IAEA launches new radiation warning symbol
Feb 15, 2007, 12:06 GMT
Vienna - In an attempt to reduce deaths and injuries from accidential exposure to radioactive sources, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Thursday launched a new symbol warning against radiation.
The new symbol, a red triangle containing the established three- cornered trefoil indicating radiation, additionally depicts radiating waves, a skull and crossbones and a running person.
It is intended to serve as a supplementary warning to the old symbol, which carries little intuitive meaning, the IAEA said in a press release.
'We can't teach the world about radiation, but we can warn people about dangerous sources for the price of a sticker,' said IAEA radiation specialist Carolyn Mac Kenzie, who helped develop the symbol.
The symbol was developed over five years and tested in an elaborate process, narrowing it down from orginally 50 proposals. Tests were conducted in 11 countries with different population groups to make sure the message was clear, Mac Kenzie said.
The developers put special focus on making sure the symbol told a story understandable for illiterate persons. When analyzing radiation accidents it became clear that often the poor were most affected.
'Not knowing the trefoil symbol was a consistent problem,' Mac Kenzie said. 'With the new symbol people showed the right reaction. Something was coming at them. They did not know what it was, but it was bad and they should run away.'
The new symbol is intended for large radioactive sources of IAEA categories 1, 2 and 3, defined as being capable of causing death or serious injury. Such sources are employed for example in food irradiators or teletherapy machines for cancer treatment.
The symbol will not be affixed on access doors or containers, but directly to the container housing the radioactive source, only visible when someone attempts to dismantle the the device containing the source, Mac Kenzie said.
The new warning symbol has already won support with many source manufacturers. Distributing the symbol to already existing sources remains a challenge, the IAEA said.
Eds: IAEA link to the new symbol: http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/PDF/newradsymbol.pdf© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur