Volume 93, Issue 53

Thursday, December 2, 1999


CFS joins WTO protests in Seattle

Radioactive violations close labs

Research may take London Home

McGill library forced to cut materials


Bass Ackwards

Radioactive violations close labs

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

Numerous violations concerning the handling of radioactive material were the cause of closures to three Toronto-area hospital-based research institutions yesterday.

The Atomic Energy Control Board ordered the University Health Network in Toronto, which is comprised of the Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital, to halt usage of radioactive materials in their research labs, said Sunni Locatelli, media relations spokesperson for the AECB.

"Our order affects 106 labs in total. The radioactive materials are used in cellular and molecular biology research, as well as cancer, cardiac and neurological research," Locatelli said. She explained safety inspectors had visited the numerous laboratories 12 times since February and decided to ban the use of radioactive materials after common violation patterns were found throughout all three institutions.

Locatelli added the violations included a wide variety of offences, such food consumption in the labs, a lack of contamination monitoring, contamination levels above licence criteria and expired internal permits.

"This was really a preventative measure that will continue in force until they provide us in writing of the satisfactory correction of measures."

UHN spokesperson Keri Schoonderwoerd said she thought the order to halt usage of radioactive material was a temporary measure and was the result of not having enough training manuals on site.

However, Locatelli said the case was much more severe. "We've got three different institutions, but the licence requires a shutdown for everybody. We take what we did here very seriously."

Schoonderwoerd added they have already acted on the situation. "We have established two new radiation assesment committees," she said in response to the closures. "As we demonstrate compliance the labs will open one by one."

Steve DeSousa, media services officer for the University of Toronto, whose students intern at the hospitals, said those performing graduate research work will be able to move to labs on campus so their work does not grind to a halt.

"We have to get approval from the AECB, but the move would be made as soon as possible," he said.

Susan Roberts, Western's Occupational Health and Safety radiation protection officer, said while radioactive materials are used in a number of different departments at Western, no labs have ever been shut down due to AECB violations

"The rules are specified in the [AEBC] licence. They're standard," Roberts said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999