PSI News: Overexposed Kids: New FDA Guidelines on Radiation
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In this issue:
=> Feature Story: Overexposed Kids: New FDA Guidelines on Radiation
=> Profile: Travis Powell: Surfer, Detective, Technician
=> Highlights from the Polymer Solutions Newsblog
=> Company News and Notes
Overexposed Kids: New FDA Guidelines on Radiation
by Dale McGeehon
Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News
Does a small person, such as a child, need only small doses of radiation from an X-ray or CT scan machine? That is the question the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to know the answer to.
The agency recently released draft guidance to encourage manufacturers to design new scanners to reduce radiation exposure to young, small patients. Overexposure to radiation is a growing concern, especially for children, because it may increase the risk of cancer when they get older, reports the Associated Press. As a result of this effort, more medical imaging devices soon may have settings where the radiation dosage can be adjusted.
According to the FDA guidance, there are three reasons why radiation is of particular concern for pediatric patients:
The FDA says that many radiological devices are sold without design features or labeling information that would help users get clinically-usable images while considering the risk of radiation exposure for pediatric imaging. Because of these concerns, the FDA believes that new X-ray imaging devices "should be demonstrated to be appropriate for pediatric use or use in pediatric populations should be cautioned against."
- younger patients are more radiosensitive than adults (i.e., the cancer risk per unit dose of ionizing radiation is higher for younger patients);
- younger patients have a longer expected lifetime for the effects of radiation exposure to manifest as cancer; and
- use of equipment and exposure settings designed for adult use can result in excessive radiation exposure for the smaller patient.
"We know imaging is extremely valuable, but we can probably do it with less radiation," says Dr. Dorothy Bulas of Children's National Medical Center in Washington, past president of the Society for Pediatric Radiology.
The use of CT scans, which show more detailed images than standard X-rays but use far more radiation, and other X-ray based medical imaging has soared in recent years. The images can be critical to an accurate diagnosis, and critics says that people who need one should not avoid it for fear of future health risks.
A related issue is that too often scans are ordered unnecessarily. This practice may have particular consequences for younger people whose rapidly growing tissues are more sensitive to radiation.
Under FDAís proposal, new medical imaging devices would come with dose settings and instructions for children of different ages and sizes, or be labeled not for pediatric use. Examples of pediatric use features to consider for X-ray imaging equipment, according to the FDA, are:
With a lower dosage, will the image be clear enough so that doctors can make a diagnosis? Radiologists don't always need the crispest image, says Dr. Marta Hernanz-Schulman of Vanderbilt University, who chairs the American College of Radiology. Often the image is fine while using a fraction of the typical radiation dose, she says.
- specific pre-set pediatric control settings that are appropriate for the intended patient;
- pediatric procedures, labeling, and protocols that are designed to minimize radiation exposure while providing image quality of acceptable clinical value;
- display and recording of patient dose or dose index and ability to record other patient information, e.g., age, height, and weight (either manual entry or automatic calculation); while this recommendation also applies to adult imaging, it is especially important to include for pediatric imaging so estimates of patient-specific dose can be made reliably without assuming a "typical" or "standard" patient size, which are often based on adults; and
- software interface features that alert the end user to important pediatric use issues (e.g., interactive software pop-ups that remind users of special pediatric issues when setting up the image acquisition)
Some technology already exists that takes images with lower radiation doses. Doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis have a new diagnostic tool that gives them the information they need without using normal radiation levels.
"We're now able to customize the radiation to the patient and deliver only whatís needed to get a clear image," explains Dr. Chip Truwit, chief of radiology at Hennepin. "More radiation used to mean clearer images -- but not with this new technology. This often results in being able to reduce the patients' exposure by one-half or even down to one-tenth of what we'd normally use."
In imaging language, graininess, or "noise", reduces image quality. The low-dose scanner at Hennepin reduces this "noise." For example, in order to produce a clear, noise-free image, radiation beams must be strong enough to penetrate the tissues of a larger patient. But the new technology reconstructs the images -- noise-free -- to generate a readable image without the extra radiation.
The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging runs a campaign called Image Gently, which helps teach health providers how to program existing scanners to give child-size radiation doses, plus other steps for protecting vulnerable organs from radiation beams.
Source: "Child-sizing Radiation Doses from Medical Scans," Associated Press, 5/9/12
Source: "New Low Dose Imaging Provides Lower Doses of Radiation for Patients, Higher Quality Images for Physicians," Health e Matters, 3/2012
Image by Ben Stephenson, used under its Creative Commons license.
Profile: Travis Powell: Surfer, Detective, Technician
By Dale McGeehon
Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News
Travis Powell is one of the fresh faces at Polymer Solutions.
At 25, he's been working at the company for two years. It's his first job since he graduated from Radford University, located just a few miles from scenic Blacksburg, VA, with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry.
Now, as a senior liquid chromatography technician, Powell helps clients figure out why their product is breaking down or getting discolored when it is not supposed to, or whether chemicals, such as UV absorbers, used in plastic packaging migrate to a food source. A typical project might involve trying to learn the concentration of an antioxidant or ultraviolet absorber in a product, or what specific type of each is present.
It's detective work. Powell prepares samples and inserts them into the chromatography instrument, making adjustments depending on what the sample is and the type of analysis needed. The instrument provides a graph of the analysis with the vertical axis showing the concentration of the target chemical and the horizontal axis showing time which relates to the chemicals identity.
Often, there are two samples analyzed from the same client. One may be from a polymer of a product that shows no signs of degradation or fault, and the other would have evidence of degradation. That way, he can compare and contrast the two samples, learning what chemical makeup each has, thereby providing clues as to why the faulty sample is that way.
"Some clients do not want us to come to any conclusion," Powell says. It's a "just the facts, ma'am" approach, letting the clients know what he's found so they can reach their own conclusion as to why the product is faulty, and how to take steps to correct it. More often, however, clients want a full analysis, recommendations, and conclusions from PSI scientists. For many clients it's more than "just the numbers." Powell helps make sense of the "clues" and solves mysteries for PSI clients using a range of chemical analysis instruments and physical testing equipment.
While in school, Powell had a general awareness of how the instrumentation worked. "I took a sip of everything," he says. But he didn't get proficient at using these tools until coming to Polymer Solutions. He got the job after a professor recommended the position to him. Once at the company, he received a great deal of training. "Polymer Solutions is highly specialized. We have a lot of high performance chromatography."
Powell also helped with the World Polymer Congress, held last June on the gorgeous ground of Virginia Tech. More than 1,500 scientists from 52 countries attended to learn about recent developments with polymers. PSI had a booth at the event, and offered lab tours to interested participants. Powell used Hooptie vans to ferry the participants from the event to company headquarters, and helped lead lab tours of the facilities.
Powell grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., a coastal town. Now he's in the mountains. He's adjusted to the change in geography just fine, he says.
"I've always been into sports," he says. "When I was living at the beach, I was into surfing. Now I've transferred that into snowboarding." Powell also enjoys traveling to pursue his hobbies. He has surfed in Costa Rica and Hawaii and spent time snowboarding in Germany and Austria.
Highlights from the Polymer Solutions Newsblog
The PSI Newsblog covers breaking news in the fields of plastics analysis, plastics testing, and plastics failure. Here are a few of the month's top articles:
- Goldfish Reveal Wastewater Contamination
As clean water sources are in shorter supply throughout the world, municipalities are looking for ways to recycle wastewater, perhaps for irrigation or even drinking water. Enter, goldfish.
- Electric Vehicles Drive Plastic Demand
A prominent market research firm projects electric vehicle production -- and demand for related plastics -- will grow at a compounded annual rate of more than 80% through to 2017 in Europe and North America.
- New Medical Device May Help High Blood Pressure
Patients with extremely high blood pressure who don't respond to conventional medicine may find relief from a new medical device.
- Light-Absorbing Polymers Destroy Cancer Cells
Photothermal therapy is a technique that can kill cancer cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.
- Implantable Fuel Cell Generates Power From Glucose
MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell powered by glucose, the same fuel that runs the human body, thereby paving the way for implantable medical devices that donít require an external power source.
Company News and Notes
PSI Team News
Jason Todd, PSIís Chromatography Lab Manager welcomed a new addition to his rapidly growing family. On July 6, his donkey, "Short Assets Velvet" gave birth to "Velvet Elvis." This is Jasonís 22nd donkey. Out of his donkey family, nine are Mammoth Jackstock donkeys and the remaining 13 are mini donkeys. Yes, there's such a thing as mini donkeys. Sadly, PSI does not have sufficient "cute factor" testing equipment.
Speaking of cute...
James Rancourt, Founder/CEO of Polymer Solutions, and Cynthia Rancourt, Director of Business Operations, have recently become grandparents. They welcomed Harper Grace into the world March 23, 2012. The Rancourts are expecting another grandchild in November.
With more mouths to feed, it's a good idea to get friendly with Jarret Wright, PSI's in-house "foodie." Jarret's true foodie skills will be put to the test this month when he judges The New York State BBQ Championship. He has taken two separate classes in order to judge this competition; in addition to that, he has his Bachelor's and Master's degrees within the disciplines of food science. The judging will include chicken, pulled pork, pork ribs, and brisket. This competition even has a sides and dessert category. Jarret will bring his keen skills of compositional analysis to the difficult task of rating barbeque. Someone has to do it!
Hannah Rancourt, PSI's Senior Customer Service & Sales Administrator, and Josh Rancourt, PSI's Facilities Manager & Equipment Specialist, just returned from a 10-day trip with their church's youth group. The group traveled to Wisconsin Dells with 34 kids, eight chaperones, and 32 long hours on a school bus! We're guessing Hannah and Josh are glad to be back at work.
IUPAC: The World in Our Backyard
The IUPAC World Polymer Congress was a wonderful opportunity for PSI! Thirty-six guests toured PSI and ate lunch with our staff as part of our daily VIP Lunch & Lab Tours. We also hosted a wine event at 622 North, a classy Blacksburg restaurant and wine bar. The event allowed a very personal experience for guests as they enjoyed delicious food, wine, and one-on-one conversations with multiple PSI employees. We met many of the 1,500 conference attendees at our exhibit booth, too. Our staff attended lectures, presentations, and poster sessions to discuss the latest and greatest in polymer technology. It was our honor to share "our backyard" with the world!
SEM Magnifies 500,000 times! Our new SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) is installed and ready to meet your testing needs. Scanning electron microscopy is a useful surface analysis technique and provides information based on a sampleís composition and surface topography. The SEM is able to magnify up to 500,000 times! To put the 1 to 500,000 ratio into perspective, it is the equivalent of a 25 foot section of the total distance between New York City and Los Angeles. Twenty-five feet is roughly the size of an Orca whale, also known as the "Killer Whale". We think our SEM is pretty "killer," too.
Know Someone Up to the Job? PSI is accepting resumes for a Project Manager and for a Gas Chromatography Laboratory Manager. These positions require a graduate degree or equivalent experience. PSI is especially interested in candidates with industrial experience. A good sense of humor helps, too. Please note: The successful candidate must be willing to endure heightened quality-of-life, and workplace nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Contact Cynthia Rancourt: Cynthia@polymersolutions.com.
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Polymer Solutions News is a monthly publication of Polymer Solutions Incorporated, an independent laboratory and a strategic global resource for chemical analysis, physical testing, research and development services, and litigation services. Please email us with any corrections, comments, reprint requests, suggestions for stories, requests for quotes, or other feedback.