Commentary Search

Busy BEEs

  • Published
  • By Capt. Carolyn Jensen
  • 6th Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight
A recent Public Service Announcement regarding a recall of Dual Ridge Metal boutique tissue holders purchased from Bed, Bath, & Beyond stores advised that anyone who purchased these metal boxes should return them immediately to minimize exposure to the low levels of radiation found to be emitted by at least one lot (Note: The recall was just a precaution) and the tissue holders in question pose a minimal health threat.

In fact, if you spent about 30 minutes a day in proximity of one for a year, the level of exposer would equal approximately three chests x-rays. The Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight (BIO or the BEEs) was listed as the point of contact for further information. "Why BIO you ask? Aren't they the gas mask fit testing, water sampling people? What's their role in radiation?" Well the answer is, we detect, monitor, respond during emergencies involving hazardous materials and advise senior commanders on actions to take to protect the base populace.
With only about 1,000 enlisted members and 330 officers spread across every base in the Air Force, Bioenvironmental Engineering is a relatively small career field with broad responsibilities. Our role is to provide health risk assessments to protect the health of base personnel and assist commanders in decision-making during both daily operations and emergency response. In order to accomplish this, we anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and make recommendations to control health risks posed by chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and physical (CBRN-P) hazards.

During normal operations, this involves performing air sampling for hexavalent chromium in the Corrosion Control shop, recommending controls to protect hospital personnel from blood-borne illness, or certifying that industrial x-ray operations do not exceed public radiation exposure limits. We also perform noise dosimetry test for work centers such as Military Working Dog handlers.

During emergency responses we recommend appropriate Personal Protective Equipment before responders enter the incident scene. On occasions the BEEs suit up and accompany first responders. Our role often requires the use of high value technical equipment used to detect chemical and biological warfare agents, radioactive materials and toxic industrial chemicals. We expedite our findings along with recommendations up the chain of command to mitigate health risk to base and local community. So, the next time you are in MOPP 4, waiting for the "All Clear," know that your BEEs are working as fast as possible to collect the data needed for commanders to make the call.

All hazards evaluated by the BEEs become part of an individual's medical longitudinal exposure record documenting potential-exposure to hazardous materials, which assist doctors in identifying occupational illness and injuries at the first sign of symptoms.

Now that you know more about whom and what your BEEs do, feel free to impress us with your new knowledge during your next time gas mask fit test. It won't necessarily help the test be completed faster, but it will make for great conversation and show appreciation for these wonderful hard working professionals!

For more, ccontact Capt. Carolyn Jensen at 827-9570.