X.        Emergency and Other Abnormal Situations

            Although not all unusual situations can be foreseen, excellent guidelines for coping with such cases as spills and other incidents or accidents can be provided.

X.A.    Emergency Procedures

X.A.1. Spills (radiation hazard, with slight chance of airborne activity)

a.         Notify people in vicinity.

b.         Notify Radiation Safety Office.

c.         Restrict access to area.

d.         Soak up liquids in absorbents or wet down dry powders to prevent spreading.

e.         Close hood door and shut down fans that might circulate radioactivity.

f.          Isolate area until decontamination can be initiated.

g.         Continue cleanup with the assistance of the Radiation Safety Office.

h.         At the end of cleanup, monitor personnel.

i.          Remove protective clothing and monitor before leaving area.

j.          Complete and submit to the Radiation Safety Office a Radioactive Materials Incident and/or Accident Report.  (This form can be obtained from the SPPM S90.55.7.)

X.A.2. Spill with Airborne Hazard (major airborne radioactivity)

a.         Shut hood door and get out of laboratory.  Hold breath in transit.

b.         Isolate area.

c.         Remove protective clothing and monitor.

d.         Notify Radiation Safety Office and wait until help arrives.

e.         Complete and submit to the Radiation Safety Office a Radioactive Materials Incident and/or Accident Report.  (This form can be obtained from the SPPM S90.55.7.)


            A person who has been exposed to excessive levels of radiation may be required to undergo bioassays and medical surveillance.

X.B.    General Decontamination Procedures

X.B.1. Introduction

            Decontamination of the person or of laboratory area and equipment is a problem of fundamental importance to everyone working with radioactive isotopes.  Constant vigilance to prevent contamination, or to contain its spread, must be maintained by every user.  The primary concern in this regard is always the protection of workers in the area from the health hazards of potentially dangerous radiations.  Hence only persons who are properly instructed in procedures that will make their operation safe for themselves and others should be permitted to work with radioactive material.

            Personnel should be thoroughly informed concerning local safety measures and should always be fully aware of all safety devices and recommended emergency procedures before commencing work.  Common sense precautions dictate the use of protective clothing when there is a danger of contaminating the person.  Exposed parts of the body and clothing, as well as work areas and equipment should be monitored frequently and thorough surveys should be performed periodically.

X.B.2. Decontamination Procedures

            Thorough washing with soap and water is the best general method for decontamination of the hands and other parts of the body regardless of the contaminant.  If the exact nature of the contaminant is known, it may be more effective to immerse the hands in a suitable reagent immediately after contamination.  This should be followed by washing.

            Extreme caution must be taken to avoid cuts or puncture wounds.  In the vent that the skin is broken in accidents while working with radioactive substances, immediate action should be taken to remove possible contamination.  Wash the wound under large volumes of running water immediately and spread the gash to permit flushing action by the water.  Report all wounds to the responsible supervisor or Radiation Safety Supervisor as soon as emergency precautions have been taken.

X.B.3. Personal Decontamination of skin

a.         Wash the affected area thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes with a mild pure soap and lukewarm water.  Rinse thoroughly, dry, and monitor.  Repeat washings as deemed necessary.

b.         If the contamination is not removed by Step a., then lightly scrub the affected area with a soft brush using a heavy lather and lukewarm water for two minutes.  Rinse thoroughly, dry, and monitor.  Repeat this step as deemed necessary.


c.         If Steps a. and b. are not sufficiently successful, apply a liberal portion of titanium dioxide paste and work over the affected area for 2 to 3 minutes.  Use water sparingly to moisten the paste.  Rinse thoroughly and go to Step b. Repeat as necessary.

d.         If Steps a., b., and c. are not successful, assistance should be obtained from the Radiation Safety Office or medical personnel.

e.         Apply lanolin or hand cream to prevent chapping.  NOTE:  Powder material can frequently be removed with adhesive tape but care should be exercised not to remove hair, which would leave pores open. 

Assistance can be obtained from the Radiation Safety Office

X.B.4. Further Guidance for Personal Decontamination

a.         Two further points are of extreme importance in personal decontamination.

            (1)       The Radiation Safety Office should be called as soon as it is seen that the few simple decontamination efforts which are safe for routine use are not appreciably reducing the contamination any further.

            (2)       Decontamination efforts should cease when the skin starts to become thin and reddened.  The health of the skin must be maintained to minimize absorption and internal deposition.  If necessary, the contaminated area may be carefully covered by bandages so that the radioactive materials are not spread and the patient released until the skin is replaced.  At this time, decontamination efforts may be resumed.

b.         Both the person doing the decontamination and the contaminated person should don suitable protective clothing.

c.         Localize the area to be decontaminated so that the radioactive materials are not spread to other parts of the body.

d.         Decontaminate hair by repeated application of liquid soap and rinse water, using towels to keep water from running onto face and shoulders.

e.         If contamination is found in the eyes, mouth, or open wound, flush copiously with water and contact Student Health Services immediately.

f.          If the contamination is in the nose, clean with wet cotton swab sticks and blow nose frequently.  (Retain the swabs for analysis by the Radiation Safety Office.)

g.         Decontaminating Agents

(1)       Eyes - Flooding with water will remove most of the contamination.  Use eye cup if necessary.  Do not use any eye wash or ointments unless under the supervision of a physician.  Report to the Student Health Services.

(2)       Skin 

(a)       Use Lava soap.  Clean hands, paying particular attention to the nails, areas between fingers, knuckles, and edges of hands.  Scrub with brush.  If only a small area on the body is affected, mark off surrounding area with adhesive tape and clean with a swab to keep other areas free from contamination during frequent cleanings.  Take care not to break skin surfaces.

(b)       Lestoil and Tide provide better cleaning action particularly for greasy or waxy contamination.  Use as soap.  Follow with hand lotion.

(c)        In case of contaminated wounds, wash with large quantities of water, promote bleeding, and notify the Student Health Services.

X.B.5. General Area and Equipment Decontamination

a.         Laboratory Surfaces

(1)       If the isotope is short-lived, it may be expedient to isolate the area and allow radioactivity to decay to a negligible level.

(2)       In case of longer-lived isotopes, isolate specific areas.  Use soap and complexing solutions to clean, always working toward the area of highest contamination.  Retain rinse solution for assay prior to disposal if the activity levels are high.  Check area by direct survey and swipe samples.

(3)       Another alternative, especially for cases of stubborn resistance to decontamination, is to cut out the offending piece of surface (under RSO supervision) for disposal.

b.         Decontamination Characteristics of Specific Materials

(1)       Unfilled wood - poor.  Porous, flammable, often has cracks where radioactivity can concentrate.  Difficult to decontaminate.  Stripcoat may be desirable to minimize contamination.

(2)       Concrete - poor.  All the bad characteristics of wood except it is not flammable.

(3)       Porcelain - fair.  The glaze can crack with time and radioactivity gets under the glaze.

(4)       Plain stainless steel - good.  Some cracks and surface rough enough that some isotope absorption can occur.

(5)       Polished stainless steel - excellent

(6)       Glass - excellent.  One of the best choices.

(7)       Linoleum - good.  But difficult to replace.

(8)       Masonite - good.

(9)       Asphalt tile - good.  Enough flow occurs so that cracks tend to seal.

(10)     Asbestos-containing surfaces.  In such cases Environmental Health Services will work closely with the RSO to assess hazards and plan a decontamination effort.

c.         Methods and Agents

            Decontamination, which is essentially thorough cleaning, is accomplished by the usual cleaning methods.  The decontamination agent is supplied, agitated by swabbing or scrubbing, and then flushed with clean water.  The weaker agents should be tried first.  The agents are listed below in suggested order of use.

(1)       Tide or Lestoil.  General use, all surfaces.

(2)       Isoclean.  General use.  Directions on container.

(3)       Radiacwash.  General use, all materials.  Dilute with 20-25 parts of water.  Soaking is advantageous.  Apply with sponge, brush, cloth or mop.

(4)       Trisodium phosphate.  Use a 10% solution for glass, tile, paints, and plastic.  Hard on painted surfaces.

(5)       Chrome acid cleaning solution.  Use for glass and metals.

(6)       Other Acids - hydrochloric, nitric, and sulfuric.  Used for metals, glass, plastic, paint, etc., in 10% solution.  Very hard on materials; use as a last resort.  Exercise care so that radioactive material does not react with the acid to produce airborne contamination (iodine vapor, CO2, etc.).

X.C.    Other Abnormal Situations

            If other abnormal situations arise, the principles of radiation safety, including emergency and decontamination procedures, must be soundly and judiciously applied.  Above all else, help should be obtained from the Radiation Safety Office at the earliest opportunity.