Is Cargo Screening Damaging Your Medical Imaging Film?

April 8, 2011

Researchers at the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) examined potential damage to imaging materials entering the country as cargo, which is being screened by high-energy X-ray equipment. Indeed, one kind of X-ray machine is likely to cause damage to medical imaging films, according to the group.

For all the efforts to screen cargo coming into the United States, your medical imaging film could be suffering.

Researchers at the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) examined potential damage to imaging materials entering the country as cargo, which is being screened by high-energy X-ray equipment. Indeed, one kind of X-ray machine is likely to cause damage to medical imaging films, according to the group.

“We were receiving a higher and higher volume of complaints about potential damage,” said Lisa Walker, I3A’s president. “We wanted to bring attention to it now. It’s just going to get worse” as stronger technologies are developed to screen incoming cargo.

Film might have faded out of the scene for many practices that have upgraded to digital, but it’s still being used, depending on which sector of the industry, or which part of the country. And not every facility tests the integrity of the film when it’s been received.

It’s hard to say that all spoiled films are damaged by the X-rays, as heat could also be a culprit, noted Ken Marshall, a radiation safety officer at Carestream Health. His company has also seen a “significant jump” in customers discovering damaged film.

There’s an economic impact of damaged film, of course, as offices and imaging centers would have to buy new film or redo the test. That can also mean more tests (and repeated radiation exposure) for patients, I3A officials said.

Airport screeners make arrangements for passengers who want to protect their 35 mm camera film from the X-rays. And similar arrangement should be made for cargo imaging film, Marshall said. The film could be inspected using different methods or lower-dose equipment, he said.

“First, we need to have awareness on the part of the Customs and Border Patrol,” said Walker, adding that the group would also like to see limits on the dose and the use of dosimeters to ensure the level of exposure.

Has your practice or imaging center grappled with damaged film? Do you test your film before using?