Health physics or The Physics of Radiation Protection is the science concerned with the recognition, evaluation, and control of health hazards to permit the safe use and application of ionizing radiation. Health physics professionals promote excellence in the science and practice of radiation protection and safety. Health physicists principally work at facilities where radionuclides or ionizing radiation are used or produced; such as medical institutions, government laboratories, academic and research institutions, nuclear power plants, regulatory agencies and manufacturing plant.
One of the biggest concerns today is the use of airport security scanners that use millimeter wave scanners to check for illegal contraband. To be clear, passive scanners do not emit radiation. Active scanners emit millimeter wavelength radiation which is non-ionizing—i.e., it does not have enough energy to directly damage DNA—and is not known to be genotoxic.
Currently, technology is being developed that makes use of the millimeter wave (MMW) range (30-300 GHz) of the radio frequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum. As more and more systems come on line and are used in everyday applications, the possibility of inadvertent exposure of personnel to MMWs increases. To date, there has been no published discussion regarding the health effects of MMWs; this review attempts to fill that void.
Because of the shallow depth of penetration, the energy and, therefore, heat associated with MMWs will be deposited within the first 1-2 mm of human skin. MMWs have been used in states of the former Soviet Union to provide therapeutic benefit in a number of diverse disease states, including skin disorders, gastric ulcers, heart disease and cancer. Other studies have found that exposure to millimeter wave radiation reduced metastasis of tumor cells.
Conversely, the possibility exists that hazards might be associated with accidental overexposure to MMWs. This review attempts to critically analyze the likelihood of such acute effects as burn and eye damage, as well as potential long-term effects, including cancer.
(C)2000Health Physics Society