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October 11, 2011

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Metro's X-ray machines are 'illegal'

ALL 528 X-ray security inspection machines in Shanghai's Metro stations are "illegal devices" operating without radiation safety licenses, officials with the city's environmental protection bureau said yesterday.

"None of the X-ray machines in the Metro stations has gone through an environment impact assessment to get a radiation safety license as the law requires, which means they are all illegal devices in operation," said Chen Jiliang, deputy director of the radiation inspection department under the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau.

In response, the city's railway police said they would complete assessments to all the machines by the end of this month to ensure their safety, but they would not stop the machines operating in the meantime.

Under the law, X-ray machines need to be tested and given safety licenses before they are put into operation. The move is to prevent the risk of radiation leaks.

Radiation experts told the Southern Metropolis Daily that without the assessments and licenses, the X-ray machines, which were meant to ensure safer journeys for Metro passengers, were posing hidden dangers of excessive radiation and emissions of ozone and nitric oxide that may affect air quality.

Environmental assessments of the machines would include an inspection of their working environment, the impact of their radiation, the training of workers and protective measurements to meet emergencies.

The machines must go through all the assessments before they can be licensed and put into use, Chen said.

He said they had asked Metro operators to have the machines checked and licensed when the machines were first used for the World Expo which opened in May last year, but the operators refused, telling them they couldn't wait for assessment results as security measures needed to be enforced immediately.

"It's embarrassing as we have to put the security measurements of the World Expo as the first priority, and the licenses had to be delayed," said Chen.

But he said that all the machines in Metro stations had been inspected during the Expo and there had been no evidence of radiation leaks.

The bureau is urging the Metro operators to have the machines licensed for safety considerations if they are to continue to use them.

Railway police said they had already checked 245 machines and the remainder would be carried out by the end of the month.

The police said the two producers of the X-ray machines used in the stations held radiation safety licenses in Shanghai and Beijing.

At East Nanjing Road Station, passengers expressed concern about radiation leaks after hearing the machines were operating illegally.

"I hope the operators can give us a clear response whether the machines are illegally operating or not," said a passenger surnamed Wang. "If they prove to be illegal, I don't think I should risk my health passing my handbags through them."

But Chen said that passengers need not worry about radiation as long as they didn't put their hands into the machines.


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