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teletherapy machine

A radiation therapy unit in a hospital. Photo credit: Thomas Hecker/Shutterstock.com

Radioactive isotopes have a very niche use in medicine, where they are used both in diagnosis as well as in treatment. The most widely used is radiotherapy, where a concentrated dose of radiation is directed towards a malignant tumor or group of cancerous cells to kill them. Sometimes tiny doses of radioactive materials called radiotracers are injected into the bloodstream of a patient, and the gamma rays they give off are imaged with the help of a special camera to create images of the inside of the patient’s body.

Hospitals and clinics where such procedures are available has strict protocols regarding the handling of these devices. When such a hospital or institution closes and has to be demolished, the wrecking company has to be informed so that that the instruments can be safely dismantled and the hazardous materials moved to a secured location. Failing to do so can lead to tragedy. Such an incident happened in the Brazilian city of Goiânia in 1987.


© Amusing Planet, 2019.



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