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Pregnancy and radiation exposure

These guidelines apply to pregnant employees and students who are working in environments with radiation, and their supervisors.

Norsk versjon - Gravide og stråling

Topic page about HSE | Pages labelled with pregnancy

General #

Information for pregnant employees/students #

Pregnant employees/students have to be particularly aware of all labelling in the facilities in which they work, and the effects that different types of radiation can have on them and their foetus.

See also the general guidelines about pregnancy during work or studies, accommodation, leave, etc.

Information for leaders #

Radiation can damage an individual's reproductive ability or injure foetuses. This should be carefully considered in determining appropriate work assigments for women and men who are in their reproductive years.

The pregnant employee/student's own view of the situation should also be part of the assessment of the working conditions. If the pregnant employee/student wants alternative tasks or a relocation, the employer should comply with these wishes when possible.

See also the general guidelines about risk assessment, accommodation, leave, etc.

Radiation and recommendations #

Non-ionizing, electromagnetic radiation #

  • The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority has, for the time being, not established any rules for non-ionizing radiation in the working environment, such as microwaves and radio waves. The general recommendation is to reduce any exposure to a minimum.
  • Certain uses of radio waves in medicine and industry, such as plastics welding and diathermy (heat treatment), can cause employees to be exposed to powerful electromagnetic fields. This can cause a temperature increase in parts of the body tissue, which can be harmful to the foetus. Pregnant employees performing such work should consult NTNU's Occupational Health Services or their physician.
  • Exposure levels for radio frequency fields outside of the thermal area are not a risk during pregnancy.
  • The Danish Working Environment Authority recommends that pregnant women do not perform resistance welding at AC installations. This recommendation is based on the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) classification of electromagnetic fields arising from such tasks as potentially carcinogenic (class 2B).
  • Extreme low-frequency fields (frequencies below 300 Hz) can be found near transformers, large induction furnaces, and power plants. Such fields do normally not constitute a risk for the foetus, however.
  • Work in front of computer screens does not constitute a radiation hazard. Comparative studies of pregnant women in different occupations show that pregnant women working in front of a screen terminal do not have more pregnancy problems than other women.

Ionizing radiation #

According to the Radiation Protection Regulation (in Norwegian), the foetus' radiation dose should not exceed 1 mSv during the rest of the pregnancy, after pregnancy is confirmed.

The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority gives the following advice:

  • If the radiation dose is confirmed to be less than 1 mSv:
    The pregnant woman can carry on with the tasks she has performed before pregnancy, without extra measures.
  • If the radiation dose is /presumed/ to be less than 1 mSv:
    The pregnant woman can carry on with the tasks she has performed before pregnancy, possibly taking extra measures to reduce radiation exposure.
  • If the radiation dose is /presumed/ to be larger than 1 mSv:
    The pregnant woman must be given other tasks with less probability of radiation exposure, or other work where she is not exposed to ionizing radiation.

Example: The foetus's radiation dose during work with RIA kits is confirmed to be less than 1 mSv.

Radon and radon daughters that can be found in subterranean spaces and the indoor climate will release alpha particles ("soft" radiation). This radiation only affects the body surface and the respiratory passage when radon gas is inhaled. The foetus is protected from this form of radiation.

Before pregnancy #

Before a pregnancy, both parents' working environment is important. Damage can occur if either the female's or male's reproductive cells are exposed to harmful chemicals before the fertilization has taken place. Working environment conditions rarely cause risk of damage to reproductive cells, but we know that ionizing radiation can cause damage to both female eggs and male sperm cells. Additional information about this subject can be found on the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority's facts page about pregnancy and working environment (in Norwegian).

Help #

NTNU regulations #

Legislation #

Contact #

Occupational Health Services

Approval/signature #

Approved by the Director of HSE – 11 July 2014 – HMSRV5102E – ePhorte 2014/.....

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