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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.

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.

Need an expert? Contact EH&S Radiation Safety, (858) 822-2494.
Notice: Refer to the Radiation Safety Manual (PDF) for a detailed description of the UC San Diego radiation safety program.