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Watchdog to study health effects of MRI

The UK health safety watchdog, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), has recently announced that it will carry out a study into the possible adverse health effects from high static field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

Sir William Stewart, chairman of the HPA, said: “MRI scanning has some undoubted benefits in medicine, especially as an aid to accurate clinical diagnosis.

“However we need to bear in mind that the magnetic fields produced by the machines are quite substantial and that these fields are increasing in order to achieve improved clarity of image.

“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. The Agency’s Board therefore considers more research is needed in this area.”

The HPA board said that the World Health Organization shared their view that there was a need for more epidemiological research on the effects of MRI exposure.

This declaration follows a report made by the HPA’s independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), which recommended a number of new areas for research.

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, chairman of AGNIR, 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.”

Health Protection Agency