Airports Warning for Radioactive Patients

PATIENTS who have had treatment with radioactive isotopes are triggering airport security screens, doctors warn in a study published today.

The study, in the British Medical Journal, says unsuspecting patients are being subjected to full searches and interrogation and need to be warned that they may attract the unwanted attentions of security officers.

One 46 year-old patient from Birmingham, who had been given radio-isotope treatment for an overactive thyroid, six weeks before, set off alarms at Orlando airport, Florida at the start of his holiday.

He was detained and strip searched, and sniffer dogs were used. After a lengthy interrogation, the treatment card evidence he produced was finally accepted.

Radio-isotopes are used for around 10,000 British people a year to treat hyperthyroidism and in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. Patients can stay mildly radioactive for weeks before the radioactive material is expelled from the body.

Dr Kalyan Kumar Gangopadhyay, the specialist registrar in diabetes and endocrinology at City Hospital, Birmingham, who led the study, said: "Security alarms have been made more sensitive and people are going to come across these problems more and more.

"We want everybody to know about this as airports are deploying more sensitive radiation detection systems to combat terrorism.

"We would therefore expect more such cases unless we take responsibility for forewarning our patients.''

Dr Gangopadhyay said an isotope could trigger an alarm for up to 95 days after treatment. An accompanying editorial says patients who have undergone recent treatment should avoid close contact with other people and should not to try to conceive for up to 12 months.

<<The Daily Telegraph, -- 08/07/06>>