Office of Research

XVIII. Decontamination

A.        Area Decontamination Action Levels

1.         If laboratory contamination is localized (e.g. small portion of a workbench or floor) and is found to be 200 dpm/100 cm2 or more (as determined by wipe tests), then the area will be posted as contaminated and/or decontaminated.

2.         If laboratory contamination is widespread, (e.g. on workbench, chairs, floor, refrigerator etc.) or if removable contamination in any area exceeds 1,000 dpm/100 cm2 alpha or 50,000 dpm/100 cm2 beta/gamma, it should be reported to the R.S.O.

B.        Personnel Decontamination

1.         Skin Contamination, even in small amounts, should be treated seriously.  External contamination results in local skin exposure.  Radionuclides may penetrate intact skin, especially when organic solvents are present.  Contamination may be ingested or inhaled and may be spread to other areas or personnel.  Therefore, it is most critical to remove loose contamination as quickly and safely as possible.  In general, except for decontamination of hands, all procedures should be supervised by the R.S.O. or their designee.

  a.         The following procedures should be used to decontaminate the skin

1. Prior to commencing personnel decontamination carefully monitor the contaminated area to establish the level of contamination.  This is important so that dose to the contaminated area can be calculated      

  2. Wet contaminated area and apply mild soap; use warm -- not hot water.

3. Work up a good lather and use a soft bristled brush, if necessary.  Clean the area as you would normally.
       4. Dry and monitor between washes.
       5. If contamination levels are still detectable after three washings, notify radiation safety personnel. 

b.         Hair decontamination:

    1.      Shampoo hair in the normal manner with the head deflected to the side or backwards
    2.      Rinse well with warm water, towel dry and monitor for contamination. If no activity is detectable, allow the hair to completely dry and resurvey by direct frisk.
    3.      Even small amounts of water can mask detection of beta contamination

c.         If eyes are contaminated: 

    1. Contact the R.S.O.
    2. Spread eyelids and rinse gently with water in a direction from the nose to edge of the face.

d.         If  whole body contamination exists notify the R.S.O.

Personnel with whole body contamination will be dressed in full body disposal coveralls and transported to the Radiation Safety Facility for decontamination in a personnel decontamination shower.

1. Remove all clothing and bag.
2. Shower immediately with water; brush with mild soap.
3. Repeat at least twice.
4. Towel dry and perform a whole body frisk.

e.         Contaminated wounds

Any wound acquired in the presence of loose surface contamination or while working with unsealed radionuclides should be considered contaminated until proven otherwise.  The following procedures should be instituted.

    1. Notify the campus R.S.O. immediately.
     2. Rinse the wound under running water.
     3. Delimit contaminated area with waterproof material.
     4. Decontaminate the skin around wound.
     5. Remove wound cover and apply sterile dressing
     6. If highly radiotoxic substances are involved, a venous tourniquet may be applied close to the wound.


2.         If facial contamination occurs or if internal contamination is suspected, the following action should be taken.

a.         Notify the R.S.O.

b.     Determine the time of accident, the type of uptake (ingestion, inhalation, absorption), the radionuclide involved, and the chemical nature and level of activity of the contaminant if possible