CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center is offering free lung and whole body counting services, or radiation scans, to residents who live within a 100-mile radius of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
The scans are part of a research project titled “Lie Down and Be Counted.”
Since 1997, the program has been working to establish a baseline of normal radiation present in adults living in the region.
“Natural radiation is already in the body. You can get it from eating a banana or eating a lot of wild game, such as elk,” said Russell Hardy, director of the center.
Hardy also said that people who smoke or are outside a lot also tend to show more natural radiation in their bodies.
By monitoring the natural radiation found in people before the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant started accepting waste, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center was able to notice any changes once WIPP started accepting waste.
This also allowed the center to notice if there were any noticeable changes after the incident that occurred in February at WIPP.
“Even though we had only 40 people scanned after the incident, we still saw no change in natural radiation levels after the incident,” Hardy said.
The procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete, and during this process people must remain as still as possible and are put into a dark, sealed room that blocks out radiation.
Children between the ages of 12 and 18 are also now being allowed to be scanned, Hardy said.
After the February incident at WIPP, parents were adamant about getting their children checked, he said.
Hardy explained that the reason for the cutoff at age 12 is because they felt that a child younger than 12 would not be able to remain still in the dark sealed room for 30 minutes.
He also said that if people have had an X-ray or taken a particular medication that could affect the results, they should notify the center before taking a scan because such things could falsely read as higher than normal radiation.
The laboratory also performs these radiation scans on workers at both WIPP and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.
Sarah Matott can be reached at 575-628-5546.