The Radiation Post

How do you stop a radioactive spill?

As a radiation safety officer, or a safety manager in a radioactive work environment, it’s your job to plan, plan, plan. That includes having a plan to stop – and clean up – radioactive spills. In lab, academic and testing environments, spills are the most common type radioactive “accident.”

They can range from large spills on counter tops or floors, to something as small as a leaky pipette or unwitting spray that emerges when you open a new stock vial. Some are significant, some are practically undetectable – but all require an efficient, practiced and knowledgeable response.

SWIMS your way through a radioactive spill

SWIM is a simple acronym to remember and a good place to start if you’re in the process of establishing a radiation exposure response plan, or you simply want to review and amend the current one. SWIMS has been adopted by entities around the nation – from the Navy, to universities and defense labs.

  • SStop the spill. If it’s a larger spill, you may need to stop all activity while you think and assess the situation.
  • WWarn others. This might be as simple as a verbal warning or it may also include a call to emergency response personnel
  • IIsolate the spill area. The spill area must be isolated and restricted from access or contact from anyone not involved in the response/cleanup efforts.
  • MMinimize radiation exposure. Monitor the situation carefully. Look for additional signs of contamination around the spill area and on yourself or others.
  • SStop ventilation if it will help. Stay on the scene until emergency personnel arrive if the spill is significant.

This acronym doesn’t have to be addressed in order – it should simply serves as a mantra that keeps you and others focused on the tasks that need to be done.

Stop the spill

The first step in stopping the spill is to prevent it from getting worse. If you aren’t already, it’s imperative that you wear gloves and other relevant protective clothing or shielding that protects you from skin contamination. Don’t worry about cleanup until you‘re sure the spill is completely resolved and contained. Pick up or right any spilled containers, and use absorbent material to wick up what’s spilled to prevent it from spreading.

Warn others

Others need to be warned. Of course, ‘W’ can come before or alongside ‘S’ in most situations. Alert those around you of what’s happened – especially anyone within about three feet of where the spill occurs. Depending on the nature of the spill and the environment, you may need to delegate this task to continue cessation and containment.

The Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) should be notified immediately –even for minimal spills.

Isolate the area and the spill

The last thing you want during a spill is for someone to walk through and add contamination to the list of incidents. Use physical barriers to block the area. Caution tape or rope with cones are effective, but even a table across a walkway or door will work. Barriers should be obvious obstructions so others must move them or circumvent them to get through.

You will need to leave enough room to work in – ideally this would be a spill boundary that’s at least three-feet away from the outermost drop of radioactive material. Nobody should be allowed to penetrate the spill boundary unless they’re wearing proper protective equipment. If someone does cross the spill boundary, gear or not, they should not be permitted to leave until thoroughly surveyed by the RSO.

Spills should be contained and cleaned up – working from the outside borders to the inside, or from the top of the spill to the bottom (for example, if the spill moves from the counter or a table to the floor). As you clean, any towels, rags or other cleanup materials should be isolated in a plastic bag immediately after they’re used. Anyone holding or touching the bag should be wearing protective gloves.

Minimize radiation exposure

The best way to minimize radiation exposure is to stop and think. Rushing in doesn’t help anyone and can often make the situation worse as a hurried response can lead to further contamination or a violation of your company’s well-planned safety procedures. Instead, take a moment to stop and think about what is needed to address the situation at hand:

Are respirators necessary? What clean up equipment is necessary? Do you have what you need on hand or does something need to be procured? Have the right entities been contacted? Are the spill boundaries set up effectively? By assessing the situation calmly and logically, you’ll minimize exposure to yourself and others.

Stop ventilation

If shutting down applicable ventilation systems requires getting in the way of the spill, take extra precaution – wearing the right gear and respecting before/after survey and check out protocols. Otherwise, ventilation and recirculating air systems should almost always be shut down to avoid contamination by air. Keep in mind that ventilation may include things like refrigerators, fans, open windows, venting computers, etc.

Survey the radioactive spill area when you’re done

Once the area is cleaned up, it must be surveyed. Survey the entire area, including the areas immediately adjacent to the spill boundaries to ensure radiation levels are within acceptable limits. Those who worked on the contamination cleanup should also be surveyed. If there is any doubt about what those acceptable limits are, consult the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Reg Guide 18.6, which serves as the industry standard.

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Radiation Response Plan for Skin Contamination

Have you just received the designation of Radiation Safety Officer in your company or department? Or, is your lab hot – and you realize the established safety protocols aren’t up to par? Depending on the types of radiation you’re working with, it’s essential to have a response plan for any level of radiation exposure employees may experience.

While skin contamination isn’t common, radioactivity in liquid form poses a risk, and it’s essential that you’re prepared to protect yourself, fellow colleagues and employees.

A Skin Contamination Response Plan Requires Soap, Water and Diligence

While soap and water are the simple solution to most scenarios involving liquid radioactive splatter, the hand washer must be extremely diligent about how the hands and other exposed body parts are scrubbed. Then, how do you assess how much is enough? What kind of follow up is required? Is there someone you should contact?

Good questions – and that’s why it’s important to have a specific response plan. The plan will walk you and others ,step-by-step to the other side, ensuring the contamination incident is handled safely, efficiently, and consistently.

There are three macro steps required in any decent response plan:

  1. Have a detailed procedure to follow
  2. Know how to completely de-contaminate the skin, which requires knowing when you’re done cleaning up.
  3. Determine whether any further follow-up will be required.

Create a detailed procedure

First, create a detailed procedure. It should start by determining what skin contamination means. This will be determined by the nature of your work and its environment(s). Perhaps you’ll define skin contamination after a certain exposure limit has been reached, or maybe it will be defined as the presence of any contamination above the background. This is for your company or department to determine.

The procedure will also include steps such as:

  • Contacting the radiation safety officer ASAP.
  • Perform a count rate survey at the contaminated site and document the number of CPM.
  • Move to the nearest sink available to begin cleaning the contaminated area.
  • Continue additional clean-up at and around the contamination site.
  • Contact additional or outside assistance whenever necessary. Never err on the side of waiting too long or hedging at the idea of requesting more support. When it comes to radiation contamination; it’s always better request additional assistance that you don’t need, rather than the other way around.
  • Document everything.

Know how to clean up radioactive contamination on the skin

In almost all cases, de-contaminating the skin is a very straightforward procedure, requiring nothing more than soap and water. Cleaning wipes, damp rags and sponges may also work. However, if you are working with a highly specific product or scenario, the situation may require more specialized products. If this is the case, always have those products on hand.

Decontamination should never be painful. Remember that your skin is a very tough and protective barrier. Doing anything that causes pain or discomfort – using harsh, abrasive scrubbing materials, water that is too hot, drawing blood from over-exuberant scrubbing – all of these can actually increase the chances of internal contamination through broken skin.

If the hands are contaminated, be very careful to clean around the nails and nailbeds, all around and in between the fingers – including the webbing, and around the thumbs and wrists, the creases and crevices in the palms, etc. Those are the areas most likely to remain contaminated if they are not washed thoroughly enough.

Re-count contamination levels after every few washes and/or wipes. As long as numbers continue to go down, you are doing it right. If the number of CPM levels off, it’s time to try something else because washing is no longer working.

Consider what additional, follow-up measures may be necessary

Sometimes, additional measures may be necessary. For example, certain contamination levels or contamination via certain compounds may lead to thyroid counts or urine bioassays to be on the safe side. A consultant might be called in to calculate radiation doses if skin contamination exceeds certain limits after de-contamination efforts have been exhausted. Radiation doses can probably be established in house, using online calculators like this one from the Radiation Safety Division at Duke University. If the individual has exceeded 50 rem to the skin, a regulator will need to be contacted.

Document everything

Make sure everything is documented, starting with a brief description of what happened, the instrument used for count measurements, how often they were taken, what those counts were and a brief description of the decontamination procedure. You don’t have to write a novel, but all of the pertinent details should be included in an organized, legible format. If follow-up measures are required, these will be documented as well.

While skin contamination is serious, there is no need to panic. In fact, methodology is your friend here, keeping you calm, focused and attentive.

Need assistance preventing yourself and/or your employees from radioactive skin contamination in the first place. Contact Lancs Industries and have a conversation about the radiation protection that makes the most sense for your industry or area of expertise.

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Protect Yourself From Radiation Exposure

Do you live or work in a place that puts you at risk for radiation exposure? The more you can do to educate yourself and take precautions, the better. Radiation exposure is not something that can be “undone.” Once your body has absorbed its maximum dose of Alpha, Beta or Gamma exposure – bad things start to happen.

Radiation sickness is nothing to scoff at; the effects are often permanent and can even cause death.By educating yourself and ensuring you’re adequately protected, you are much less likely to suffer the harmful effects of radioactive elements.


Are you exposed to radiation at work?

First, if you work at a place where radiation exposure is a threat, ask yourself if the company has a “safety first” culture.

  • Are you familiar with ALARA?
  • Is there a designated Radiation Safety Officer who leads/participates in regular safety meetings and who monitors radiation levels and ensures proper safety precautions are in place?
  • Are you equipped with certified protective clothing and/or shielding when necessary?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, speak with your fellow co-workers or a manager (if you feel comfortable doing so) and then approach company administrators to address these issues. The health and well-being of you and your fellow employees is worth it. There are a range of safety practices, protective products that can be used and worn that will keep your radiation exposure limits at minimal levels.

It might be time for you and a group of dedicated employees to empower yourselves to start a safety revolution. By creating and implementing practical safety protocols, you’ll protect yourselves and generations of employees that come after you.

If you’re concerned your career puts you at risk for unnecessary exposure, or that your company is not doing what it should to protect you, contact us here at Lancs Industries and start a conversation. We’ll speak with you about what your company makes produces, operation procedures, your potential exposure risks and the precautions and protective measures you can take to limit or avoid harmful radiation exposure.

Tips for Protecting Yourself From Harmful Radiation Exposure

At the most basic level, there are three simple guidelines used to limit exposure to radiation – time, distance and shielding.


The longer you’re exposed to radiation, the higher the dose will be. For this reason, it’s important to limit the amount of time spent in contact or close proximity to radioactive materials. The amount of time you can safely spend in close proximity to radioactive materials is called stay time. Professionals have come up with an equation to determine the maximum stay time as:

Stay Time = Exposure Limit/Dose Rate

Pay attention to both exposure limits and dose rates to calculate stay times for yourself, and be firm about limiting yourself to the calculated amount.


The closer you are to a radioactive source, the more radiation you’re exposed to. In the public realm, radioactive disasters are followed by immediate evacuation of residents and businesses up to a specifically calculated distance. For every time you double your distance from a radioactive source, you diminish exposure by ¼. On the flip side, halving the distance between you and a radioactive source increases exposure by a factor of four.

It’s important to know the type of radiation energy and activity you’re exposed to. Gamma rays, for example, travel at the speed of light. On the other side, beta particles can only travel a distance of about 10 feet, and alpha particles are limited in travel by just a few inches. Keep in mind, however, that alpha particles can be inhaled or ingested and living tissue is very susceptible to damage from this means of exposure.


Now we have arrived at the heart of the matter. Just as a bullet-proof vest slows or stops the trajectory of a bullet, radiation shielding is designed to slow or completely stop the ability for radiation energy to travel through it.

Again, each type of radioactive energy can be blocked by differing substances. So, alpha particles can typically be blocked by more than a few inches of air space (keeping in mind they can be ingested or inhaled), water, or a thin shield. Gamma rays, on the other hand, require serious radiation shielding, like lead wool blankets, protective clothing or sleeves, and so on.

Contact the experts at Lancs Industries to learn more about your personal radiation risks and to explore radiation protection in the form of clothing, shields or custom products.

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Airport Body Scanners and Radiation – Your Questions Answered

Walking through airport scanners, aka “advanced imaging technology,” seems like a no-brainer, right? The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says their safe and millions of adult travelers walk through them every year- but does that actually make them safe?

The reality is that airport scanners do, indeed, expose you to radiation; and wherever there is radiation, there is a need to be cautious. Let’s face it, as our holiday post attested, there are all kinds of dangerous ways the threats of radioactive materials have been underestimated over the years -especially when it came to new products and services.

Please Note: You absolutely never have to submit yourself to any airport’s backscatter X-ray tunnels. All you have to do is say you would like to have a manual pat-down. This will delay you a few minutes or so, but can be well worth it if you are worried about the long-term health determinants of low-grade radiation exposure. The pat-down is conducted by a trained, TSA professional of your same gender, and takes only a minute or two.


Backscatter X-Ray Tunnels Explained

First, let’s talk about how the X-Ray tunnels actually work. The idea of a “whole body” tunnel scanner is to provide an image of a person’s body – sans clothing – so that any metal or potentially hidden security threats will be exposed on the TSA checker’s screen.

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this is to use mild X-rays that bounce off the person’s body and show anything that is attached to the body. The bulk of the machines employed in U.S. airports use low-grade backscatter radiation to reveal objects on the surface of the body. There are also tunnels that use a higher-energy X-rays to verify whether or not there are potential weapons stored inside the body.

A third option are millimeter wave scanners, which come in two forms: the first reads radioactive waves coming off the body, the second emits low-frequency radio waves to provide an image of the body. These are the least -commonly used scanners in U.S. airports and the science of their safety is still in question.

Are Airport Backscatter X-Ray Tunnels Dangerous?

Whenever your body is exposed to X-rays, it absorbs radioactive energy. The amount of energy it absorbs is expressed in sieverts (Sv). It’s always good to know your radiation limits because this can help you to determine if and when it makes sense to receive or decline a medical or dental X-ray, a particular medical treatment, a potential job or career or – even whether you may opt to forgo the airport scanner in lieu of a manual pat-down.

To quote

Transmission scanners that see into the body use higher energy X-rays than Backscatter scanner that only view the surface and as a result the dose absorbed is 10 times greater. A single scan is roughly the equivalent of one hour of background radiation at ground level, or 10 minutes at cruising altitude in an airplane. In the worst case scenario, of a person being scanned three times a day every working day throughout the year, a backscatter scanner would contribute 0,3 millisievert to their annual dose. A transmission scanner, however, would contribute 3 millisievert and exceed the tolerable limit. In practice, most passengers would not be exposed so frequently to these scanners. This may however be a concern for airline crew or people who fly very frequently.

Keep in mind, however, that while radiation exposure limits are calculated for the general population, you don’t really know whether or not you may be more susceptible than others to radioactive exposure. Also, while we know that radiation causes cancer, the exact causes of cancer in general still remain a bit of a mystery. Most health experts would agree that cancers can arise from a single cause (genetics, for example) or there may be a series of exposures or a certain tipping point caused by multiple environmental exposures that cause cancer cells to begin multiplying.

It’s worth noting that backscatter X-ray scanners are still prohibited in the European Union because the EU population wants to see further testing and evaluate the data from longer-term studies before employing them as a general rule and exposing their citizens to potentially harmful radiation.

When it comes right down to it, walking through an TSA body scanner is a personal choice. Those who haven’t experienced much radiation exposure in their lifetime, are not employed in a job that exposes them to radiation and who don’t fly very often are probably safe from harmful side effects. On the flip side, there are many doctor and healthcare professionals who opt to skip the X-ray scanner in lieu of the manual pat-down option, claiming they’d rather be safe than sorry.

In our line of work, we opt for the latter option as well. We feel exposure should be limited whenever possible.

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Radioactive Holiday Gifts For the Ones You Love (and hate)

Tired of buying the same ol’ holiday gifts year after year? Looking for that truly rare, one-of-a-kind present for the impossible to buy for relatives in your life? We have just the thing – radioactive elements.

We’re joking (sort of). Believe it or not, there was a time when radiation was considered good for you – and nobody understood just how serious the effects of long-term radiation exposure really were. As a result, there were plenty of radioactive items for sale in everything from housewives’ magazines, to the Sears & Roebuck catalog and even the corner drugstore.


Real Live Examples of Radioactive Household Items & Gifts

Imagine finding one of these gifts under your holiday tree or as the result of your dreidel spin.

  1. Radioactive face cream. Women the world over were excited to try a range of Tho-Radia cosmetic products, including face creams, lipstick, perfumes, and powders. Why wouldn’t they when the radioactive ingredients promised to enhance your youthful glow. Fortunately, this makeup didn’t stay on the market for very long.

  2. Doromad toothpaste. If you lived in Germany between the years 1940 and 1945, you may have been the proud owner of Doromad toothpaste. This paste contained radioactive thorium, which was marketed to make teeth glow a little brighter and whiter….before they fell out, we would imagine. The good news is thorium was added in minimal amounts. The bad news is that users ingested and absorbed low-doses of radiation as for the duration that they used the products, and we won’t even think about the radiation that was going down drains into sewers, storm drains and groundwater supplies.

  3. The Atomic Energy Lab for the kids! Of all the radioactive products that were given as holiday gifts, this one is the most bittersweet. Well-intentioned parents who gifted, atomic scientist children their very own Atomic Energy Lab had their hearts in the right place. Created during the 1950s by the same guy who brought us the infamous Erector Sets, the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory introduced children to basic radioactive elements and the experiments to show them off. It even included its very own Geiger counter. Unfortunately, children and parents who purchased the lab are not eligible for Radiation Exposure Compensation.

  4. Radiation for arthritis relief and erectile dysfunction. When radioactive isotopes were first discovered, there was no lack of advertised health wonders attributed to them. One example of this is Radithor, with a subheading that read, “The modern weapon of curative science.” Well, that was certainly the truth. The radioactive water was infused with Radium-226 and 228 isotopes. Unfortunately, true believers suffered serious side effects, such as famous socialite and athlete Eben Beyers. Mr. Beyers was a big consumer of Radithor and was reported to have consumed 1400 small bottles of the stuff (before you scoff – add up the number energy drinks your fellow countrymen consume each day). After a couple of years, he became extremely ill, had to have parts of his mouth and jaw removed, and eventually died.

  5. The first luminescent watches. The glow-ability of certain radioactive elements wasn’t lost on commercial giants. Hence, in the early 1900s, certain watchmakers used a radium-based dye to paint the numbers onto the watch faces so they would glow in the dark. Again, unfortunately, without an understanding of how dangerous radiation exposure was (no ALARA awareness back then), many of the women who painted the digits fell ill, were disfigured and many eventually died because they habitually licked the brushes to smooth the bristles in between paint strokes.

So that’s the reality of life before radiation awareness. Fortunately, times have changed.

Real Radiation-Themed Holiday Gifts That Won’t Make Your Parts Fall Off

If, however, you have a person on your gift list who might like a little laugh, we do have a few radiation-themed suggestions for you.

  • Tee-Shirts and Onesies. The famed site, Cafepress, has a wide range of T-shirts, hoodies, tote bags and even onesies with radioactive symbols and clever messages. Some of them even glow in the dark, sans any threat of radiation.

  • A Glow-in-the-Dark Coaster Set. This is probably the best crowd pleaser of the bunch, and one of our personal favorites. The team at ThinkGeek created a glow-in-the-dark coaster set. Each square is modeled from the radioactive elements on the periodic table, consisting of Radium-226 (Red), Plutonium-244 (Blue), Uranium-238 (Green), and Thorium-232 (Orange).

  • Radiation Hazard Fallout Keychain. We’re also fans of this Radiation Hazard Fallout Keychain sold on Etsy. It’s handmade, using a high-definition decal, covered with a dome crystal glass, set on an antique bronze-finished housing.

Those of us here at LANCS wish you and your family a very happy, safe and radiation-free holiday season.

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Different Types of Radiation Shielding Materials

We’re lucky to live in a time period where:

A) We understand the dangers and risks associated with exposure to radioactive materials
B) We understand the various ways to protect ourselves from radiation
C) We have the materials knowledge and technology to craft radiation shielding products that are more workable, comfortable and versatile than ever before.

So, what is it that makes a materials “radiation proof?” While the basics of radiation materials are roughly the same, there are three different types of materials that can be used according to the application that makes the most sense for your company, the type of work you’re doing and the environment in which the work or shielding will be used.


What are Radiation Shielding Materials?

In essence, there are only three different types of materials that provide protection from radiation for both individuals and environments. Whether you’re using containment tents, protective clothing or lead blankets – these products are your most powerful defense against burns, radiation sickness, cancer and other medical conditions linked to excess radiation exposure.

Examples of work that may expose you to unhealthy levels of radiation include:

  • Diagnostic imaging (including veterinary technicians and assistants)
  • Nuclear and industrial applications
  • Radiation therapy
  • Airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers
  • Anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists
  • Immigrations and customs inspectors
  • Dental technicians

Without adequate access to information, education and protection, workers in these fields are at risk. It is the employers’ responsibility to ensure workers have adequate radiation protection, typically taking the form of radiation proof barriers, vests, skirts or aprons.

3 Most Common Radiation Shielding Materials

Lead (Pb) shielding

Historically, lead shielding products have been the most common. You are probably familiar with the lead apron that is used as a shield when you visit your dentist and require dental X-rays. As one of the most dense elements on the planet, that thin apron can be surprisingly heavy!

It is this density that makes leadless-vulnerable to radiation – particularly Gamma and X-ray radiation, which are the most harmful types of radiation. Since lead is very brittle when it exists on its own, manufacturers mix it with special additives and binders to make it more flexible. In this form, lead can be molded into thinner sheets and can be used in a range of radiation shielding products.

These products come in three standard measurements, based on the thickness of the lead sheet: 0.25mm, 0.35mm and 0.5mm, with the protective qualities increasing in relationship with the thickness. Custom thicknesses are also available when you work directly with a radiation shielding products manufacturer.

Lead composite shielding

As we mentioned, lead is dense – and that makes it heavy. Sometimes, it’s simply too heavy and/or cumbersome, which can prevent certain work from being done – or can prohibit employees from taking advantage of radiation shielding on a regular basis in an effort to get their work done efficiently.Thus, the industry began experimenting with lead composite options, meaning we mix lead with other, lighter-weight metals that reduce the penetrability of radiation.

Although lighter than lead, composite shielding is still made using heavy metals and will provide adequate protection when mixed adeptly with lead. Typically, these composite shielding products include tin, rubber, PVC vinyl and other ingredients. Most manufacturers work with custom-blends to make a proprietary mixture that can be trademarked.The finished products are as much as 25% lighter than a lead equivalent, although they must be able to provide the same level of protection as an all-lead version.

Non-lead or Lead-free shielding

The third option is a completely lead-free version, which uses proprietary blends of various composite shielding materials that provide the same level of radiation protection as lead – minus the lead. Typically, these products will contain one or more heavy metals, like tin, tungsten, antimony, bismuth and/or other dense materials.

The benefit of non-lead shielding products is that they are typically lighter and more comfortable to wear, and they are also easier to recycle or add to non-hazardous disposal containers since they don’t contain lead (a toxic metal).

Each of these radiation shielding materials has its own pros and cons, depending on the type of work being done, the duration of radiation exposure, levels of exposure and so on. Your company’s radiation safety officer should be able to select the best radiation shielding product for your particular application.

Otherwise, feel free to contact us here at Lancs Industries. In addition to steering you in the right direction, we may also be able to assist with customized protection for a particular job or situation.

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Know Your Radiation Exposure Limits

Radiation is bad right? Well, not necessarily.

First, it depends on the type of radiation. Some radiation isn’t all that harmful at all within a reasonable limit. Other types of radiation are much more powerful and require heavy protection, limited exposure and an ample supply of education and safety training in order to keep yourself safe.

Read, What is Radiation? to learn more about the various types of radiation, and which types are worth worrying about.


At What Point Does Radiation Make You Sick?

Most of us have the ability to handle a little radiation here and there. That’s why things like full-body airport security scanners are legal. There is a point, however, where repeat exposure to ionizing radiation begins damaging cellular DNA. The results of over-exposure to radiation in a single dose, or cumulative exposure to small amounts of radiation over a prolonged period of time, can cause radiation sickness and even death.

It’s important to know how much is too much, especially if your job requires exposure to radiation or radioactive materials or equipment.

In the words of the Health Physics Society:

From follow-up of the atomic bomb survivors, we know acutely delivered, very high radiation doses can increase the occurrence of certain kinds of disease (e.g., cancer) and possibly negative genetic effects. To protect the public and radiation workers (and environment) from the potential effects of chronic low-level exposure (i.e., less than 100 mSv), the current radiation safety practice is to prudently assume similar adverse effects are possible with low-level protracted exposure to radiation. Thus, the risks associated with low-level medical, occupational, and environmental radiation exposure are conservatively calculated to be proportional to those observed with high-level exposure.

If you work in a career or location that exposes you to radiation, make it a point to know and monitor your exposure limits.

The tricky thing is that doses vary according to particular regions or parts of the body. Currently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) keeps the following as the “Standards for Protection Against Radiation.”

It is important to note that a “Rem” is a unit of radiation (like the amount you experience from a single X-ray). It is defined as the dosage in rads that will cause the same amount of biological injury as one rad of X rays or gamma rays. A single rem is fairly substantial, so you’ll notice that the following annual radiation dose limits are mrems, or millirems, which are much smaller amounts.

  • Whole body: 5,000 mrem/year
  • Any organ: 50,000 mrem/year
  • Skin: 50,000 mrem/year
  • Extremity: 50,000 mrem/year
  • Lens of Eye: 15,000 mrem/year
  • Embryo/fetus: 500 mrem/year
  • Member of public: 100 mrem/year

Keep in mind that as a member of the public, your doctor and dentist provide you with things like lead aprons or other protective shielding any time you have to get an X-ray so you probably don’t have cause for concern if this is your only exposure.

Does Your Employer Have an ALARA Attitude?

If you work in an environment that exposes you to radiation – whether directly or via scatter radiation – safety is a top priority.

It is imperative that those in radioactive careers have employers that maintain an attitude of ALARA, which stands for As Low As Reasonably Achievable, when it comes to radiation exposure and their employees’ health.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Do we have a radiation safety officer? In a large company, and one where radiation exposure is the norm, the position of radiation safety officer (RSO) might be a full-time job. For other companies, this position is an added certification that designates one employee to take charge of radiation safety. The RSO may serve as the liaison between the management and staff, and they are in charge of overseeing that the right protective clothing and equipment is being used. They should also ensure that employees and new hires are properly education about the risks and precautions associated with radiation exposure, and so on.

Does our company provide appropriate protection? Do a little online research regarding your company, its products and equipment and the industry recommendations for radiation protection. If you don’t feel your company is doing its part or providing what you need, bring it to management’s attention immediately. Radiation shielding and protective clothing is key to your health.

Are your employees educated and informed? If radiation is a concern at your place of business, education and information about radiation, protection and safety precautions should be a part of the typical safety culture. If that isn’t the case, gather employees together and petition your management staff to begin introducing radiation safety as a routine topic. You can never be too careful when it comes to your body and radiation exposure limits, so always err on the side of caution.

Are you concerned about your radioactive exposure at work? Contact Lancs Industries to start the conversation about the types of radiation shielding and/or protective clothing that makes the most sense for your place of employment. Odds are we have products ready to order. Otherwise, we’re happy to custom-design and manufacture site- or task specific equipment for you.

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The Importance of a Company Safety Culture Through Regular Safety Training

“Okay, folks. It’s time for our annual safety training…” In the typical workplace, those two words are met with one of two responses: eye rolling or absolute glee since a worker can sit there, tune out and eat donuts, pastries or whatever free food accommodates the hot coffee options.


Make Safety a Part of Your Company Culture by Making Training a Part of the Norm

In an environment where serious accidents, injuries or poisoning can cause serious or even lethal side effects, it’s important that your company culture strikes a delicate balance. Workers should live in that middle-ground between working with a calm, conscientious ethic (in other words, not scared to death that unchecked radiation is a threat around every corner), but without being so laissez–faire that people get lacsidaisical about industry-standard safety practices.

The reality is that regular industrial safety training is integral to the health, safety and well-being of your employees.

Here are some tips to help you make safety training a part of the normal work day:

Designate a Radiation Safety Officer and a Designated Safety Officer. Each of these titles require specialized training outside of the workplace, as well as certification. These are the people who hold the space for your company’s Safety First Culture and they should also set the tone. Their presence in and around the workers will help you out in two ways.

First, they remind the employees that safety is an important part of everything they do. Having the eyes of “safety professionals” watching them on a routine should serve as a constant reminder, preventing routine work from dulling their senses and attention to important safety practices and protocol. That being said, the Safety Officers in both capacities (these roles should be held by separate individuals unless you have a very small company), should never assert a sense of fear or hyper-authority.

Secondly, your radiation safety officer and designated safety officer will be able to spot unconscious worker habits, storage techniques, housekeeping issues, etc., that pose a potential threat so the situation can be rectified before an accident takes place. You safety officers are also your liaison to the industry safety standards at large keeping your company relevant and updated on a regular basis.

Offer CPR & First Aid Training For All

CPR and first aid trainings are very affordable, especially when compared with the costs associated with Worker’s Compensation or a law suit. Many companies make the mistake of only training the lead managers or team leaders – all of whom could be potential absent, out of the field, away from the warehouse, etc. when their training is needed the most.

Instead, invest in Red Cross or other reputable CPR & First Aid instructors to come to your place of work. Pay your staff to come in on the weekends – offered on a quarterly basis – and make it a job requirement. Not only are your employees safer on a day-to-day basis, they feel invested in and will unconsciously elevate their own attention to safety details.

Host Every Friday “Tailgate” or Water Cooler Safety Meetings

Each Friday, splurge on bagel, fruit plates and coffee and have managers hose their own versions of “tailgate” or “water cooler” safety meetings. Ideally, these meetings should never be more than 20-minutes long and safety topics should rotate from the super important stuff (ALARA), to the common sense stuff (wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for particular tasks). Making the meetings a weekly event is a smart way to keep safety topics fresh in your employee’s minds because:

  • Regular attention to safety breeds a safer company culture. When the company focuses the spotlight on safety every single week, it cultivates a “safety culture” amidst the employees and personnel. This makes safety a given, rather than some “have to do it” nuisance – which is often an attitude that trickles down from the top, rather than the other way around.

  • Topics never grow stale. A rotating menu of safety topics keeps things fresh; a vast improvement on attending different versions of the same, big, annual safety meeting.

  • Information is more digestible. By keeping the meetings short, focused and to the point, the information is more digestible and has a much better chance of sticking. Come up with small incentives to get employees to participate, do well on “pop quizzes” or for acting out key roles. Even $5 gift cards to a local coffee shop will suffice.

Is your company doing all it can to create a healthy Safety Culture with regular industrial safety trainings? If not, do what it takes to whip that part of your company into shape. You never know, it could just safe a life.

If keeping your employees safe requires radiation shielding or specialized radiation-proof clothing, contact us here at Lancs Industries to learn how our products keep worker safety at the forefront.

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Radiation Protection for Radioactive Careers

A few months ago, we posted a blog about radioactive careers. Some of them were no-brainers, others were a bit surprising (airline pilots?). Because radiation exposure is cumulative, it’s important that those who work around radioactive materials – or in environments where radiation exposure it a potential threat – are more than adequately protective.


Common Protective Clothing & Shielding for Professionals in Radioactive Environments

Whether you work in a radiologist office, as a Radiation Safety Officer or specialize in interventional radiology, protection is critical when it comes to mitigating your risk of radiation sickness and other harmful side effects of over-exposure.

Don’t take your current or future health lightly, and don’t take your personal safety for granted. Make sure you have access to top-quality radiation protection in the form of clothing and shielding.

  1. Rolling and stationary shielding. If you work around X-rays and other radiation-based imaging technology, you’re particularly prone to scatter radiation. Radiation shielding is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from these scattered particles. These specialized shields, made predominantly from lead, absorb any radioactive particles in their path, without allowing them to pass through.

    Rolling and stationary shielding, also called wheeled racks, offer both permanent and temporary shielding options. These are effective in doctors, dentists and other medical offices. Rolling shields offer significant flexibility as they can be relocated, moved and angled according to a specific task and room occupancy. This type of shielding is also effective in low-cost clinics or mobile clinics, where services are offered intermittently or where site locations may be more susceptible to change.

  2. Temporary shielding options. Do you work with a mobile unit or hop from site-to-site to provide medical care to more transient or low-income populations? While rolling shielding options are one solution, they can be cumbersome if your clinic only exists for a few days or hours at a time before you move on to the next spot. If that’s the case for your company or clinic, you’ll be more interested in QuickRack Solutions. Lancs Industries makes a Quick Racks product that is a handy addition to your ALARA toolbox. This particular shield can be used as a shadow shield around a worker. The Quick Rack can also be usedto create a shield around a particular radiation source as well. Best of all, it requires only minutes to assemble and break down.

  3. Protect thyself. Now we get down to the nitty-gritty in terms of your body and your personal space. The lead apron your employer provides you may be enough. However, as mentioned above, scatter radiation presents a bit of a problem as it could potentially absorb into uncovered areas of your body, i.e. your eyes, your head/face/neck or any areas below the waist, including your legs, ankles and so on. Make sure you are wearing radiation-protective clothing and gear that makes sense for the task at hand.

    Examples include things like:

    Leaded glasses. While medical professionals such as orthopedists are recommended to wear leaded glasses to protect them from procedures using radioactive materials, few actually do so. Unfortunately, this leaves the vulnerable to developing cataracts. Studies show that the use of protective leaded glasses can reduce radiation exposure to the eyes by as much as 90%.

    Skull caps. Lead-lined skull caps are being worn more and more by cardiologists and interventional radiologists due to their ability to protect the head area from scatter radiation. When absorbed by the head, face and neck – radiation exposure puts these professionals at a higher risk of brain and other types of cancers. Many in the field feel their suspended leaded acrylic shield is enough – but wouldn’t it be better to err on the side of caution?

    Thyroid collars. Where the apron stops, exposure begins – and this is where thyroid collars come into play. Interestingly enough, research has shown that exposure to radiation – even consistent low-doses – increases the risk of changes to the thyroid, in terms of both thyroid function as well as benign tumors. The combination of a lead apron, thyroid shield and lead glasses will significantly reduce one’s exposure to radiation – scatter and otherwise.

Do you work in an environment that puts you at risk for radiation sickness? It might be time to up the ante in terms of radiation protection and shielding. High-quality radiation shielding comes in pre-fabricated as well as custom designed options, so you can have the exact type of protection you want.

Contact us here at Lancs Industries to learn more.

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Radiation Exposure Compensation – Do You Qualify?

The goal of any company who works with or around radioactive materials is to keep its workers safe. Or at least that should be the goal. Unfortunately, accidents happen. Sometimes those accidents are very big ones, like the nuclear accident involving Fukushima’s reactors after the March 2011 earthquake. In other cases, radiation exposure occurs through carelessness over an extended period of time, as can happen for those who work in the mining industry.

Last month, we published an article outlining the signs of radiation sickness and potential treatments. This month, we’ll follow up with information regarding the Radiation Exposure Compensation program, which is designed to provide some level of financial compensation to those who are victims of specific radiation poisoning scenarios.

Radiation Exposure Compensation

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA)

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was put into action on October 5th, 1990 – although there have been updates and modifications since then. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the act was established to establish, “…an administrative program for claims relating to atmospheric nuclear testing and claims relating to uranium industry employment. The Act delegated authority to the Attorney General to establish procedures and make determinations regarding whether claims satisfy statutory eligibility criteria.” In other words, unless your particular radiation sickness is linked to atmospheric nuclear testing or the uranium industry, you may not be eligible for funding through this particular act.

Between the years 1945 and 1962, the US Government conducted frequent nuclear weapons testing, affecting the lives of those on, near and downwind from test sites – the large majority of which were located in the barren deserts of Nevada. Those employed in the uranium mining industry were also at risk, especially those who worked between 1943 and 1971, since they were not provided adequate disclosure about – or protection from – harmful levels of radiation.

Even so, legislative acts like this one can help to support your case against an industry, company, or employer should you feel you were not educated, informed and/or protected from damaging ionizing radiation.

Three Types of RECA Compensation

The complete effects of ionizing radiation poisoning often last a lifetime, and can be fatal. Thus, there is no amount of compensation available to erase the long-lasting effects from this type of illness. Even so, it does help individuals and families to cope with the after effects of radiation poisoning.

Those eligible for this financial compensation are divided into three groups. If individuals from any of these groups can link their illness to proximity and/or employment pertaining to the aforementioned causes, they may be entitled to lump sum compensation.

These groups are:

  • Those who worked as uranium miners, millers or transporters ($100,000). This includes individuals employed in the uranium industry in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
  • Those who qualify as “onsite participants” at designated atmospheric nuclear weapons testing sites ($75,000).
  • Individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada test sites, or “downwinders,” ($50,000). This designation also encompasses those who lived in large swatches of both Arizona and Utah as well.

Feel You Qualify For Lump Sum Compensation Through RECA?

There are several things you can do if you feel you or someone you know may qualify for compensation under RECA.

First, seek medical attention if you have not done so already. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds screening clinics in the wide majority of states affected by the uranium industry and/or nuclear weapons testing. Visit their website to Find a Screening Clinic near you.

Second, you can provide valuable information about RECA and radiation exposure-related illness(es) to your healthcare provider. Share these Clinical Guidelines with him or her and be prepared to share your working experience. This can help to determine whether or not your particular symptoms and/or illnesses qualified.

If you worked in the nuclear weapons industry, and feel radiation exposure has taken a toll on your health and wellbeing, you may also want to look into the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), which was similarly created to compensate workers who were injured or became ill on the job. In certain circumstances, compensation is provided to spouses, survivors and family members as well.

Protect Yourself From Unhealthy Radiation Exposure and Illness

Fortunately, increased education and innovative solutions have made it possible for humans to work in a radioactive environment, or around radioactive materials, without having to compromise their physical health. Lancs Industries is a leader in radiation shielding products and solutions. Visit our website or please contact us directly to learn more about the products that will make safety a priority in your radioactive workspace.

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