Ban on MRI scanners averted

New legislation will ensure that patients can continue to benefit from MRI scans, according to MEP Marian Harkin.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week, Ms Harkin said that the revised directive, entitled Directive on Protecting Workers from Electromagnetic Fields, is an essential step forward from the original proposal in 2004 which sought a ban of scans which would expose hospital workers to harmful eletromagnetic fields.

The new directive comes after many years of uncertainty surrounding the matter as well as two separate postponements by the EU on making a final decision. The original directive in 2004 provided the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure risks to workers.

"From a medical perspective this would have been a disaster for many patients as MRI scans are essential diagnostic tools and MRI imaging technology is also used in the treatment of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and brain disorder," said Marian Harkin.

The controversial document made suggestions to impose either a ban on the use of vital scans such as the MRI or to make further detailed research into the health effects of regular exposure in order to find a compromise. The decision caused great concern among members of the medical and industrial communities.

"Instead, a common-sense, evidence-based approach has been adopted which respects the safety of workers while also ensuring continued use of these important tools for patients,” she continued. “A significant improvement in the new legislation is that it deals with possible long-term effects of exposure to radiation by ensuring that as soon as conclusive scientific evidence emerges, the EU Commission shall present a new proposal on the long-term effects.”

This revised directive has outlined new proposals in relation to the use of electromagnetic scans. The text has been updated to include new scientific evidence on exposure limits, a commitment to aid employers in carrying out EU-required risk assessments, and to find a way to balance worker protection with the flexible and undiminished use and development of medical scans and equipment.

The Independent MEP concluded by saying, "I am pleased to have worked with the many groups who pushed for this useful revision, including the Irish Medical Association (IMO ), Irish Heart Foundation, Faculty of Radiologists Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, and Irish Nurses and Midwives Association (INMO ).”

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