- Is it an emergency if it involves radioactive materials?
- Who to Call
- What to Do
Problems involving radioactive materials, such as spills or personal contamination, do not typically create emergencies. Generally such incidents can be readily handled with laboratory or other University resources instead of calling non-University emergency responders. A situation involving radioactive materials is only an emergency if it also involves fire, explosion or serious injury.
For skin or clothing contamination or major spills or EHS advice
- During normal working hours, call EHS at 8-5294
- Outside normal working hours, call Public Safety at 8-1000 (this is Public Safety’s non-emergency number). Public Safety has a list of home phone numbers and pager numbers for EHS staff and will contact EHS staff.
For an emergency
Remember that an emergency only exists if there’s fire, explosion or the risk of serious injury.
- Call Public Safety first. Call 911 from a campus phone or call 609-258-3333.
- During normal working hours, also call EHS at 8-5294
- Also contact any Laboratory or Departmental Emergency contacts listed on the Emergency Information poster found on or near the entrance to the laboratory.
- Call EHS immediately. EHS must be notified any time contamination is found on your skin, even if you’re able to completely decontaminate your skin. The RSO will respond to any incident of skin contamination, no matter what time the incident has occurred.
- Make a note of the original meter reading so that the Radiation Safety Officer can estimate the radiation dose to your skin.
- Wash your skin gently under room-temperature water for about 2 minutes, using gentle soap or detergent. Do not use abrasives or alkaline soaps.
- Resurvey your skin to see if the contamination has been removed.
Call EHS immediately. EHS must be notified any time contamination is found on your clothing. The RSO will respond to any incident of clothing contamination, no matter what time the incident has occurred.
- Call EHS if you are concerned that contamination may have soaked through the fabric of the lab coat or if the count rate is unusually high.
- For short-lived isotopes (P-32, P-33, S-35, I-125):
- Mark the location of the contamination.
- Place the coat in a plastic bag and securely close it.
- Label the bag with the current date, the isotope and the count rate. Put Caution Radioactive Material labeling on the bag.
- For long-lived isotopes (H-3, C-14), consult with the RSO to decide whether to attempt to decontaminate the coat or to dispose of it.
We define two types of contamination incidents, either a minor spill or a major spill. There will be many incidents that don’t obviously fall into one category or the other. Call EHS if you are uncertain whether your incident is a Minor Spill.
A Minor Spill is any incident that involves all of the following criteria:
- Less than 10 µCi of radioactivity has been spilled.
- Contamination is limited to a small area of no more than 2-3 square feet.
- There is no clothing or skin contamination.
- You are certain that you can manage the surveys and decontamination on your own without assistance.
Handling a Minor Spill
Minor Spill or Contamination
Spill Decontamination Procedure
Supplies: a lab coat, sturdy disposable gloves, shoe covers (if appropriate), paper towels, decon solution, a rad waste container, and a survey meter.
Decon Solution: For most isotopes (H-3, C-14, P-32, P-33, S-35, etc.), lab detergent, commercial products such as Count-Off, or mild acids such as acetic acid, may be used as decon solutions. For I-125 contamination, do not use hot water, acids or acidic detergents, because volatile iodine may be produced. A basic decon solution such as Count-Off or Dekasol may be used.
A Major Spill is any incident that is not a Minor Spill and includes the discovery of contamination in unexpected places or in many places. As you read through these steps, keep in mind that EHS responders will arrive soon to help manage the situation.
- Notification: Notify everyone in the lab or possibly in the vicinity of the lab, if it seems warranted. Ask someone to immediately call EHS or Public Safety (see Who To Call).
- Personnel Protection: Assess your own condition and determine whether you need to decontaminate yourself or to remove contaminated clothing.
- Control Access & Limit the Spread of Contamination: Block off the area so that bystanders don't enter. Assemble people who were in the lab at the time of the incident in a place near enough to the contaminated area to minimize the spread of contamination but far enough away to prevent the continued spread of contamination.
- Decontamination: The effort to decontaminate the area is the responsibility of the Authorized User and lab staff, although EHS will plan the effort and will assist you with the clean-up.
The loss or theft of radioactive materials must be reported to EHS immediately. If you have discovered that a vial of radioactive material is missing or can't be accounted for, take a few minutes to try to locate it, but notify EHS before the end of the business day. EHS is required to notify the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection when a quantity of radioactive material is missing that exceeds the reportable limits.