Does MRI have an environmental impact?

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IMAGE: Samples were taken along rivers around Tokyo. Measurements of rare earth element quantities indicate a clearly elevated amount of gadolinium compared to that in natural shale.
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Credit: Tokyo Metropolitan University

Tokyo, Japan – Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have surveyed the amount of gadolinium found in river water in Tokyo. Gadolinium is contained in contrast agents given to patients undergoing medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and it has been shown in labs to become toxic when exposed to ultraviolet rays. The researchers found significantly elevated levels, particularly near water treatment plants, highlighting the need for new public policy and removal technologies as MRI become even more commonplace.
Modern medicine owes a lot to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Doctors can see tumors, inflammation and hemorrhaging deep inside the human body without the need for invasive surgery; unlike CT scans, patients are also not exposed to any ionizing radiation. Its many benefits have meant that MRI machines are now more wide-spread than ever. For example, in 1995, Japan had 6.12 machines per million residents; in 2017, it had 55.21, the highest number per million in the world.
But it might not be all good news. MRI imaging is often carried out after …

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