The state of Maryland under the Dept. of the Environment has a Radiological Health Program which regulates all x-ray generating equipment except the cathode ray tubes (CRT) used in the older TV and computer monitor technology. Yes, CRTs generate x-rays. The electron beam that causes the light to appear generates x-rays at moderately high energies such as 25 to 40 KeV energies.
My laboratory operates a scanning electron microscope whose electron beam energy is commonly in the 15 to 25 KeV range and so can generate x-rays with energies up to the electron beam energy. But, unlike a CRT computer monitor or TV, the SEM has very thick stainless steel walls. Just as is the case with a CRT, the x-rays are contained within a vacuum system into which no human body part can be inserted while under vacuum. When the sample insertion door is opened, no x-rays can be generated because if the electron beam-producing filament was on, it would instantaneously burn out and the electron beam would be eliminated.
This SEM instrument and the entire class of them was ruled a couple of years ago in Maryland to be safe enough that it does not have to be listed and no x-ray tube tax is assessed on it by the state of Maryland. I thought this meant that the only reason my laboratory still had to register as a certified radiation facility was because of our x-ray photoelectron spectrometer (XPS) system. Apparently not quite so. Under this belief, and knowing that there is no conceivable safety hazard in operating the XPS system and that it is actually clearly much safer even than either a CRT or an SEM, I attempted to get it exempted from regulation.
As a regulated radiation facility, I have to hire a state-licensed inspector to come to my laboratory every two years and run around with a Geiger counter looking for radiation near the SEM and the XPS system. He sometimes thinks he can see something, but never enough radiation to warrant any health issue. What he is actually seeing is the radiation emitted due to very energetic cosmic rays hitting the massive steel structure and generating x-rays at higher levels than does the air when he backs up a couple of feet from the instrument. He is not seeing any radiation from the inside of the instrument due to its operation. But, he does not know enough radiation physics to know this.
I pay the state Radiological Health Program a $215 x-ray tube charge every second year for each x-ray tube they require to be listed. I also have to pay for radiation badges, which in 18 years of operation have never had a quarterly reading other than 0 mRem. This is despite the fact that I leave a badge on the instrument at the most vulnerable point 100% of the time, so it collects at least 100 times more radiation than any operator possibly could. It is a hassle to mail these back to the radiation measurement company to be read and recorded due to the unusual size of the envelope and the bulk of the badges. The post office requires a different amount of postage almost every time. In addition, I am supposed to have my instruments maintained by a state-licensed company, none of whom know anything about an XPS instrument. Presumably, this is to assure that safety issues are addressed, but if there are no safety issues, I am baffled as to how they are to address them.
A couple of years ago, I had a phone conversation with one of the radiological health bureaucrats about getting the absolutely safe XPS exempted. He flat out told me that the radiation physics and the fact of whether there was any possible danger or not was of no concern to him. He said their purpose was to make people feel as though they were safe from radiation. Whether there actually was any radiation or not was of no interest to them. This time around, I thought I would write them a letter and explain why this instrument should be exempted and why my laboratory should not have to register as a radiation facility. This letter follows:
I would have viewed a reasonable response one in which they simply said OK the XPS instrument is exempted or we will send our radiation physics expert out to your facility to make a determination of whether it might be exempted or not, perhaps at my expense. The response to this letter strongly suggests that it was viewed as an insurrection to be dealt with even more sternly and forcefully than King George III moved to put down the rebellion in the colonies in America. Here is the response, not from Mr. Fletcher, but from the Queen herself:
Roland G. FletcherProgram Manager IVRadiological Health ProgramAir & Radiation Management AdministrationMaryland Dept. Of the Environment1800 Washington Blvd.Baltimore, MD 21230Phone: 410-537-3000Dear Roland Fletcher,Anderson Materials Evaluation, Inc. does not now and never has operated any radiation machine with any safety hazard. The only radiation producing equipment we operate produces low energy radiation completely contained by a vacuum containment vessel, which cannot be breached without the instantaneous destruction of the filament which creates the electron beam and hence the x-rays. These instruments are:
• Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Computer Monitors• Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)• X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS)These are listed in the order of the danger posed by each. Your agency has rightly acknowledged that the first two do not require registration as a radiation facility. Therefore, the much less dangerous XPS system does not require registration either.
The CRTs have electron beam energies of 25 KeV and higher and therefore can generate Bremsstrahlung radiation inside their vacuum containment vessel up to an energy equal to the beam energy. Our SEM is operated in the electron beam energy range from 15 to 25 KeV. These are acknowledged safe instruments.Our XPS system is operated at only 10 KeV and the radiation is only emitted into the analytical vacuum chamber after passing through an x-ray monochromator which filters out all x-ray energies except those precisely at the 1.487 KeV energy of the main aluminum Kα characteristic x-ray. This is an incredibly low energy x-ray, which precisely suits the purpose of having as much of the x-ray absorbed in the outer 20 nanometers of a material surface as possible. The only photoelectrons useful to us are those emitted from this depth or less. This beam has no penetrating power! If it were possible to enter air, its mean free path is still less than 1 millimeter.I have raised the issue of getting this instrument exempted before and I have been ignored. I am unable to continue spending money and my time on this pointless nonsense. The Obama economy has sapped our resources sorely and your new requirement that only licensed x-ray maintenance companies provide the maintenance on this highly unusual system with no safety issues is not one it is possible to comply with. They know nothing about this system and nothing they can do can possibly make the system safer than it already is. There are no fail-safes which have any possibility of failing to work.So, there is no reason for Anderson Materials Evaluation, Inc. to renew its Radiation Facility license # 27-0563 and there is no reason we should be taxed for having an x-ray tube. It is high time that some semblance of rationality is applied here.Best wishes,Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D.President & Principal Scientist
Dr. Anderson,It is interesting that all of my letters to my Congressman and my Senators and any bureaucrat of the state of Maryland start with a thank you for my letter and then an assertion of complete disagreement without any attempt to actually address the argument I gave for my viewpoint. This is the response to be expected from Imperial Government which prefers a minimum of insurrection, but will put any insurrection down with brutal force if that proves expedient.
Thank you for your letter dated December 6, 2013 in response to the Notice of Violation that the Department issued. I appreciate the concerns that you have raised but each of our 5,000 regulated facilities must adhere to the Maryland regulations in order to ensure the the general public and the occupational worker are not exposed to unnecessary radiation.The scanning electron microscope does require the registrant to denote possession of this unit on the Radiation Machine Facility Registration Form (RX1). Also the State licensed private inspector does inspect and perform an area survey of this unit.The X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS) must undergo a state certification inspection by one of the state licensed private inspectors. This unit is not exempt from complying with the Maryland regulations.Failure to comply with these regulations will subject the facility to further enforcement actions.Thanks,Eva
The violation she claims is because I had not put in for a renewal of my radiation facility registration by 16 November because they demand 45 days to process those registrations. In reality, I am only in violation if I operate the XPS instrument after 31 December when my current registration and certification runs out. So, I probably will not be able to operate that instrument in early January or maybe all of January. If that condition continued longer than that, I and my employees will all be unemployed.
So, once again, I am forced to apply for a radiation facility certification when the most dangerous radiation sources in my laboratory are the CRTs we still use on a number of our computers. Logically and rationally, any CRTs in residences and offices throughout the state should be regulated by the Radiological Health Program given that my equivalent or safer instruments are. Imagine the insurrection if this were done. That would be a loser at the polls, so it is not done. But, it is always easy to extort businesses, whose owners are but a small fraction of the vote.
Now in the mind of a big government bureaucrat, no possible instance of misleading the public into believing they are being protected by that big government can be missed. The more facilities they regulate, the bigger their income from the x-ray tube tax, the bigger their budget from the taxpayers, and the higher their inflated salaries with the least risk of unemployment.
Yes, medical and dental x-ray instruments do have real safety issues. But, this Maryland agency does not at all care if an instrument has no safety issues by virtue of its function, design, and radiation physics. It is only interested in setting itself up under the pretense of providing safety. It reveals itself as having no actual radiation physics expertise, which makes one wonder how it can be doing a credible job of protecting the People from those radiation-producing instruments which can do real harm.
The Emperor has no clothes. But the nude Emperor is vicious and brutal. This is nearly an invariable rule with government regulatory agencies. They are particularly a plague upon businesses, because that is where the money is and because most of them have little political clout. They care not a fig for the legitimate function of government of protecting the sovereign rights of the individual to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. They get rich by violating the individual right to earn a living providing one is doing no harm to others. The Emperor lives high on the hog pretending he is protecting the People, few of whom understand that most of those claims are fraudulent.