Important Updates on Research Continuity during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

Instructions for Laboratories

Radiation Safety FAQs

The University of Chicago Committee on Radiation Safety approves the applications for non-human use of radioactive material under University radioactive material license. 

The University of Chicago Medicine Radioisotope and Radioactive Drug Research Advisory Committee approves authorized users and applications for human use of radioactive material.

In order to purchase, use, possess, and store radioactive material, an application for non-human use of radioactive material must be on file with the radiation safety team

University of Chicago faculty members.

Initial applications and amendments must be approved by the University’s Committee on Radiation Safety. The review and approval process may take several weeks, so applications and amendments should be submitted well in advance of the proposed use.

Please be advised that some applications for unusual items may require an amendment to the University’s radioactive material license. The amendment must be filed with our regulatory agency, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Division of Nuclear Safety. License amendments generally require several months for approval. The radiation safety team will notify applicants when their application will be delayed pending a licensing amendment.

An application to use radioactive material is approved for two calendar years.

Amendments are considered changes in laboratory locations, radiochemicals, radiochemical order limits, proposed uses, and laboratory personnel who work with radioactive material. An amendment application form must be submitted to the radiation safety team prior to making these changes.

Your laboratory may only order radionuclides in the specific isotope, chemical forms, and monthly order activity limits listed on the principal investigator’s application. 

Orders for unauthorized radiochemicals or activities beyond those specified on the principal investigator’s application will not be approved.

No, all radioactive material orders must be approved by the radiation team prior to submittal to the vendor. Remember to click on the radioisotope button in the BuySite procurement system to ensure the order is sent to the radiation safety team for approval.

Laboratories are required to pick up their radioactive material orders. Orders are distributed between 1 and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, from Room W-01 in Billings Hospital. Laboratory personnel will be notified by telephone that their order has arrived.

The receipt and disposal form is provided to the laboratory for each radioactive material order received. This form tracks the usage and disposal of the radioactive material for each vial received. The form must be properly completed to track the material from receipt to disposal. Once the vial is empty or the material is no longer useful, the vial should be properly disposed of, and the disposal recorded. The completed form must be submitted to the radiation safety team, so that the inventory item can be removed from the researcher inventory list.

The radioactive material physical inventory form is sent quarterly to each principal investigator and their laboratory designee listing the radioactive material on hand in their laboratory. This form must be completed, signed by the principal investigator or laboratory designee, and returned by the due date. Radioactive material ordering privileges will be suspended when the inventory form is not returned within the prescribed time. Please note that the principal investigators account will be charged a late fee for inventory forms received after the due date. 

These inventory records are required by the University radioactive material license and state regulations. The inventory records are maintained by the radiation safety team for review by regulatory inspectors.

All radioactive material transferred to another user at the University of Chicago must be approved by the radiation safety team. The department or laboratory that will be transferring the radioactive material must call our office and state the name of the principal investigator to receive the material, the radionuclide, the activity, and the chemical form. This will ensure that the recipient principal investigator is approved for the radioactive material.

Principal investigators receiving radioactive material as loan or gift from outside the university are required to have an approved application for the material to be received and must promptly notify the radiation safety team of the delivery date of the radioactive material. The radioactive material package must be shipped to the radiation safety team.

No, radioactive material being shipped outside the University must be approved by the radiation safety team. Our trained staff will complete the shipment. Laboratory personnel are not to ship radioactive material or transport radioactive material in any vehicle. To ship radioactive material to another institution, our office must have authorization from the recipient institution’s radiation safety team. Please notify our office in advance of the shipping date, so that our staff may obtain the necessary licensing documents and shipping address from the recipient institution. Research groups will need to provide a Federal Express account number for each shipment.

A declared pregnant worker is a worker who declares her pregnancy to her supervisor and the radiation safety team. This declaration must be in writing and include the estimated date of conception.

Individuals are required to wear a radiation dosimeter if their work is associated with radiation that is likely to result in exposures above 10% of recommended occupational exposure limits (or above 5% if they're younger than 18). 

Whole body badges and extremity badges are issued for a two-month wear cycle and are used to monitor exposure from high-energy beta, gamma-ray, and neutron sources.

Whole body badges and ring badges do not respond to the weak beta radiation from H-3, C-14, or S-35. Workers who use H-3 and C-14, and less than 1 mCi a month of S-35 or P-32, are not required to wear a radiation badge, but may request one. Workers using 1 mCi a month or more of P-32 or other high energy beta emitter must wear a whole body badge.

Workers who use 10 mCi or more of P-32 or other high-energy beta emitters at a time or use more than 1 mCi of a gamma-ray source are required to wear a whole body dosimeter and ring badge.

Obtain a radiation monitor badge request card. Cards are available from the radiation team or at the badge drop off location. Complete the front and back of the card with signatures and return to our main office in the Billings Hospital, room M-031A.

Obtain a radiation monitor badge request card. Cards are available from the radiation safety team or at the badge drop off location. Complete the front and back of the card with signatures and return to our main office in the Billings Hospital, room M-031A.

Badges have to be ordered and discontinued by the radiation safety team several weeks in advance. Request cards must be received in our main office (Billings Hospital, room M-031A) by the 15th of the month to ensure that a permanent badge is started or canceled, effective the first of the following month. 

If the deadline for starting a permanent badge for the next month has been missed, the radiation safety team can assign a temporary film badge. Indicate on the request card that a temporary film badge is needed until the permanent badge starts. The temporary film badge will be available for pick up in Billings Hospital, room M-031A.

The radiation monitoring badges are distributed by Radiation Safety staff at predetermined drop-off locations near the end of the current wear period. Film badges for the previous month must be returned to the drop-off location by the 10th of the of the month of the current (new) badge wear period.

Old badges from the previous wear period must be returned to the drop-off location by the 10th day of the month of the current (new) badge wear period

The whole body dosimeter should be worn on the area of the whole body (from the knee up and elbow up) most likely to receive the highest exposure (for example, on the upper chest area) with the identification sticker facing forward. If lead aprons are worn, the badge should be clipped to the shirt collar or to the outside of the top of the lead apron to measure exposure to the eyes. Supplemental badges, if issued, may be worn under the lead apron, but readings obtained from such badges do not accurately measure exposure to the eyes or thyroid. 

Ring badges should be worn on the dominant hand with the label facing in the direction that your hand will receive the highest radiation exposure. This badge must be protected from contamination; therefore, it must be worn under gloves when you are working with radioactive material.

No, radiation monitoring badges are to be worn only by the individual to whom they are assigned to.

Radiation monitoring records are maintained by the radiation safety team. Monitored individuals are encouraged to request their radiation exposure readings. Written requests for exposure information should be directed to the radiation safety team. Annual reports are submitted to departments for distribution to monitored individuals within the department.

In addition to providing a limit on a person’s annual radiation exposure, our regulatory agency also requires that its licensees maintain occupational exposures to as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA), or as far below the limit as reasonably achievable. This means that every activity at a nuclear facility involving exposure to radiation should be planned so as to minimize unnecessary exposure to individual workers and the worker population. A job that involves exposure to radiation should be scheduled only when it is clear that the benefit justifies the risks assumed. All design, construction, and operating procedures should be reviewed with the objective of reducing unnecessary exposures.

Surveying for contamination must be performed by the radioactive material user during and after each experiment or use. Each laboratory is required to conduct and document a survey once a week unless radioactive material has not been used since the last documented survey. Particular attention should be directed to the hands, shoe soles, lab coats, working surfaces, equipment used, waste storage areas and containers, radioactive material storage units, and the floor in the working area.

For usage of 250 µCi per month or more

Each laboratory is required to document a survey once a week unless radioactive material has not been used since the last documented survey. That means a survey is only required to be documented weekly during the times you use the material. (For example, if the survey was documented on Friday and someone used material on Saturday, you need to document a survey the following week, even if there was no more material used the next week.) Therefore, a survey is not required based solely upon items being on the laboratory inventory. The use of any isotope requires a documented survey for the corresponding week.

For usage of less than 250 µCi per month

The laboratory possessing and using less than 250 µCi per month may apply for a monthly survey frequency that must be approved by the radiation safety team. If a laboratory is not approved for a monthly survey frequency, they must document surveys weekly, as described above.

Standardized survey forms

Surveys must be documented with one of the standardized survey forms provided by radiation safety team. The entries on either survey form must show the areas surveyed, the date of the survey, the radiation measurements, the instrument used, decontamination results, and the initials of the person or people performing the survey.

The standardized survey form provides some brief instructions and includes a check box to signify the weeks you had no usage since the last survey. It is recommended that the laboratory staff check the package receipt and disposal records boses each week to determine if radioactive material was used during the week (since the last survey), and to determine whether or not a documented survey is required. 

Users working with H-3 must perform wipe tests to survey for contamination and use a liquid scintillation counter to analyze the wipe tests. The following procedure must be followed when performing the wipe tests:

  1. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including gloves and lab coat
  2. Use small pieces of absorbent material (such as Kimwipe, filter paper, paper towel, cotton-tipped applicator) for wiping the area to be surveyed
  3. Wipe an area of 100 cm2 or more for each area to be surveyed
  4. Wipe all potentially contaminated areas in an S-shaped pattern
  5. Place each wipe sample in a vial (one sample per vial) and add the appropriate type and volume of cocktail to each vial (4 ml for a 5 ml vial)
  6. Prepare a blank wipe sample to determine the background reading
  7. Count each sample (including the background sample) for one minute
  8. Use the liquid scintillation counter protocol that is programmed for detection of the appropriate isotope energies

Radioactive material users working with I-125 must use a survey instrument with a sodium iodide scintillation detector to survey for contamination. Remember to complete the battery test and operational check prior to use.

Radioactive material users working with C-14, Na-22, P-32, P-33, S-35, Cl-36, Ca-45, Cr-51, Zn-65, Rb-86, Nb-95, Tc-99m, or I-123 must use a survey instrument with a thin-end window or pancake Geiger-Müeller (G-M) detector to survey for contamination or exposure rates. Remember to complete the battery test and operational check prior to use.

Researchers are required to conduct decontamination procedures when removable contamination exceeds the action levels listed below. 

  • Wipe test greater than 400 cpm
  • Removable contamination above the survey instrument background exposure reading for Geiger-Müeller and NaI probes

Removable contamination is defined as radioactivity that can be transferred from a surface to a smear paper by rubbing with moderate pressure.

After decontamination has been completed the area where the contamination was present must be resurveyed following the appropriate procedure to ensure the area is properly decontaminated. The contamination incident must be properly documented on the survey report.

Fixed contamination is defined as radioactivity remaining on a surface after repeated decontamination attempts fail to significantly reduce the contamination level. You may expect to find elevated exposure rates around your waste storage areas, stock and sample storage areas, and work areas.

Researchers are required to ensure exposure rates in occupied areas are as low as reasonably achievable. Therefore, appropriate shielding must be used to decrease exposure rates in these areas below the action levels listed below: 

  • GM survey instrument reading >0.25 mR/hr or 600 cpm, or 6 cps for Mini-Monitors and Rad-Monitors that read in cps
  • NaI survey instrument reading >1000 cpm

After shielding of the fixed contamination or area of elevated exposure rates the area must be resurveyed to ensure the shielding has been properly positioned and sufficient shielding thickness was used. The actions taken to reduce the exposure rate must be properly documented on the survey report.