Radioactive Safety Guide: General

Radioisotopes can be used to help understand chemical and biological processes in plants. Radio isotopes are used for many different processes such as food irradiation, a method of treating food to make it safer to eat and extend its shelf life. Many smoke detectors have trace amounts of americium-241 enabling the devices to detect fire early. Some medical equipment has radioactive properties such as x-ray machines and bone imaging technologies. In the geosciences, radiogenic isotopes help to determine the nature and timing of geological events and processes and are helpful in building models that predict fracturing, aquifer thickness, and other subterranean features. Consequently, the need for radioactive safety is important.

General Information for all individuals

  • Do not enter areas, open refrigerators, or tamper with containers marked with the radiation hazard sign, unless authorized.
  • All radioactive isotopes must be stored in a secure area when not in use. If they are stored in a laboratory, the lab must be locked when not in use. If the isotope is stored in refrigerators or freezers in a lab or hallway, the refrigerator or freezer must be locked.
  • All incoming shipments of isotopes must be surveyed for surface contamination before delivery to laboratories. This is can be performed by Facilities personnel or the Lab Instructor.
  • Violation of any of the license conditions or pertinent Federal Regulations can result in loss of license privileges.
  • Please address any questions regarding the use or misuse of radioisotopes to the Lab Manager or Instructor.

All instructors are to review radiation safety during the first instructional period.

Responsibilities of Faculty and Staff with Regard to the Use of Radioisotopes:

  • If an experiment involves the use of quantities of Phosphorus-32 (P32) equal to or greater than 1 millicurie, you must contact the Lab Manager and refer to Special Precautions for Those Using Milicurie Quantities P32prior to any experimentation.
  • If your experiment involves using 1 millicurie or more P32 it must be conducted in the radioisotope room.
  • Ensure that your students read the appropriate sections of the Lone Star College Laboratory Safety Manual before conducting any experiments with radioisotopes.
  • Students must be instructed on the use and location of personal monitoring devices and the maximum dose rate allowed by law. See Maximum Doses.
  • When appropriate, the faculty member must ensure that film badges are available for personal and student use and that adequate records are maintained.
  • It is the faculty member’s responsibility to ensure that wipe tests are conducted and that adequate records are maintained and available for inspection by authorized personnel.
  • A current inventory of isotopes under the control of a given supervisor must be maintained.

Procedures for Experiments Utilizing Radioisotopes:

  • Do not smoke, eat, or drink in radiation areas.
  • Do all experiments on plastic backed absorbent paper or a containment tray.
    • If using H3 or C14, use a containment tray instead of absorbent paper.
  • Do not pipet radioactive solution by mouth.
  • Wear gloves and a lab coat when handling radioactive materials, if they are in such a form as to cause contamination of hands or clothing.
  • All beakers, test tubes, and flasks containing radioactive materials, while in use in the laboratory, must remain under the constant control of the user with the appropriate labeling affixed.
  • Dispose of radioactive wastes properly. See Disposal of Radioactive Waste.
  • Survey skin, hair, and clothing after handling unsealed radioactive material, and wash hands before leaving the laboratory.
  • Do not handle radioactive source by hand, unless you are sure that the contact dose is within permissible limits and that the source is not contaminated externally.

Emergency Procedures:

IF SPLASHED WITH A RADIOACTIVE SOLUTION:

  • Begin decontamination procedures as soon as possible.
  • Attempt to reduce skin contamination to less than 0.1 mrad/hr.
  • Call X5911 or the Poison Control Center at (1-800-222-2222) if advice is wanted or if skin contamination exceeds 0.1 mrad/hr.
  • If decontamination is unsuccessful with soap and water or other harmless laboratory solvents, use "Isoclean" or "Count-off".
  • Notify the Risk Management Office or Chief Emergency Management Officer of any incident requiring the use of decontamination.

IF CUT BY GLASSWARE, INJURED BY HYPODERMIC NEEDLE, SPLINTERS, etc., CONTAINING RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS:

  • Immediately wash the wound under a strong stream of water.
  • Call X9-911 immediately and report that the radioactive material was involved.

IN THE EVENT OF OVER-EXPOSURE TO RADIATION, OR THE ACCIDENTAL RELEASE OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL, THE CHIEF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OFFICER AND OFFICE OF RISK MANAGEMENT MUST BE NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY.

If radioactive material is spilled on bench surfaces, equipment, or the floor, it must be cleaned up immediately by Lab personnel using the appropriate the personal protective gear.

Special Precautions for Those Using Milicurie Quantities of P32
  • Obtain approval from the Dean before conducting any experiment using 1 millicurie or more.
  • Low density shielding (e.g., Plexiglass, 3/8 inch) must be used to keep radiation to a minimum.
  • A mandatory radiation survey and wipe test must be performed after each use.
  • The use of finger type extremity monitoring for procedures that involve 1 millicurie or more.
  • The use of a dry run prior to the performance of unfamiliar procedures to preclude unexpected complications.
  • All experiments using 1 millicurie or more must be conducted in the radioisotope room.
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