The Radiation Post



What is Cosmic Radiation?

The term cosmic radiation is an umbrella term, encompassing all of the radioactive sources in the universe. Fortunately, here on earth, our atmosphere serves as one of the most powerful radiation shielding and protective products – and it’s free. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to prevent the destruction of the earth’s atmosphere. As the atmosphere decays via elevated carbon emissions and other environmental pollutants, it will shield us less and less from higher-energy cosmic radiation invaders.

Cosmic radiation is considered an ionizing form of radiation, meaning it can potentially alter our DNA. However, the majority of the cosmic radiation we encounter from outer space is absorbed in such very low doses, we aren’t negatively impacted by it. In that way, cosmic radiation is similar to other “everyday” sources of radiation – such as cell phones and microwaves.

Cosmic radiation is a collection of many types of radiation

The following are some of the sources and types of radiation that make their way to us through outer space. Fortunately, as a result of their interaction with the atmosphere (which acts a super-filter), the particles arrive on our planet in a much less potent form. That’s why we aren’t harmed or made ill from them.

Gamma Rays

Gamma rays are (in scientific terms), “a form of electromagnetic radiation” at a higher spectrum and frequency than x-rays. While we can recreate gamma rays or gamma radiation in a lab, the cosmic-sourced forms of gamma rays are created by gamma ray bursts (GRBs). These are the most energetic form of light and produce enough energy that, for a few seconds, they can outshine an entire galaxy.

Microwave background radiation

This is typically what people are talking about when they mention cosmic radiation. According to physlink.com, microwave background radiation, “…consists of very, very low energy photons (energy of about 2.78 Kelvin) whose spectrum is peaked in the microwave region and which are remnants from the time when the universe was only about 200,000 years old.” By the time they reach us, microwave background radiation forms are rendered virtually harmless.

Photons

All of the luminous bodies in the universe emit photons in the forms of particles and waves. This includes our sun (more on that next), stars, quasi-stellar objects and so on. Some of these are much higher-energy than others. For the most part, any photons entering our atmosphere from these luminous objects are so low-energy we don’t have to worry about them.

UV radiation from the sun

For the most part, UV radiation from the sun is the only type of cosmic radiation we earthlings need to worry about. Because of their strength and close proximity to the earth, the UV particles are able to enter the atmosphere at such a high energy that atmospheric interference/protection isn’t quite enough for our naked skin.

Hence, over exposure to UV rays causes sunburns and skin cancers, and those can wind up metastasizing into other forms of cancer. This is why it’s so important to wear protective clothing, hats, sunglasses and/or use sunscreen on exposed areas of your skin when you’re outdoors – particularly during peak seasons and peak hours of the day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Neutrinos, high energy muons, protons, anti-protons, and more

All of the celestial bodies mentioned above, as well as others, also emit a series of other particles throughout their emergence and interactions with one other. These include additional sources of cosmic radiation, including neutrinos, high energy muons, protons, electrons, ant-protons and others.

Fortunately for us, the highest and most energetically charged of these never make it to the earth’s atmosphere or surface. They are either deflected by magnetic fields between their original source and us, they lose energy as they interact with other particles along the way or they simply decay during their long flight.

So, never fear; for now and – hopefully – during your lifetime, cosmic radiation won’t be a concern for you. If, however, you find yourself in a radioactive career or working in an industry that utilizes/exposes you to radioactive sources, contact us here at Lancs Industries so we can provide you with the right radiation shielding and protection.



Is Microwave Radiation Dangerous?

Microwaves have been around since the 1960s, but they have long-suffered from erroneous suspicions that their radioactive mechanisms are harmful.

This is understandable since the word radiation inspires caution and fear for many. However, microwaves operate using non-ionizing radiation. This means it doesn’t harm or scramble cellular DNA, nor does it leave any radioactive residue in your food or the immediate environment that could harm you.

Microwaves use safe, non-ionizing radiation

Microwaves to not use X-rays or gamma-rays to generate heat. Instead, they use a type of radiation (RF radiation) that is powerful enough to move the molecules in a cell around, but not so much that their DNA is altered. Specifically, microwaves move the water molecules around, causing friction. This friction causes water molecules in cells to rub and bang up against each other so fast and so frequently, that it generates heat.

Depending on the strength of the microwaves power setting, and the length of time you leave the food inside an operating microwave, food can be warmed gently, heated to boiling or will cook completely through. Just as you can overcook food, you can over-microwave it too – generating so much heat that the cells begin to break down, and the food can be ruined. Even so, this is not anything that would contribute to radiation sickness or poisoning.

So, the microwave itself isn’t harmful. What you put into the microwave, however, is a different story.

Mind the containers you use in the microwave

First and foremost, you should only use microwave-safe containers when heating or cooking food in a microwave. Anyone who’s ever cheated and put a gold-rimmed china plate in the microwave, or who thought they could save a dish by heating a can of soup inside the can, has learned the hard way after a shower of sparks emitted from the dish/can. This is because metallic ions reflect, rather than absorb, microwaves.

Similarly, many plastics or rubber-based containers that aren’t made for the microwave can warp or melt. This is because they’re made of materials that have a lower melting temperature than the food inside them. If pockets of food get ultra-hot, they can melt the container or plastic-wrapping on top if they aren’t designated as “microwave-safe” products.

Plastics can leach harmful chemicals into your foods and beverages

In fact, while the microwave is completely safe, the plastics you use to contain foods and beverages could be your worst enemy. According to Harvard, certain plastics used to house food and liquids or protect foods and liquids contain chemicals that are harmful – especially when they’re heated and migrate into your microwaved food.

“When food is wrapped in plastic or placed in a plastic container and microwaved, BPA and phthalates may leak into the food. Any migration is likely to be greater with fatty foods such as meats and cheeses than with other foods.”

BPAs and phthalates are known endocrine disruptors (they can alter natural hormone levels), and multiple studies have shown that their presence in humans increases the risk of several medical conditions, including cancer and infertility.

If you are worried about the quality, health and safety of microwaved food products, consider:

  • Using glass or bonafide “microwave safe” dishware in the microwave
  • Don’t allow plastic wrap to touch food in containers (even when it’ says microwave safe) to prevent the plastic from melting into the food.
  • Avoid heating foods in take-out or disposable containers. Instead, transfer it into a microwave-safe alternative.
  • Get rid of old, scratched or damaged “microwave safe” plastic containers as the damage may allow them to melt faster or leach chemicals into your food.
  • Always vent containers (by lifting the lid a bit or setting it off center) to prevent the food from becoming hot enough to melt the container/plastic wrap.

Microwaves may be good for you

Rather than worrying about microwaves and radiation, we feel you should celebrate the good news. Current studies indicate that microwaving food may actually be better for you than other heating methods because quicker cooking means better overall preservation of vitamins and nutrients.

“The cooking method that best retains nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats food for the shortest amount of time, and uses as little liquid as possible. Microwaving meets those criteria…That keeps in more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method and shows microwave food can indeed be healthy.”

So, use your microwave with confidence and know that to date, there is no evidence that microwave radiation is dangerous for you as long as you use the appliance as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Continue to visit the Lancs Industries Blog to learn more about radiation and your health, along with the radiation shielding products that will protect you when and if you’re exposed to harmful, ionizing radiation or radioactive materials.



Disposing of Radioactive Waste

Ideally, any industry, university lab, manufacturing plant, medical facility or nuclear power plant should have a Radiation Safety Officer and established safety plan for disposing of radioactive waste. Failure to do so has disastrous effects on plants, animals and humans who are unknowingly exposed. Take, for instance, the city of Goias, Brazil – where robbers stole a radioactive machine from an abandoned hospital and unwittingly poisoned 250 people who were unknowingly exposed – four of whom died.

It’s imperative that nuclear and radioactive materials are disposed of properly. If you are at all unsure of what you should do with radioactive materials – including gloves, sleeves, paper or glassware exposed to radiation – contact your Radiation Safety Officer ASAP for specific instructions.

The bottom line is that while it may seem like radioactive products and materials are “disposed of” they aren’t; radioactive isotopes have half-lives and many continue to emit radiation for hundreds to thousands and thousands of years. So, until the scientific innovators find a more successful solution, these toxic items are removed and stored far away (hopefully) from where they can seep into ground water, surrounding soil layers and the environment.

Most common methods of disposing of radioactive waste

After contaminated materials and/or radioactive substances have been disposed as per your company’s safety plan, it is disposed of in one of multiple ways.

On-site disposal and treatment

Initially, your company safety plan will incorporate things like specially marked boxes to house contaminated paper, glassware, sleeves, gloves, etc. Sharps containers are provided for knives, syringes, blades, broken glass and so on. Finally, special sinks or flushing stations are used for liquid waste.

In many cases, radioactive waste is temporarily treated onsite to mitigate its effects until it is more permanently disposed of. On-site treatments typically consist of processes such as vitrification, ion exchange or synroc. Again, on-site treatment isn’t the end of the line, but it prepares radioactive materials to be transported and minimizes the risk of short-term damage.

Incineration

Common in the medical arena – including labs and hospitals – low-level waste is incinerated at extremely high temperatures. This renders it neutral or to such low-risk levels that the incinerated waste can be disposed of in landfills just like everyday trash.

Geologic disposal

This is by far the most common method of storing nuclear and radioactive waste. Unfortunately, there are very few approved nuclear disposal sites around the world – a reason that there are nearly 30,000 undisposed-of tons of ceramic uranium dioxide pellets, stored in metal rods, at nuclear power plants around the world.

Geologic disposal directly translates to digging big pits, lining them with barriers that prevent radioactive seepage and burying radioactive waste deep into the ground. Before being buried, most of this mid- to higher-level waste is solidified in concrete or bitumen to further diminish its potency.

Transmutation

The idea behind transmutation is that potent radioactive isotopes are transformed into less-potent versions, making them somewhat safer to store and decreasing their half-life. For example, chemical reactions where protons hit a particle and change it. The most common examples of this happening now are transmuting chlorine into argon.

Theoretical disposal options

Then there are some proposed suggestions for disposing of radioactive waste that aren’t put into practice yet. These include:

  • Reprocessing: Often, radioactive waste is an amalgam that includes non-radioactive components. Reprocessing these to remove usable components (fissionable) from non-useable components that are then disposed of. Overall, this decreases the mass of the waste.
  • Disposal in space: Some experts feel we should build specialized rockets that would be loaded with our radioactive waste and then shot up into outer space. This option is heavily contested, with opponents citing the exorbitant financial costs, the potential for pre-space explosions to create a nuclear cloud for which there is no containment method and long-term ethical considerations.

There is no doubt that the U.S. and the world at large lacks enough disposal sites and methods to handle the current level of radioactive waste. This is of major concern to everyone across the nuclear and radiation industries.

The team at Lancs Industries is available to support your RSO’s and ALARA protocols via radiation shielding and protective clothing and accessories. Contact us to learn more.



Potassium Iodide, Your Thyroid & Radiation Protection

There are people all over the world who keep non-expired doses of potassium iodide on hand to protect themselves in the case of a nuclear fallout or related radioactive disaster. They do this as a proactive way of protecting themselves in case a nuclear emergency involves the presence of radioactive iodine – frequently released in a cloud or plume into the air, after which it settles on the ground, contaminating everything it touches – including food sources.

By taking potassium iodide, only if advised to do so by health and safety officials, you can “block” the thyroid’s ability to uptake the radioactive version, minimizing the after affects.

Why is the thyroid so important?

When you think of radiation poisoning or the eventual cancers and other diseases associated with former radiation exposure, it may seem strange that the thyroid is the gland healthcare officials focus on and protect. However, the thyroid gland – a two-inch, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple – is a powerhouse; the human body doesn’t fare well when thyroid function is below par.

The thyroid gland is responsible for hormone production and your body’s metabolism, so when it is negatively impacted, you can experience issues pertaining to:

  • Overall metabolic rate
  • Digestion
  • Heart function
  • Muscle control
  • Moods
  • Fertility
  • Bone maintenance
  • Brain development

Iodine – found in certain foods and added to “iodized salt,” is an essential nutrient to the thyroid. During normal life, and with a healthy diet, the minimum amount of iodine the thyroid requires is assimilated via the foods you eat. Any lack of iodine can result in thyroid issues.

The thyroid can’t distinguish between radioactive & non-radioactive iodine

Because the thyroid only requires a fairly minimal amount of iodine to thrive, it has a threshold of sorts. Once it has absorbed all the iodine it can from the bloodstream, it stops absorbing it. However, the thyroid doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between radioactive iodine and non-radioactive iodine.

In the event of a nuclear disaster that releases radioactive iodine, taking the recommended doses of potassium iodide (non-radioactive) saturates the thyroid gland, serving as a radiation “blocker” since the thyroid will leave the radioactive version that’s then excreted by the body.

Also important to note: good ol’ fashioned soap and warm water, combined with a thorough and vigorous scrub, are enough to eradicate radioactive iodine that has settled on the clothes (best to discard altogether or launder repeatedly), skin, hair, etc. Read, How do You Stop A Radioactive Spill, for more information on that. While the post is targeted to industrial and chemical industries, the basic tenets apply to anyone exposed to radioactive fallout.

When should you take potassium iodide (KI)?

Potassium Iodide (KI) is the same type of iodine used in table salt. That being said, KI is added in such micro-doses to table salt that ingesting copious amounts of iodide salt will not help to protect you from radioactive iodide. In fact, the World Health Organization warns, “…iodized salt should not be used as a substitute for KI since it will not provide protection against radioactive iodine, and eating excessive amounts of iodized salt will itself pose a significant health hazard.”

Potassium iodide can be purchased in supplement form without a prescription. KI should only be taken upon recommendation of health and safety officials immediately preceding or during a nuclear event – and should never be taken as a precautionary supplement as that can have adverse health effects.

It’s best to purchase KI from regulated and approved agencies. At this point, the US Government currently backs the quality of four different KI products:

  • iOSAT tablets, 130mg, from Anbex, Inc.
  • ThyroSafe tablets, 65mg, from Recipharm AB
  • ThyroShield oral solution, 65mg/mL, from Arco Pharmaceuticals, LLC
  • Potassium Iodide Oral Solution USP, 65mg/mL, from Mission Pharmacal Company

Visit the CDC’s website page on Bioterrorism and Drug Preparedness for information about dosage (based on age, weight and the measured level of radioactive iodide exposure), when you should begin taking KI and for how long, who should avoid taking the supplement, adverse side effects/risks, etc.

KI doesn’t provide comprehensive radiation protection

It’s important to note that KI isn’t a comprehensive radiation shielding product, it only protects us from radioactive events that release radioactive iodide. It does not protect you from:

  • Any other radioactive materials, such as radioactive caesium
  • Surface radiation (it doesn’t protect you from exposure to radiation on your skin, the ground, etc.
  • Ingesting or absorbing radiation, it simply protects the thyroid gland from absorbing it, which goes a long way toward protecting the body’s basic physiologic functions.

More comprehensive radiation protection and shielding products are required to protect your body, lungs, and external body from radiation exposure.

Are you concerned about radiation protection and the ability to protect yourself and your family in the event of nuclear fallout involving radioactive iodide? Contact Lancs Industries. We’ve provided radiation shielding products and solutions for more than 40 years.



Well-Stocked Radioactive Spill Kits Save Lives

When a radioactive spill or accident takes place, a quick and practiced response is a must. However, responders can only do so much if they don’t have a proper radioactive spill kit on hand.

What’s in Your Radioactive Spill Kit?

The combination of a well-designed, organized and accessible Radioactive Spill Kit, and the implementation of the right contents, mitigates the potential for harm and will save lives.

The contents of your company’s radioactive spill kits will very slightly depending on the hazardous materials used and the information corresponding to their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). However, some of the most common contents required for a spill kit include:

  • “Radioactive Hazard” warning signs (along with posting materials such as easel, A-frame, or similar)
  • “Radioactive” Barrier Tape
  • Yellow rope to clearly isolate a restricted area if necessary
  • Tweezers and tongs for picking up glass or other sharp, dangerous objects
  • Pair of robust scissors
  • Two or more pairs of safety goggles
  • At least two pairs of disposable overshoes
  • Two or more disposable lab coats, coveralls and/or aprons
  • Two or more pairs of disposable gloves
  • Plastic broom or brush for solids (polypropylene)
  • Plastic radioactive waste disposal bags
  • Universal absorbents such as commercial spill pads, pillows, spill socks, and loose absorbents
  • Plastic scoop, dust pan, or shovel. Use plastic (polypropylene) when non-sparking tools are needed.
  • Marker pen or chalk
  • Cotton swabs in relevant sizes
  • Small plastic vials or bags for putting swabs in
  • Sheet of address labels and a pencil
  • Roll of yellow and black ‘Radioactive Material’ adhesive tape.
  • Bleach (if biological agents are used)
  • Cardboard box to hold waste bag and spilled debris
  • Sealing tape
  • Bottle of decontamination solutions relevant to the chemicals in use.
  • Hand soap
  • Detergent or general cleaners for the final cleanup of the area
  • Written contingency procedures for using the kit or for decontamination e.g. from the local safety rules.
  • Contamination monitor – suitable to the isotope being used (no need for H3)

The large majority of these contents, in addition to a pocketed and securely fastened kit are available from us here at Lancs Industries.

Be Prepared for a Radioactive Spill

The goal is to never experience a radioactive spill. The reality, however, is that mistakes happen. For this reason, your company’s Radiation Safety Officer should host regular safety meetings, as well as occasional practice drills and simulations, so employees feel prepared to handle an unexpected accident whenever and wherever it arises.

Read, How do You Stop a Radioactive Spill?, for more specific details. Ultimately, the goal is to move quickly and thoroughly through the following 5 Steps, which create the well-known S-W-I-M-S acronym:

  1. Stop the spill
  2. Warn others
  3. Isolate the area and the spill
  4. Minimize radiation exposure
  5. Stop ventilation

While these steps don’t have to be done in order, they should all be completed to contain the spill and ensure personal, employee and environmental safety. In fact, it’s worthwhile to take your workplace and risk into consideration, determining an order that makes the most sense for your building, individual labs or work spaces and/or the materials you’re working with.

Your Preparedness Can Save Lives

In most cases, radiation sickness takes place via continuous exposure – even low-grade – for long expanses of time. A single, poorly handled spill that leads to permanent contamination can mean a dangerous outcome for employees or those who spend time in the area.

Do your best to adhere to ALARA guidelines, create a safety culture within your company, and to arm yourself with an adequate radioactive spill kit.

Need help assembling your company’s hazardous or radioactive spill kit? Get in touch with the expert radiation shielding innovators here at Lancs Industries. We have everything you need, plus more, and our designers can work with you to create customized spill kit contents specific to your industry or niche.



Is There a Link Between Cell Phones and Cancer?

The debate about the link between cell phones and cancer, or their ability to cause or contribute to cancer is ongoing. Unfortunately, we can’t provide a black-and-white, yes or no answer because they scientific community has made up their minds at large. What we can say is that the most recent evidence – some of which comes out of a study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) – indicates that direct contact between humans and their cell phones does have a biological effect. Whether or not that effect will cause or catalyze the formation of cancer is not 100% clear.

We recommend reading a recent article published in Scientific American for a more detailed account of the NTPs research. You can also consult additional resources that explain the cell phone/cancer debate, as well as supporting and opposing research findings, clearly and concisely. Two good ones are:

NOTE: While cell phones get the brunt of the attention, all wireless gadgets – ranging from laptops to tablets and iPods create intensified RF radiation exposure for their users.

link between cell phones and cancer

Rats get cancer from prolonged exposure to RF radiation

The NTPs study was comprehensive and very thorough. More than 3,000 rodents were used (both rats and mice, and both sexes) and the studies took place consistently over the course of two full years. This is similar to another comprehensive study done in Italy, where more than 2500 rats and mice were tested with similar findings. Together, these are some of the most comprehensive studies of this type to-date.

The concern for the scientists and experts involved in reviewing the study’s findings are that:

  • Rats do get cancer when exposed to prolonged exposure to RF radiation, most specifically a type of brain tumor called a schwannoma.
  • Even prolonged exposure to seemingly “very low” levels of RF still correlated with higher cancer rates
  • It’s hard to determine what exactly “too much” exposure is when it comes to humans.

And, in addition to the brain tumors, the Scientific American article points out:

“The strongest finding connected RF with heart schwannomas in male rats, but the researchers also reported elevated rates of lymphoma as well as cancers affecting the prostate, skin, lung, liver and brain in the exposed animals. Rates for those cancers increased as the doses got higher but the evidence linking them with cell phone radiation specifically was weak by comparison, and the researchers could not rule out that they might have increased for reasons other than RF exposure.”

How can a cell phone cause cancer?

Cell phones rely on a particular type of radiation, called radio-frequency (RF) radiation, to do their job. This energy is actually emitted by the cellular towers that receive and transmit audio and digital messages to your phone. So, in fact, your cell phone is more like a conduit or direct recipient of RF radiation than it is an emitter. Conversely, whether you have a cell phone or not, 20th and 21st century models of communication have long relied on RF emissions, so virtually every human on the planet experiences some level of RF radiation exposure – whether they want to or not.

That being said, it’s important to distinguish between RF radiation and ionizing radiation. Radio-frequency radiation exposes living tissue to heat. This heat-version of radiation excites the affected tissue and the theory is that consistent and/or long-term exposure to it will change the biology of the tissue’s cells. The ramifications of this could be – and may be – cancer.

That is very different than ionizing radiation, which is extremely (and inarguably) harmful to living creatures of all kinds, mainly because it has an immediate and detrimental effect on the cell’s DNA. In some cases, the immediate damage may be immediately visible as well in the form of burns and radiation illness. In other cases, the damage is immediate but the physical side effects of that damage isn’t realized or observable until later down the road.

Radiation is an earthly and earthling phenomenon

It’s important to mention that humans have been exposed to radiation since the beginning of time, well-prior to any industrial or technological innovations. Outer space is chock full of radiation – and we live in outer space – so it’s a part of natural life. However, it’s in the more full, concentrated and consistent doses that things become a problem.

Read, 7 Sources of Everyday Radiation, to learn more about your personal exposure and tips for reducing, blocking or shielding your exposure to everyday radiation.

Minimize your risk to cell-phone induced cancer(s)

While it will be a manner of years, or even decades, until we have clear-cut answers to the question about the link between cell phones and other wireless gadgets and cancer, it seems smart to be aware and minimize personal risk factors.

Some of the most simple and clear-cut things you can do to minimize your own risk (shy of boycotting wireless devices altogether) are:

  1. Turn all wireless gadgets OFF when they’re not in use – particularly at night while you sleep (why have all that RF radiation exposure for nothing?)
  2. Turn your modem/wireless transmitter OFF when not in use and/or at night while everyone is sleeping.
  3. Keep wireless gadgets as far from your body as possible using Bluetooth devices or accessories such as laptop lap pads, which keeps your laptop from coming into direct contact with your body – particularly your reproductive organs.
  4. Use reputable RF radiation shielding products as they become available on the market.

The team at Lancs works tirelessly to create radiation shielding products for individuals, workplaces and environments where radiation is a risk. Take care and protect yourself with good sense and high-quality radiation shielding products.



Types of Radiation Protection via Shielding

The first step in providing radiation protection for the public, employees or those exposed via a specific, radioactive accident is to minimize exposure in terms of quantity of radiation and the length of time victims are exposed. In the case of nuclear fallout, this is easier said than done. However, if you work in a radioactive environment, or your job puts you in close, consistent proximity to radioactive materials, it’s up to your radiation safety officer to ensure the right types of radiation shielding are used.

types of radiation protection

There are a variety of different radiation shielding products on the market

There is a wide range of products design to shield and protect you from direct radiation exposure. These range from physical barriers and materials that contain radioactive materials or radiation in one specific space, to garments, blankets or physical shields that absorb radiation and prevent it from interacting with your cells and their precious DNA.

Ultimately, we recommend working directly with a company specializing in radiation shielding products so you are 100% confident you’re using the right materials for the job.

Three basic ways to shield yourself from radiation

Radiation comes in various forms; alpha radiation is very low-level radiation and has little to no effect on living tissue. Beta radiation is stronger, but is usually combatted via clothing or heavy, garment-like protection. This is important to wear since certain types of beta radiation will burn the skin if it comes in direct contact with it. Finally, the strongest forms of radiation – gamma and x-ray radiation – require the heaviest shielding of all. This type of shielding typically comes in the form of very thick products, like lead or lead-based composites – but are often designed and produced to be flexible, so they can be adapted to different work environments and project needs.

Once you’ve established the type(s) of radiation used, you can begin to create your radiation safety plan, including adequate shielding products.

Shielding for the operator or technician

One of the strongest lines of defenses against radiation exposure in manufacturing, technical or industrial applications is that of creating a barrier or container via radiation-proof materials. This can include the use of:

  • Lead wood blankets with inner and outer covers. Lead wool blankets are a preferred source of protection because they are flexible and effective. Plus, they can be ordered in a range of sizes and thickness, customized to the application. Different shapes are also available upon request.
  • Flexible tungsten, bismuth and/or iron shielding
  • Wheeled racks
  • Various supplies and accessories

For more portable or temporary scenarios, the Lancs QuickRack is an option, providing an inexpensive, lightweight, and alternative way to quickly hang shielding and protect workers from sources of ionizing radiation.

Containment and glove bags

Containment units and glove bags are a staple source of radiation containment in manufacturing and industrial workplaces. By enclosing a contaminated item – or small area – the risk of contamination considerably decreases the risk of contamination. Catch containments – also called containment bags or drip bags – are also available. Larger work areas are better protected via containment tents (see below), which can be designed to fit the size of the work area and its occupants.

Glove bags have a range of different designs – including options for single or multiple workers to be gloved, sleeved and shielded while working in the same, small containment area.

Work tents and containment areas with ventilation

For larger work spaces, radiation protection occurs via work tents or larger containment areas. Because people work inside them, they must have special ventilation systems that provide the tents with fresh air but without contaminating the outside environment.

These tents are highly customizable and range from single-chamber tents (the simplest) to chamber tents that span thousands of square feet. Tents can also be designed to client specifications – including highly-specific needs when it comes to features and project requirements.

In most cases, these units are made with Pacifitex 1800 in yellow or white, for durability and are also fire retardant to optimize worker safety. Doors and window designs are available. Containment tents and radiation protective work areas are designed to provide adequate light and ventilation, and can come with removable floors and roofs for decontamination and extended use.

Protective clothing

From wet suits and one-piece suits, to acid suits, welding jackets, hoods and more – radiation protective clothing is often the best line of defense when it comes to protecting yourself or your employees from radiation exposure. Over the course of the last 50-years, innovations in fabrication have allowed the design of flexible, protective clothing that is easy to get on and off, but provides top-notch shielding from beta and other forms of radiation.

Contact a radiation shielding supplier to customize radiation protection

Ultimately, the best protection from radiation exposure occurs when employers maintain a rigorous safety culture and customize their shielding and protective clothing projects and supplies for the job.

Contact Lancs Industries to learn more about your options or to begin the design of customized protective gear that’s specific to the task at hand. We’ve helped to create a radiation-free world for more than 40 years.



Symptoms of Radiation Poisoning For Those Who Work in Radioactive Environments

The short story is that direct exposure to radiation can negatively impact the DNA in your cells, causing radiation poisoning. If exposure exceeds the maximum recommended limits, immediate treatment is necessary to mitigate the damage. If employees or others experience acute, high-levels of radiation, immediate attention is always advised. However, the majority of radiation poisoning occurs over time, which makes it more difficult to detect.

Low-levels of radiation exposure, experienced consistently and for extended periods of time, can also cause radiation poisoning – also called radiation sickness – that can lead to life-threatening situations as well as terminal illness.

symptoms of radiation poisoning

Recognize the Symptoms of Radiation Poisoning

Knowing the signs and symptoms of radiation poisoning supports you in identifying them in yourself, a loved one or a co-worker who may have been affected. It’s important to note that radiation poisoning is not caused by forms of non-ionizing radiation – such as the type used in microwaves, cell phones, or radar. Rather, it is caused by ionizing radiation emitted from x-rays, gamma rays and materials used in certain industrial and manufacturing industries. Particular bombardment, often used in medical testing and treatment, as well as weapons manufacturing and testing, also contribute to ionizing radioactive exposure.

Sometimes, harmful radiation exposure occurs as an accident, as is the case with nuclear facilities meltdowns; other times it’s the result of an employer’s failure to protect employees via radiation shielding, protective clothing, a means of accurately measuring and detecting employees’ exposure, etc.

Symptoms of radiation sickness include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from body orifices, typically mouth, nose, gums and/or anus
  • Bruising, burns or sloughing off of the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Inflammation of exposed (affected) area – redness, swelling, tenderness and/or bleeding)
  • Ulcers or sores in the mouth, throat, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract

If you suspect yourself or someone you know is suffering from radiation poisoning, it’s imperative that you take immediate action. The greater the radiation exposure is, the more rapid symptoms will appear and the more severe they tend to be.

Protect Yourself and Decontaminate the Victim if Possible

If the exposure was direct, there is a good chance you and others are at risk as any liquid or particulate matter on or near the victim will expose you as well. Alert the Radiation Safety Officer or safety manager ASAP and immediately refer to documents instructing you what to do in this type of situation – often a part of the ALARA safety program.

Also, you will need to alert first-responders, EMTs and the nearest hospital that you suspect radiation poisoning. By now, most hospitals have a protocol in place at receive, admit and treat individuals who have been contaminated by radiation or radioactive materials. However, smaller hospitals may refer you elsewhere or recommend specific means of transportation so adhering to their instructions is essential to obtaining treatment for the contaminated individual as quickly as possible.

Know Your Exposure Limits

In addition to recognizing the symptoms of illnesses related to radiation exposure, it’s equally important to know and adhere to regulated exposure limits. Never, under any circumstances, should you expose yourself or others to limits that exceed current safety guidelines.

Currently, radiation exposure maximums are:

  • 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

Read, Know Your Radiation Exposure Limits for more detailed information on the topic.

Also, make sure you always wear a dosimeter or that radiation monitoring takes place consistently where you’re working to accurately track, monitor and record exposure limits.

Treat Radiation Exposure Immediately

Steps for treating radiation exposure beyond recommended levels include:

  • Attending to CPR and any other immediate medical concerns as safely and efficiently as possible.
  • Remove clothing and accessories (if any) to halt as much continued exposure as possible and seal them up completely.
  • Scrub the victim’s skin with soap and water thoroughly and vigorously to remove the remaining contaminant.
  • Use a soft, dry blanket to dry the victim and keep him/her warm.
  • Call 911 or transport the victim to the nearest, qualified medical center or hospital
  • Contact your company’s safety managers and local safety authorities to report the incident.

There are also things you should NEVER do in the case of acute radiation poisoning.

NEVER:

  • Remain in an area where the radiation exposure occurred
  • Remain in contaminated clothing
  • Apply ointment or creams to burns or contaminated areas on the body
  • Hesitate to contact medical authorities and to report the incident to necessary safety agencies.

Lancs Industries works tirelessly to prevent harmful radiation exposure leading to illness or poisoning. Contact us to learn more about our products, designed specifically to keep you and your co-workers safe in radioactive environments.



What is a Radiation Safety Officer

Any company or business requiring employees to work with or around radiation and/or radioactive materials should have a clear Radiation Safety Program in place, and that program is traditionally led by a designated (qualified) Radiation Safety Officer. If your company is registered with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), you are required to have a designated Radiation Safety Officer – and the designation must be in writing.

This designation requires both a certain level of education, knowledge, training and credentials. Different employers and HR department have different guidelines or requirements – with hospitals and universities typically requiring a college degree in a scientific or technical field as well as a number of years of radiation safety training.

Also, only regulatory agencies can “pronounce” you a radiation safety officer. So, no matter how great a job you may have done at your place of employment overseeing RSO-related duties, and even if your boss says you’re the RSO, you’ll need to write a letter to your state’s regulatory agency, requesting official designation. This letter should include and/or attach your diploma, qualifications/certifications, proof of any RSO training you’ve had, work experience/training, etc.

radiation safety officer

Who is the Radiation Safety Officer?

Depending on the size of your company, the radiation safety officer (RSO) may be a full-time position in and of itself; smaller companies may have a key management person or safety manager take on the responsibilities of an RSO, above and beyond their regular weekday duties and job responsibilities.

Optimally, medium- to large businesses have a radiation safety committee, and the RSO supports that committee in its duties and serves on the committee, often in the capacity of secretary and record keeper.

What Does the RSO Do?

As part of overseeing the company’s radiation safety program and training, a radiation safety officer is responsible for:

  • Performing an annual review of the company’s radiation safety program and adherence to ALARA for the year.
  • Compiling quarterly reports of occupational/personal worker exposure to radiation for the quarter.
  • Putting together a quarterly compilation of radiation levels in both restricted and unrestricted areas, comparing them with previous quarters and ensuring they were at ALARA levels.
  • Organize and schedule regular briefings, trainings and educational sessions that instruct employees about radiation safety and the ALARA program(s) put in place.
  • Investigate and report on any instances where radiation exposure was over and beyond the maximum acceptable levels.
  • Ensure that all actions and/or incidences related to radioactive materials and radiation exposure take place within and under regulatory guidelines at both the federal, state and local levels.

While many of these tasks can be delegated and overseen by the RSO and the Radiation Safety Committee and/or safety management team, the ultimate responsibility and liability rests on the RSO’s shoulders.

Training Required for RSOs

Again, requirements vary – with some companies requiring a PhD in nuclear physics, and others requiring a high school diploma and ample radiation safety training.

There are varying levels of coursework, education and training required to become an RSO. The most basic training and certification includes completing and passing a 40-Hour RSO Short Course. However, the size and complexity of your company’s interactions with radioactive materials dictates how much training and experience are required.

Ultimately, RSO’s lead the education and training (not to mention safety program) at their places of work, and that means having sufficient knowledge and experience to teach and train employees and staff regarding:

RSO’s do a tremendous amount of record keeping and safeguarding sensitive files so organizational skills as well as discretion are essential character traits.

How Much do RSO’s Make?

There is no once salary fits all answer to the question of how much RSOs make. The larger the employer, the greater your qualifications, the higher your salary. With that being said, work.chron.com cites that RSO’s with PhDs in nuclear engineering can make as much as $180,000 per year, with the average salary hovering right around the $134,000 mark. On the other hand, those with a master’s degree earn around $126,822, and those with a bachelor’s degree earn closer to $124,161.

Then again, if you work for a smaller company and/or your RSO duties are adjunct to your regular responsibilities, you may earn as low as $66,000 or so.

Are you an RSO looking to make your workplace and employees as safe as possible? Contact us here at Lancs Industries to learn more about radiation shielding and protective clothing products.



What is a Dosimeter?

Ionizing radiation is harmful. At best, it causes radiation sickness and/or burns; at its worst, it’s fatal or is the cause of terminal cancers and other health conditions that can be fatal. Fortunately, radiation dosimeters come in various sizes and styles, but are ultimately designed to measure the levels of harmful ionizing radiation as a safety precaution.

Smaller models can be worn by those working in radioactive environments to monitor their exposure in real-time, as well as to keep track of cumulative exposure overtime, since slow and continuous exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation is as harmful – or more so – than acute, high doses in a single exposure. They are a standard tool in radioactive industries and careers, as well as in the disciplines of radiation dosimetry and radiation health physics.

what is a dosimiter

What is a Dosimiter and How Does it Measure Radiation?

These devices are made using radiation sensitive materials to measure exposure to gamma radiation, x-radiation and high-energy beta radiation (such as P-32). In addition to measuring and recording whole body doses, some dosimeters are designed to measure immediate, localized, radiation exposure.

The types worn by employees or personnel working in and around ionizing radiation exposure are called radiation badges, and can be clipped onto their protective clothing. Radiation dosimeters are most commonly worn and used by those whose work puts them at risk for maximum exposure limits:

  • Occupational whole body dose limit is 5,000 millirems per year
  • Dose limit to the extremities (hands, fingers, etc.) is 50,000 millirems per year

Professionals and employees most likely to use and/or wear a radiation badge include:

  • Nuclear power plant workers
  • Radiographers
  • Physicians working in the field of radiotherapy
  • Laboratory staff using radioactive materials
  • HAZMAT teams when called to nuclear disasters and/or to investigate suspected cases of harmful occupational radiation exposure

It is important to note that while dosimeters measure radiation exposure, they do not protect the wearer from the exposure and are not considered radiation shielding.

5 Types of Radiation Dosimeters

There are five different types of radiation dosimeters.

  1. Electronic Personal Dosimeter (EPD). These personal electronic devices are most often used in scenarios where there is high dose radiation exposure, and where employees are only working within those high exposure limits for a short time. EPDs have several sophisticated functions and can be reset after taking a reading – which is recorded – for reuse.
  2. MOSFET Dosimeter. These are used as clinical dosimeters in order to measure the radiation levels of radiotherapy radiation beams. MOSFET dosimeters provide readings within extremely thin active areas and are very small in size. The dosimeter’s post radiation signals are permanently stored.
  3. Film Badge Dosimeter. These tools are designed for one-time use, after which they are no longer functional. Radiation level absorption is shown via changes in the film emulsion and is evident after the film is developed.
  4. Quartz Fiber Dosimeter (QFD). QFDs are the precursors to EFDs and are now being superseded by them. Also designed for one-time use, QFDs are charged to a high voltage and readings are taken in response to the changes in electrical charge, which is proportional to radiation exposure levels.
  5. Thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLD). This type of dosimeter uses a crystal that emits light when exposed to heat, caused by radiation exposure. The intensity of the visible light is measure, indicating the level of exposure. As with EFDs, TLDs are being used more and more in place of QFDs.

Dosimeters Are and Essential Part of Radiation Safety Programs

Ultimately, dosimeters and radiation badges are essential parts of any company’s radiation safety program, and should be used regularly, and diligently, as per manufacturer’s recommendations to keep worker’s radiation exposure well below maximum levels. Dosimeters should be used in compliance with industry best standards, as well as all the necessary radiation shielding and protective clothing products used to keep employees safe.

Interested in learning more about the types of radioactive shielding and protective clothing products available? Contact us here at Lancs Industries. We’ve created innovative, durable and proven radiation shielding products for more than four decades, and we’re always happy to work with clients to design custom products for their unique work environments and/or situations.