Radiation Safety

Environment, Health, & Safety


Responsibilities Of Radiation Handlers

Persons who are certified to handle radioactive materials are responsible for the following procedures:

Procuring Radioactive Materials

  • Submit all purchase requisitions for radioactive materials to the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) for approval.
  • The investigator making the radionuclide purchase must be authorized to procure that particular radionuclide.
  • Unsealed radiation sources must be delivered to the RSO.

Receiving Radioactive Materials

Make a record on the RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS LOG AND INVENTORY Form each time a sample is withdrawn from the original vial of radioactivity. This form is included with each new purchase.

Radioactive materials will rematin on an investigator's inventory with the RSO until the LOG INVENTORY form is returned to the RSO with the waste.

Perform a wipe test on incoming packages if you are so instructed by the RSO. Send the results of the wipe test to the RSO within 24 hours.

Human Uses Of Radioactive Materials

Radioactive materials must not be administered to humans.

Transfer Of Radioactive Materials

Do not transfer radioactive materials to another person, on or off campus, without approval of the RSO.

The RSO must ensure that the receiver of the radioactive materials is authorized by the RSO and the DOH to do so.

Storage Of Radioactive Materials

Food or beverages must not be placed in refrigerators, cold rooms, or freezers in laboratories, which are used to handle radioactive materials.

The PI will place a sign on all refrigerators, cold rooms, or freezers used to handle or store radioactive materials indicating that no food or drink is to be stored within.

If you store radioactive materials in glass containers, do so in a double container in locations with a low possibility of breakage or spills.


  • The door to a radiator-handling laboratory must be looked if the lab is left unattended.
  • Store radiation sources in an RSO-approved lab which is always under control and which is locked at the end of the workday.
  • Do not store radioactive sources or waste in common rooms, i.e. counting rooms, cold rooms, and centrifuge rooms.

Personnel Radiation Monitoring (Film/Ring Badges)

  • Wear a whole body film badge when you are working with radionuclides, which emit beta particles with an energy exceeding 0.5 Mev., or gamma rays or x-rays with any energy. Persons using H-3, -14C, or S-35 exclusively are not required to wear a film badge because the low-energy beta particles emitted by these radionuclides cannot be detected by the film badge.
  • Wear a ring monitor if your hands are exposed to radionuclides which emit beta particles with an energy exceesing 0.5 Mev (P-32), or gamma rays with any energy (Cr-51, I-125, etc.).
    • Wear a ring monitor exclusively on the particular hand which is most likely to receive radiation exposure. Do not switch hands once you have indicated to the RSO on which hand you will wear the ring monitor, or unless you notify the RSO of a change.
    • The ring monitor must be turned to face the radiation source and worn under the disposable gloves.
  • The NRC has established a special limit for protection of a fetus. That limit is 0.5 rems for the entire gestation period. Pregnant radiation workers should meet with the Radiation Safety officer to review safety rules and to determine appropriate monitoring. See PREGNANCY.
  • Conduct a weekly personal urine assay if you handle in excess of 100 millicuries of H-3 in a single operation. The RSO will assist you in setting up this procedure. Send the results of the assays to the RSO.
  • Keep your film badge and ring monitor in a lab location free from radiation, excessive heat, moisture, and vapors when not in use.
  • Turn in your film badge and ring monitor during the first week of each month so that the badges can be sent to the commercial company for timely readings.


The first trimester is known to be the most radiosensitive time for a fetus, thus, it is beneficial, but not required, meeting with the Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) as soon as possible to review safety practices and monitoring options.

  • It is up to the pregnant radiation worker to decide whether or not she will formally declare her pregnancy to the RSC.
    • She may choose to declare her pregnancy to the RSO. The RSO will meet with the pregnant worker to review radiation safety procedures, the risk to the fetus, and NRC Regulatory Guide 8.13
    • She may choose not to declare her pregnancy to the RSO. In this case, only the radiation limits for adult radiation workers will be in effect, not the limits for the fetus. Undeclared pregnant workers are protected under the regulations for adult radiation workers.
  • All female radiation workers will be given a copy of NRC Regulatory Guide 8.13 as part of the process of becoming a certified radiation handler

Spills - Contact EH&S at 5009 or 5051

Here are specific actions to take for minor and major spills containing radioactivity.

Minor Spill

A minor spill is defined as a spill involving:

  • Less than 100 microCuries (0.1 milliCuries, 3.7 MegaBecquerels), and
  • Less than a liter, and
  • No personnel contamination.

Actions to Take:

  • CONTAIN the spill and soak up with absorbent material.
  • Conduct a wipe test to ensure that the spill has been cleaned up.
  • Send a report to the RSO using the standard contamination survey form.

Major Spill

A major spill is defined as a spill involving:

  • More than 100 microcuries, or
  • Of any amount of activity which results in personnel contamination, or
  • More than a liter.

Actions to Take:

  • Contain the spill by absorbing as mush as possible with absorbent material such as paper towels
  • Notify all persons to leave the area of the spill.
  • Leave contaminated shoes and clothing in the room where the spill occurred.
  • Secure the area by locking the door and posting a sign to "KEEP OUT", or post a guard outside the area where the spill occurred.
  • Decontaminate any contamination to personnel; immediately wash with soap and/or commercial detergents and recheck; consider clipping fingernails. If skin is cut, irrigate with running water.
  • Contact the supervisor of the room where the spill occurred.
  • Send a report to the RSO using the standard contamination survey report form.

General Radiation Handling Procedures

  • Do not use mouth suction to pipette radioactive solutions.
  • Confine all work with volatile or dust-forming radioactive materials to fume hoods approved by the EH&S Department.
  • No smoking, eating, drinking, or application of cosmetics is allowed in any room where liquid (unsealed) radioactive materials are handled or stored. To avoid the appearance that beverages were consumed in a radiation-handling laboratory, do not store empty beverage containers in a radiation-handling laboratory even though they are consumed elsewhere.
  • Conduct all radiation handling procedures on easily decontaminated surfaces or on absorbent paper.
  • Do not use radioactive materials for a new procedure until the procedure has been tested by means of a "dry" run.
  • Radioactive material must not be transferred in open vessels beyond the limits of the department unless carried in a tray or container with raised edges and sufficient absorbent material to absorb all the liquid contained in the vessel in case of a spill.
  • Wash your hands after handling unsealed radiation sources.
  • Use long-handled tongs or whole body such as I-125, Cr-51 and P-32.
  • Decontaminate and/or prepare for disposal any glassware or objects that have been in contact with radioactive material.

Signs And Labels

  • The RSO will place a "CAUTION-RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS" sign on the door to each room where unsealed radioactive materials are stored or manipulated.
  • A sign must be posted on the door to any radiation-handling laboratory indicating "No Smoking, Eating, or Drinking". Do not remove the sign without permission of the RSO.
  • Label al vessels containing radioactive materials with standard yellow and magenta tape to identify the radionuclide, the amount of microcuries, and the date the amount was determined. Do not attach the labels to anything, which is not radioactive.
  • Label all radioactive waste containers with a "Radioactive Waste - Do Not Empty" label. These are available from the RSO.

Contamination Surveys

  • Surveys for radiation contamination must be made by the radiation handler after each experimental run OR at the end of the day in which radiation was handled in order to determine the extent of radiation contamination and to determine that all waste and stock material have been properly stored.
    The RSO recommends that each contamination survey be documented and the records kept in the laboratory for inspection by the RSO. The minimum requirement is that at least one weekly written report must be sent to the RSO for each radiation handling laboratory during periods of active use and a monthly report must be sent for each cold room, counting room, or storage room.(see #2 below)
  • Conduct a weekly contamination survey, during periods of active use, in all laboratories used to handle unsealed radioactive materials, and send the reports weekly to the RSO.
    • 52 weekly contamination survey reports are expected each year for each radiation handling laboratory.
    • 12 monthly surveys are expected each year for rooms used only to count radioactivity, and those which are used to store radioactivity such as cold rooms and freezers.
  • If contamination is found, clean it up and re-survey. Send a report to the RSO. Call the RSO if you need any assistance with clean up.
  • If you do not use any radioactive materials in any particular week, send a weekly inactive (no manipulation of radoiactive materials) repaort. If the period of inactivity extends mone than 3 consecutive weeks, conduct an area survey and/or wipe test for the 4th week.
    • Use survey meters with valid calibration dates. Annual calibration is required. The RSC will assist with sending survey meters for calibration, and has loaner detectors available for use when your detector has been sent for calibration.
    • Before using any portable radiation survey meters to check for contamination, you must use a radioactive check source to ensure that the detector is responsive, check the battery level, and check the background radiation count.
    • If more than one laboratory group utilizes the same space, we recommend that each group conduct their own wipe tests.

Personal Protection

  • Wear a full-length laboratory coat whenever you are handling unsealed radiation sources. The coat should be buttoned and the sleeves extended to cover the arms. Remove the laboratory coat when leaving the radiation handling laboratory. Do not place near "street" clothing.
  • Wear at least one pair of disposable gloves when handling unsealed radioactive materials.
  • Remove gloves before leaving the work area and dispose in radioactive waste container if the gloves are contaminated or are suspected to be contaminated.
  • Wear plastic eye glasses when handling 32P.


  • Apply Lead shielding to all gamma ray emitting radiation sources to minimize radiation levels to as low as reasonably achievable, but not to exceed 2.5 milliroentgens/hour at the surface of the shielding.
  • Use 0.5 inch thick plexiglass shielding when handling 32P. Contact the RSO for information on purchasing plexiglass shields.
  • A Use 0.5 inch thick plexiglass shielding when handling 32P. Contact the RSO for information on purchasing plexiglass shields.

Waste Disposal

  • Sort the waste by appropriate categories defined by the RSC.
  • Bring all radioactive waste to the attention of the RSC for appropriate disposal.
  • Radioactive waste must not be disposed in the sink or sewer without permission of the RSC and the President.
  • Radioactive waste must not be disposed in the normal trash. Check the trashcans when you are checking other areas of the laboratory for contamination.
  • Do not incinerate radioactive waste.
  • Liquid radioactive waste must be brought from laboratories to the RSO by persons who have been certified as radiation handlers. Do not ask uncertified radiation handlers to do this task.
  • Do not evaporate radioactive wastes in fume hoods.
  • Bring waste to the RSO with a manifest which identifies the type and quantity of radionuclide as well as the chemical form.
  • Bring the LOG INVENTORY form with the waste. This will allow the RSO to reduce the Investigator's inventory of radioactive materials. This form was included with the vial when it arrived in the lab from the RSO.
  • For dry waste, only use special dry waste containers (yellow with covers) provided by the RSO. When bringing waste to the RSO, bring the entire container, not just the bag with the contents.
  • Do not dispose of decayed waste in the normal trash. Because of landfill requirements, the waste must be brought to the RSO where it will be inspected and certified as "non-radioactive".

Animal Handling

  • All animal handling is overseen by the IACUC and must have its approval.
  • Label cages with "Caution-Radioactive Materials" signs provided by the RSO. Label the door to the cage room with a similar sign.
  • Use absorbent mats at the bottom of each animal cage.
  • Place contaminated litter in a plastic bag with the animal number, investigator, radionuclide, activity and date. Bring the bag to RSO for disposal.
  • Place animal carcasses in a plastic bag and label as radioactive. Bring carcasses to the RSO for disposal.
  • Conduct a wipe test on all cages before reuse. Send the results of the test to the RSO
  • Wear rubber gloves, rubber boots, facemask, and apron when washing animal cages. Do not wash in a recycling cage washing machine.

Radiation Detectors

  • All radiation detectors used in a radiation laboratory must be calibrated annually.
  • Labs must have appropriate detectors available to them for weekly contamination surveys. Consult with RSO to make sure you have the appropriate detector for the radionuclides you are using.
  • Labs must have portable radiation detectors available for use during the handling of gamma ray emitters (such as Iodine-125 and Chromium-51) and high energy beta particle emitters such as Phosphorus-32. These detectors must be checked prior to each use for proper battery level and radiation response (using a check source). Contact the RSO if you need information on purchasing a check source.
  • When you see a particular detector for contamination, you must know the efficiency of the detector for each radiation to be detected. The RSC is prepared to assist you in determining the efficiency of your detectors for various types of radioactive materials.
  • Use an approved vendor to calibrate the detector annually. The RSC will provide the names of the vendors.

Contact Information

Cathleen Eldridge, Associate Director
Office: Sibley Hall 421
Phone: (518) 564-5009
Fax: (518) 564-5082
Email: eldridcm@plattsburgh.edu