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Clean Up Minor Radioactive Contamination

Limit the spread of contamination and decontaminate the area when a minor spill occurs.

Minor spills (microcurie amounts in a single room) can result in contamination of the floor, lab surfaces, equipment, and personnel. Take immediate action to limit the spread of contamination and clean up spills.

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1. Get help if it's a major spill.

Call for assistance for any of these conditions:

  • Millicurie amounts in 1 room
  • Microcurie amounts in more than 1 room
  • Lab staff believes that assistance is required

Emergency response numbers:

  • Weekdays, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.:
    • Environment, Health & Safety, (858) 534-3660
    • Medical Center Safety Office, (619) 543-7575
  • After business hours and on weekends:
    • Campus Police: 9-1-1 from campus phones | other phones: (858) 534-4357
    • Medical Center Security: 6-1-1-1

2. Limit the spread of contamination.

Limit the spread of contamination:

  • Stop the spill. Place absorbent paper or material on the spill to limit the spread of contamination.
  • Warn others. Monitor personnel before they leave; have personnel change clothes or laboratory coats as necessary.
  • Isolate the area. Mark or block off the contaminated area with warning signs or labels.
  • Minimize personnel exposure.

3. Clean up minor spills (microcurie amounts in a single room).

If the spill is small, clean it up as follows:

  • Wear double gloves, lab coats, shoe covers, other protective equipment, and dosimetry.
  • Decontaminate with normal cleaning or commercial decontamination agents.
  • Using paper towels with the decontamination agent, scrub from the outermost edges of the contaminated areas and work inward.
  • Put all contaminated objects and cleaning materials into containers to prevent the spread of contamination.
  • Request a hazardous waste collection.

4. Survey the contaminated area.

Survey the area to confirm it's free of contamination:

  • Perform a direct meter survey.
  • After decontaminating the hot spots, perform a wipe test.
  • Decontaminate hot spots to counts that are not statically different than background using a survey meter.
  • Document all surveys and wipe tests performed. Keep the liquid scintillation counter printout and corresponding map in the lab survey book.

5. Report the incident.

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Notice: Refer to the Radiation Safety Manual (PDF) (Word file) for a detailed description of UCSD's radiation safety program.