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The Federal Office for Radiation Protection is a WHO Collaborating Centre

As a WHO Collaborating Centre the BfS actively supports the WHO's work in seven areas:

  • radiation risks in the low-dose range
  • biological dosimetry network
  • electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields
  • optical radiation
  • radon
  • medical radiation exposure
  • development and implementation of standards and guidelines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS) are extending their collaboration in the field of protection against harmful effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Beginning in 2014 the WHO reappointed the BfS as an internationally recognized Collaborating Centre (CC).

In this capacity, the BfS actively supports the WHO's work. The BfS and the WHO collaborate in seven areas.

Radiation risks in the low-dose rangeshow / hide

As a WHO CC, the BfS supports the WHO’s efforts to initate and coordinate research work on health effects and risks of radiation exposure in the low-dose range on an international level. Within the European Union, the BfS plays a central part in the research platform MELODI ("Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative") MELODI is a consortium of European radiation protection authorities and research institutions with the intention to coordinate those research activities in the long run. Thus, MELODI develops a long-term Strategic Research Agenda. The BfS leads the responsible task group. The BfS is also involved in the research network DoReMi ("Low Dose Research towards Multidisciplinary Integration"), which is sponsored by the EU and will run until the end of 2015. One of DoReMi’s tasks is to support the establishment of MELODI.

In addition, the BfS is the head of the Work Package "Integration of European and national research and training programs" within the EU project OPERRA ("Open Project for European Radiation Research Area") which will run until 2017. Through this Europe-wide network, the BfS is able to specifically support the WHO.

BfS is coordinator of the project CONCERT (European Joint Programme for the Integration of Radiation Protection Research), coordinating low-dose research in radiation protection in Europe and in the Member States of the EU via a jointly funded research programme. Part of this programme are medical aspects of low dose radiation which are of special interest to WHO.

On the other hand, collaboration between the WHO and the BfS is also aimed at implementing the goals of the European initiative MELODI and the EU projects DoReMi, OPERRA and CONCERT on the global level. For this purpose, close contacts have been established to the relevant programmes in the USA and in Japan. At the annual MELODI workshops, international radiation protection authorities and research institutions are intensifying their international co-operation. To some extent, the BfS is involved in preparing these workshops and works together closely with the WHO in this respect.

Biological dosimetry networkshow / hide

As a WHO Collaborating Centre, the BfS supports the WHO in establishing and developing the global biodosimetry network BioDoseNet. Biodosimetry enables an individual’s radiation dose to be assessed on the basis of blood samples. Assessment of the radiation dose is important in cases of unplanned accidental exposure situations, among others. The BfS operates the German reference laboratory for biological dosimetry in Neuherberg.

As a result of the worldwide hazard from radiological or nuclear emergencies (such as a "dirty bomb" attack or a reactor accident like Fukushima), the BfS has to be prepared to estimate radiation exposures of a great number of individuals so that appropriate medical measures can be taken. For this purpose, the BfS not only has to increase not only its own laboratory’s evaluation capacities, it also has to secure support by other laboratories in Germany and abroad in the case of application.

Therefore, laboratories for biological dosimetry, have been closely co-operating within the scope of the WHO network "BioDoseNet" since 2008, thus providing optimum preparedness for potential major radiation accidents and mutual support in biological dose assessments of the affected individuals. With the same objectives, the BfS coordinates the EU project RENEB ("Realizing the European Network of Biodosimetry"). Many members of RENEB are also BioDoseNet members. With the help of these networks and co-operations, "BioDoseNet" in Europe will be strengthened.

The network also serves to improve and harmonize the biodosimetry techniques applied and to ensure comparable training in all countries involved. The laboratories participating in the network are also prepared to support countries where biological dosimetry is not available.

Electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fieldsshow / hide

As a co-initiator of the German Mobile Telecommunication Research Programme (DMF) and acting in its capacity as a WHO-CC, the BfS remains involved in the international EMF-project. Within the scope of this project, the WHO evaluates health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and gives advice to member states concerning health protection and prevention related to electromagnetic fields. The results obtained within the DMF are going straight into the EMF project and will be considered within the upcoming risk evaluation. The WHO´s EHC document (EHC: Environmental Health Criteria) on high frequency electromagnetic fields is currently being processed.

Optical radiationshow / hide

Within the scope of the INTERSUN programme, the WHO is evaluating health effects from exposures to UV radiation and recommends health protection measures. At this end, the BfS helps the WHO develop papers which are published by the WHO within the INTERSUN programme. Information material on UV radiation, its effects and UV radiation protection put together by the BfS are presented to the WHO and provided to the Organization upon request. Furthermore, the BfS supports the WHO in the development and implementation of protective measures, such as for example the UV index or the statutory framework for sunbed use.

The growing use of optical radiation within the wellness sector will be an additional main topic within the existing co-operation with the WHO.

Radonshow / hide

With regard to the protection against harmful effects of radon, the BfS is also a key contact for the WHO. The naturally occurring radioactive inert gas radon is the second most important risk factor for lung cancer after smoking. Therefore, within the WHO´s International Radon Project, the BfS as Collaborating Centre has developed strategies appropriate to have the general public informed about, and protected against radon exposure primarily occurring indoors.

Among others, the WHO´s "International Radon Project" has brought about the WHO Radon Handbook, which reviewed the scientific evidence available worldwide concerning lung cancer risk induced by radon. Suggestions for reference values related to radon concentration indoors were derived from this publication. The handbook also contains guidance for the protection from radon and basic priniciples of radon risk communication.. Furthermore, the BfS supports the objective of including the protection from radon in the list of Criteria for Sustainable Building. As part of the "International Radon Project", information material on radon measurements, precautionary measures and potential remedial action is developed for occupational groups involved with the planning and implementation of constructional measures.

From the EU-Project RADPAR (Radon Prevention and Remediation), a comprehensive range of precaution measures concerning radon has been derived, which is also used by the WHO.

Medical radiation exposureshow / hide

The WHO has launched the "Global Initiative on Radiation Safety in Health Care Settings" to optimize radiation protection in medicine, especially seeking to reduce medical exposure to ionizing radiation. The BfS supports this initiative by assisting in the development and implementation of appropriate strategies.

Especially the principle of "justifying indication" shall be supported in order to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure as far as possible. "ustifying indication" means critical benefit-risk-analysis on a case-by-case basis (confer, for example Benefit and risk of X-ray diagnostics) by the responsible radiologist.

Development and implementation of standards and guidelinesshow / hide

One out of the WHO´s six basic tasks is to develop and continuously update evidence-based standard specifications and regulations. Recommendations and their respective implementation have to be written accordingly. A good example is the WHO´s guideline on drinking water which also contains a section on radiological aspects. Here, the BfS supports the WHO by preparing regulations and recommendations.

State of 2017.01.30

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