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Potential dangers posed by MRI scans to be investigated

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The safety of magnetic resonance imaging for nurses and other staff is to be investigated by the Health Protection Agency.

The agency said that it had approved ‘in principle’ the need for an epidemiological study of possible adverse effects from high static field MRI imaging machines, due to lack of current evidence.

It is expected to carry out the research as part of an international collaborative study on behalf of the World Health Organization. The HPA, which will lead the work, said it was now assessing the study’s feasibility with the aim of launching it as soon as possible.

‘The exposures to patients and medical staff from the magnetic fields can be high and there is a shortage of information on possible adverse long-term health effects,’ said HPA chairperson Sir William Stewart.

The announcement follows a report from the agency’s independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation. The group’s chairperson, Professor Anthony Swerdlow, said: ‘There is a pressing need for a well-conducted study of mortality and cancer incidence in workers with high occupational exposures to static magnetic fields, particularly those associated with medical MRI scanners.’

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