Radioactive Spills

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Radioactive Material Spills

Spills of quantities of radiological materials present at UAHuntsville cause little or no immediate external hazard to the community. Of major concern, however, is the spread of contamination among and the internal contamination of personnel. Radioactive material spills must therefore be handled in a manner that prevents this.

Prevent the spread of contamination by limiting the movement of persons present in the area of the spill until they have been found free of contamination. A minor radiation spill is one that can be handled safely without the assistance of the radiation safety staff. Most spills at UAHuntsville will be small spills due to the small quantities of radioisotopes that are utilized in campus laboratories.

Small/Minor Radioactive Material Spill

A small radiation spill is one that can be handled safely without the assistance of the radiation safety staff.

  • Alert persons in the immediate area.
  • Distinguish the spill area with radioactive label tape. Indicate the isotope spilled.
  • Notify the laboratory manager or principle investigator.
  • Wear personal protective equipment to include, safety goggles, disposable gloves, shoe covers and long sleeve lab coat. If the substance is a beta emitter a plastic lab apron may be used to provide additional body shielding.
  • Place absorbent towels over liquid spills and dampened towels over spills of solid materials.
  • Clean the spills beginning from the outside edge and moving towards the center.
  • Place the towels in a plastic bag and put in a radiation waste container.
  • Verify the area and responder hands and shoes are free from contamination by using a survey meter or by performing wipe tests. Repeat the cleaning process until there is no contamination remaining.
  • Submit a written account to the Radiation Control Officer within 24 hours of the occurrence.

Large/Major Radioactive Material Spill

  • Attend to contaminated and injured persons and protect them from continued exposure.
  • Alert persons in the area to evacuate.
  • Keep contaminated and potentially contaminated persons in one area, (safe distance away from contamination source) until they can be monitored for exposure.
  • Call the UAHuntsville Police Department at 256-824-6911 immediately.
  • Ventilation, drafts and air currents should be controlled to prevent the spread of contamination.
  • Close the doors and prevent entrance to the contaminated area.
  • Submit a written report of the spill incident to the Radiation Control Officer within 24 hours of the occurrence.