Appendix A: Tritium Information and Safe Handling Guide

Radioactive half-life 12.4 years
Decay mechanism Beta emission
Energy Emax = 18.6 KeV
Contamination monitoring Liquid scintillation counter for wipe surveys.
Dosimetry Urinalysis bioassay
Shielding Glass and Plastic

  • Because the beta emitted has a very low energy, tritium cannot be detected with the usual survey meters. Therefore, special care is needed to keep the work area from becoming contaminated. Tritium can be detected by doing a wipe survey and counting the wipes in a liquid scintillation counter.
  • Beta particles from tritium travel a maximum of 6 mm in air.
  • The maximum permissible body burden to the whole body is 1 millicurie.

Safety Rules

  • Designate a specific area of the laboratory for all tritium experiments.
  • All personnel who handle tritium must wear full-length laboratory coats.
  • Many tritiated compounds readily penetrate gloves and skin. Wearing two pairs of gloves and changing the outer pair every 15 or 20 minutes will reduce the chance of contamination and absorption through the skin.
  • Pipettes dedicated for the use of tritium should be used. These pipettes should not be used for other purposes as they are easily contaminated by H-3.

Laboratory Cleanup after Use

  • Conduct wipe tests using the liquid scintillation counter, checking all work areas and equipment used. Check the floor at the area where the isotope was used.
  • If any contamination is found, use a commercial radiation contamination remover such as Count Off, with paper towels, to clean the contaminated area.
  • Place the contaminated paper towels in a receptacle labeled as radiation waste.
  • If the contamination cannot be removed, label the area or equipment as radioactive, noting the isotope, the date of contamination, and the maximum dpm found.
  • If any un-removable radiation is found, contact the University Radiation Safety Officer.
  • Check the normal trash container to ensure that no radioactive waste was placed there.
  • Store all radioactive waste in specially marked containers.
  • Send a Radiation Survey report to the University Radiation Safety Officer.