledge and experience I have gained in one of the national training courses on ISO/IEC 17025 on General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories.”

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency