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john d

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question on lights please help!
« on: May 11, 2008, 02:55 »
can someone please help    i work for a school district that has removed all the tritium exit lights from all of the bldgs   my question is how safe are these to be around   their are a couple that are broken and at least a 100 or so that are stored in our repair garage  i really dont want to make a big deal to my boss but i do feel my health and the health of my co workers is at risk   nobody seems to have a straight answer   my boss said that the same stuff is in your watch is this true should we be concerned   thanks to all who answer

Offline shehane

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2008, 03:58 »
"The low energy beta radiation from tritium cannot penetrate human skin, so tritium is only dangerous if consumed in large quantities. Small amounts are used with phosphors for self-illuminating devices such as watches and exit signs."

This paragraph was online in an article about the Safety Light Corporation in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.  From what I know, the old lights should be disposed of and not left piled up in a garage.  That being said, I wouldn't think it is a deadly situation.  Just my opinion.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be! Dirk Gently

Offline HydroDave63

Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2008, 06:53 »
Don't snort em, wash your hands, it's no big deal

I know I could find a use for 100 tritium signs ;)  top off some of my night sights....

Offline SloGlo

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2008, 09:05 »
as sum buddy whose got a fare amount of experience with tritium, or h3 az its known isotopically, eye can tell you it's not a big deal.  da radiation from  h3 behaves like an alpha even though its beta.  what dat means for real people, i.e. non-nukes, is that it is not an external hazard.  you can hug those signs and the radiation will not penetrate your dead skin cells, which are exterior to you skin cells ( the live ones, ok?) and so will not affect your body.  the radiological hazard is from any loose contamination that may be present, witch is why hydrodave63 said "don't snort em, wash your hands, its no big deal".  iffen yer really worried about da presence of loose contamination of  h3 , yer gonna probably hafta notify yer state radiological protection department.  usually they're in with the environmental area of the state bureaocracy, but they may be in with hygiene, safety, or whatever.  it gets into a technical thing, cause most alpha/beta detectors will not detect  h3 .  with a swipe analysis, ya can't use your normal procedures.  their needs to be a specialist involved. 
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Offline spentfuel

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2008, 02:05 »
Exit signs containing tritium very often contain whopping amounts,  not small amount like 20 curies is not uncommon.

Ya weak beta so no external hazard but if you have broken vials there is a pretty high contamination hazard and potential risk for ingestion dependent upon where they were broken at and wether its in liquid or gaseous form.

If you work for a school district then we don't want all the little kiddies contaminated with H3 do we ???

I would recommend you tell your boss its something that needs to be addressed and fixed.

Don't know what state your in but I bet if you call this number (anonymously if preferred)

Call NRC's 24-Hour
Headquarters Operations Center:
(301) 816-5100

And describe what you have explained they will explain to you that it could be a very deal indeed.

Tritium is one of the very least hazardous radioactive isotopes but a curie is a curie and it sounds like you might have a lot of activity in the shop.

for what thats worth

sf

Offline Rufus

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2008, 06:34 »
"The low energy beta radiation from tritium cannot penetrate human skin, so tritium is only dangerous if consumed in large quantities. Small amounts are used with phosphors for self-illuminating devices such as watches and exit signs."

This paragraph was online in an article about the Safety Light Corporation in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.  From what I know, the old lights should be disposed of and not left piled up in a garage.  That being said, I wouldn't think it is a deadly situation.  Just my opinion.


Tritium can go through skin. It's in water, absorbed into the body through the skin. The beta can't penetrate but it can still get into the body through absorption.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2008, 09:44 by Rufus »

Offline Already Gone

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2008, 10:31 »
Tritium exit signs are no particular hazard to people as long as they are sealed.
The Beta Particles are shielded by the plastic sides of the signs.  The radiation and the radioactive material are contained within the signs as long as they are maintained.
Cracked and leaking signs will eventually become harmless once the Tritium (in the gaseous form) has been released, but will be a hazard while leaking.  The Tritium (which is an isotope of Hydrogen) will eventually come into contact with water in some form and displace the Hydrogen in the water molecules.  This water can be absorbed into the body - which is why Tritium is a Whole-Body Exposure hazard. 
Due to the construction and composition of the signs, the Tritium will leak slowly and over a very long time.
The small amount of Tritium that leaks will not significantly increase the dose rate to people in the building unless the signs are allowed to accumulate - such as in a pile in the basement or other poorly-ventilated area.
Broken signs should be disposed of immediately.  You can landfill them just like regular garbage.  Landfill operators should not allow them to accumulate in one place either.   Dispersion is the best thing to reduce the dose rate.  Return them to the manufacturer or distributor.

Your school's knee-jerk reaction to remove the signs actually made them more hazardous than they would have been if they were just left where they were and maintained properly.  Get the pile out of the garage as soon as possible.  They are doing no good there.  If they were still hanging from the ceiling of the school they would at least have been performing a vital function.  As they are now, they are just a pile of junk that pose a (minor) health risk.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2008, 10:10 by BeerCourt »
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Offline Mike_Koehler

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2008, 12:37 »
   This is not a really big hazard as long as the signs are intact, They should be disposed of as soon as it is practical to do so. The broken ones can be contained better if they are in non-vented metal containers (55 gal drums) as H3 does not permeate metal as rapidly as plastic or rubber.
   And on a positive and somewhat humorous note we have been directed, when working with H3 to use a diuretic to help flush out our system. Beer is a very effective diuretic....... LOL.

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LakeBear

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2008, 10:16 »
My first post after nearly 14 hours of lurking:

While Mr. Marssim is probably correct, I sure do appreaciate the posts.  I spend time on the site to put textbook learning into real world context.  The posts probably do not help to resolve a specific tritium sign issue, but Marssim's and all the others' posts sure do help in the learning department.  So PM specifics, but I like the extra vagaries.

Offline Already Gone

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2008, 10:58 »
I love you guys, I really do, but we're telling folks one thing after another here and leaving out key details of the job, it's why I don't respond to these questions, I PM the guys and reference them to the professionals that can help (sometimes myself),...
just off the cuff,...
what state is he in?
does that states version of the EPA have specific rules for tritium?
has he crossed the threshold from material to substance or waste for 49 CFR?
how did his on-site HAZCOM program fail him with regards to this hazard?

Treatises on the vagaries of tritium are not gonna help this guy with his issue.

He needs to be helped with what he does or does not need to get done to be in compliance with any and all legal requirements. To that end I PM'd the fella several days ago and referred him to where he could get some help. All this other stuff is just us showing off how smart we are,...

We already know we're smart, just ask us,...heheheheheheh  ;)

Yes, we should all be reminded at times to ATFQ.

In this case, TFQ was:  "...how safe are these to be around"?

With all due respect, he didn't ask what regulations he needed to follow.  He didn't ask how to characterize the waste or anything that would be regarded as technical advice.

If he is in fact the person responsible for compliance with 49CFR or state or EPA regs; if it is his job to deal with these items in any way, we are really not the people to ask, and it wouldn't be fair of him to rely on us - rather than a formal training course and a set of procedures - to help him solve this problem.

But, instead, he is a regular guy who has a question about something in his workplace and a concern about the safe handling of these things.  I think that those of us who actually read the question did a fine job in providing the answer to the question and not sending him off to actually do someone else's job.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2008, 11:01 by BeerCourt »
"To be content with little is hard; to be content with much, impossible." - Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

wlrun3@aol.com

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2008, 11:07 »
can someone please help    i work for a school district that has removed all the tritium exit lights from all of the bldgs   my question is how safe are these to be around   their are a couple that are broken and at least a 100 or so that are stored in our repair garage  i really dont want to make a big deal to my boss but i do feel my health and the health of my co workers is at risk   nobody seems to have a straight answer   my boss said that the same stuff is in your watch is this true should we be concerned   thanks to all who answer

   ...http://www.trainex.org/web_courses/tritium/index.htm...


Offline Already Gone

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2008, 01:12 »
No fair using SloGlo's answer!

But I see your point.
"To be content with little is hard; to be content with much, impossible." - Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

RAD-GHOST

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2008, 07:25 »
Well Said Marssim!

Beercourt, You may want to check out this publication, Especially the definition of "General Licensee"!   :o

NRC REGULATORY ISSUE SUMMARY 2006-25
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DISTRIBUTION AND POSSESSION OF
TRITIUM EXIT SIGNS AND THE REQUIREMENTS IN 10 CFR 31.5
AND 32.51a

www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/gen-comm/reg-issues/2006/ri200625.pdf -

Later...RG!   

Offline Already Gone

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2008, 10:08 »
Hey, that's good stuff to know.  I'm going to edit my first answer to reflect this.

Only problem is that "general licensees" don't know that they are.  They don't know about these requirements, because they either threw away the instructions that came with the fixtures, bought the fixtures with the building, or just forgot.

Most institutions - businesses, schools, etc. - to not have the "organizational knowledge" of things like radioactive material that nukes have.  In fact, I find that outside of nuclear power or DOE, there is little or none at all.  The outside world does not use procedures and does not have anything like the training that the nukes give to the general worker.

This is a good example: a guy goes to work and finds a stack of radioactive material that is regulated.  He has not been taught what the hazards are or what to do about them.  The NRC isn't helping matters by considering every user a "Licensee" even though he hasn't any idea that he is one.  The party responsible for his workplace safety and health don't even know what they are supposed to do so they can't tell him.

Common sense - the only regulatory authority that is recognized by most people - says that if a light fixture is safe to hang in a building full of kindergarteners, it is perfectly alright to expose the rats and seagulls at the landfill to it.  Think for a second, is it really okay to send your kids to a school full of these signs if they are too dangerous to throw away?

We all know what really happens to this stuff.  It is in the landfill right next to all the smoke detectors, lead, and asbestos that got removed from the same apartment buildings, hotels and stores.  It isn't done in the middle of the night either.  It's just that nobody knew what they were tossing out.  Apparently, even some schools don't even know (surprising really) how to handle them.  So the NRC figures that the best way to correct that problem is to send out a document to the people who already know what to do with the signs.  This is like telling GM and Ford what the speed limits are and not posting them on the highway.  Can you imagine getting pulled over: "Do you know the speed limit?" "No, officer, I don't."  "Well, it is in your owners' manual on the same page that tells you how to set the clock."  "But officer, my Ford was built in Mexico, and the manual is in Spanish."  "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."
« Last Edit: May 16, 2008, 10:35 by BeerCourt »
"To be content with little is hard; to be content with much, impossible." - Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Offline Marlin

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2008, 12:55 »
Here is an EPA site, I would think with all of these links the hazard level of just about nil should be clear.

http://www.epa.gov/radtown/docs/exit-signs.pdf

   A lot of what I have done over the last 5 or 6 years has been waste related in demolition and remediation, I have filled 55 gallon drums with tritium exit signs for disposal and have never had a problem, the signs are fairly durable and breakage is rare. The most I've had to do is decay correct the activity to keep below 50 curies per drum and there is no detectable increase in background even with 30 to 50 curies of tritium in the container. My perspective is that the hazard in very negligible even if there is a broken sign in a ventilated area (Don't stick your head in a drum with a broken sign in it). Guidance to those who are not familiar with a hazard is almost always over the top conservative compared to what informed waste handlers have, case in point is the direction given to homeowners when one of the new mercury compact fluorescent bulbs is broken.

"That's just my opinion I could be wrong" D.M. ( but probably not in this case)
« Last Edit: May 17, 2008, 09:56 by Marlin »

Offline SloGlo

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2008, 10:47 »
marssim.... re: the regular guy is looking for a "straight answer", does it look like that's what we gave him to you?,..."


aye did try.....

their needs to be a specialist involved. 

 ;)
quando omni flunkus moritati

dubble eye, dubble yew, dubble aye!

dew the best ya kin, wit watt ya have, ware yinze are!

Offline SloGlo

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Re: question on lights please help!
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2008, 09:15 »
aye,... ya deed gibbit yous best at dat you deed,... ;)
tanks.   eye kneaded that.
quando omni flunkus moritati

dubble eye, dubble yew, dubble aye!

dew the best ya kin, wit watt ya have, ware yinze are!

 


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