Radioactive Material Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I become an authorized user of radioactive material?
- P.I. must submit to EHS:
- Mandatory attendance at a radiation safety training course
- Have a consultation with the RSO
- Gain approval from the UNC-CH Radiation Safety Committee
Please contact Jonathan Moore for more details.
- How do I order radioactive material?
- Steps for placing order:
- Complete Purchase Requisition for each vendor
- Send completed Requisition to EHS
- EHS approves; Requisition to Purchasing
- Purchasing will establish a “standing order” good for a year (typically)
- Lab receives PO number for each vendor and places orders with vendors. Each time an order is placed, the lab faxes an “Certification of Current Inventory for Purchase of Radiation Sources” to EHS
Contact the EHS Dosimetry Technician for more details.
- I’m moving my laboratory or leaving the University; how should I proceed?
- Are you moving your laboratory or leaving the University? Are you adding or deleting the use of radiation in rooms on your Radiation license? Please follow these steps:
- Written notification to the UNC Health and Safety Office is required prior to adding a new room, vacating a lab room or moving into a new lab space. Prior to moving into a new lab, the room/s must be added to you radiation license and posted for radiation use.
- When vacating a lab, remove all sources of radiation from the lab space, source vials, aliquots of radioactive material, experiments containing radioactive material and radiation waste.
- Decontaminate all areas where radioactive material was used, and decontaminate all equipment (refrigerators, freezers, incubators, centrifuges, microfuges, etc.) that contained radioactive material.
- Perform a radiation survey of the whole lab including all equipment that may have contained radioactive material (Geiger counter survey and wipe test).
- The Safety Clearance Form (Appendix F) is to be used for rooms/equipment that contained radioactive material, were decontaminated and surveyed, and are considered safe for unrestricted use.
- After survey of equipment and if equipment is to be moved, transferred, surplused or remain in the vacated space, remove the radiation labels on the equipment, and attach a Safety Clearance Form (Appendix F) to the equipment. This form verifies that the equipment is considered safe for any use. Contact EHS for new radiation stickers as needed after moving/repairing equipment. Do not allow maintenance staff or the moving crew to repair/move/transfer equipment with radiation labels affixed to it.
- Notify EHS that the lab space is ready for a final clearance survey by one of our EHS Safety Officers, and place the Safety Clearance Form (Appendix F) on the door of the vacated room.
- Never remove the room sign. Environment, Health and Safety will remove the room sign after an EHS Safety Officer has completed the final clearance survey of the vacated lab space.
- Call EHS at 919-962-5507 or email Jonathan Moore for questions.
Extra Information: Radiation Safety and You
By Bradford Taylor, Associate Radiation Safety Officer
Radiation is a part of our everyday life. There are small amounts of naturally-occurring radioactive substances in soil, air, rocks, plants, animals, and even in our own bodies. Larger amounts of radiation are present in outer space and a small portion of this radiation penetrates the atmosphere. These sources are collectively termed natural “background” radiation. The average US citizen receives the equivalent of about 30 chest x-rays of exposure from natural background sources of radiation each year.
Medical applications of radiation are used extensively throughout the UNC Health Care System for diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, and in research. The most likely places to find radiation sources are in Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, Radiation Oncology, and certain hospital laboratories. Radionuclides like Tc-99m, I-131, P-32, Ir-192 and I-125 are frequently used. For example, I-131 is used as a diagnostic aid in the evaluation of thyroid function and as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of thyroid disease. The radionuclides used in Nuclear Medicine for diagnostic procedures emit gamma rays, which are an ionizing, penetrating radiation. It is this penetrating quality that allows images of internal structures to be obtained. These radionuclides remain in the patient after the procedure is over, but soon thereafter naturally decay to levels only slightly above “background” levels. In general, there is no radiation hazard from the sources in patients who have received diagnostic or tracer doses of radioactive materials. No special precautions are needed in caring for them, and there are no restrictions on patient activities or contacts with other people.
When therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals or sealed sources are used large amounts of radiation are involved. The patient can be a significant source of radiation exposure to staff and visitors. Under such conditions radiation precautions are implemented to negate the risk of exposure to others. A radiation sign and a precaution sheet will be posted on the door to the patient’s room to warn of the potential danger, and provide guidelines for contact. Although radiation is useful in medicine because of its ability to penetrate tissue, radiation may produce harmful biological effects. For this reason, careful attention is given to the safe use of radioactive materials and radiation-producing equipment, ensuring exposures are maintained at levels as low as reasonably achievable.
Research and medical laboratories often use radionuclides that emit beta particles and low-energy gamma rays. Beta particles represent the least hazardous form of ionizing radiation; weak energy beta particles will not even penetrate human skin. The most important safety precaution for this category of radionuclide is to prevent the material from contaminating the skin, thereby avoiding the possibility of ingestion or absorption. Specifically, accidental ingestion is accomplished through either smoking or eating with contaminated hands. Washing your hands thoroughly will eliminate the potential for contamination.
Overall, the external radiation hazard to hospital personnel from procedures involving radiation is negligible. Depending on your specific job duties, you are classified as a “radiation worker,” and are required to participate in the radiation monitoring program. The need for personnel monitoring is determined by the likelihood of receiving exposures in excess of certain regulatory limits and by the recommendations of groups such as JCAHO. The radiation dosimetry program is administered UNC-Chapel Hill, but falls under the auspices of the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Furthermore, the Radiation Safety Subcommittee oversees and approves all use of radioactive materials. The Radiation Safety section of the UNC Department of Environment, Health and Safety acts as an agent for this committee, managing the UNC Hospitals radiation protection program, and providing services including dosimetry, area surveys and x-ray equipment inspections, and training of hospital workers.
During normal working hours, questions regarding radiation safety in your work area should be directed to Brad Taylor at 919-962-5727, or the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) at 919-962-5507. Beyond 5:00 p.m., contact Campus Police at 919-962-6565.