In treatment for thyroid cancer, patients are often given a dose of radioactive iodine, which will dissolve any thyroid cancer cells. But as you swallow radiation, it is then released from your body in its normal processes - sweat, saliva, urine - over the next few days. Nowadays, patients are released from the hospital the same day, and told to stay away from pregnant women and small children, sleep alone, and not share food or drink for a few days. Apparently, before 1997, the NRC mandated hospital stays during radiation decay.
I don't remember this part. I don't recall being hospitalized for radiation. I think I was given radioactive iodine and sent home. My brain is a sieve, but you would think I would remember that.
But the problem nowadays is patients who don't live near their hospital/place of treatment are then spending the night in a hotel while emitting radiation. Who knows who is going to stay in that bed next and get exposed to radiation? Who is going to clean the room and get exposed to radiation? (Between bed bug scares - which make my skin crawl - and things like potential radiation exposure, that makes me want to avoid hotels forever.)
I don't think of radiation as being this really scary thing. I worked for a scientific instrumentation company which had many machines that use radiation, as well as manufacturing systems for measuring different kinds of radiation. Any radioactive element has a half life, which is how long it takes to decay. Some have a half life of 3 days and some of 3 million years. So some things that were radioactive are no longer. I believe (in my nonscientific brain and through reading posts like this - read all the way down to the last one) that RAI is radioactive for a few weeks, but you can expel it from your body sooner through its natural processes.
But it is a conundrum - if you get a treatment involving radiation, when can/should you be released into the general public? Are insurance companies again making unsafe decisions?