# Accidental contact with a radioactive substance

1. Jul 10, 2008

### roy2008

If I came into accidental contact with a radioactive substance, and it got say on my hands and watch. Obviously I can wash my hands off, but also could I ujust wipe the contamination off the watch? Or would it remain contaminated? Thanks.

2. Jul 10, 2008

### Mech_Engineer

Re: decontamination

I have to say all of your questions pertaining to radioactive contamination make me very nervous. If you don't have the proper training to know what to do in situations like this, you have no business getting anywhere near radioactive substances that you could potentially get contamination from.

At my job when you have to work in radiation areas, you dress up in a full cleanroom-style suit, wearing two pairs of gloves with tape on the sleeves and zippers, and booties over your shoes with tape around the ankles. When leaving the area you carefully remove the entire suit and leave it in collection bins within the area, and then monitor yourself to make sure you have not been contaminated. If you determine that you are contaminated, you call a specially trained radiological control technician who decides the best course of action for removal of the contamination.

Dealing with radioactive substances with no personal protective equipment is a very dangerous proposition IMO. Where do you think you may have gotten radioactive contamination?

Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
3. Jul 10, 2008

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Re: decontamination

In the normal everyday world, unless one works with radioactive materials, one will not come in contact with radioactive materials either accidentally or deliberately. One does not need to worry about in the home.

4. Jul 10, 2008

### DaveC426913

Re: decontamination

The short answers are: no, yes.

i.e. wiping it will not simply remove the contaminant. Radioactive substances can be present in extremely small quantities and still do damage. You should go to a hospital; they will have radiation detectors which will conclusively determine whether you are contaminated. You might want to do that sooner rather than later, before you risk contaminating other people in your home or workplace.

5. Jul 10, 2008

### roy2008

Re: decontamination

Please do not be nervous. I do not work in or around these materials-I actually work in finance. I am asking these questions because I unfiortunately suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder to a very severe degree, and while most with ocd are afraid of germs, etc-my fear happens to be radioactive contamination. I cannot seem to shake the fear of this happening-even though I do realize it is extremely unlikely and not a rational fear. I guess it just kind of makes me feel a little bit better seeing veryone's comments-especially since some of you work with in thisfield, thats all. I guess I am just looking for reassurance. But I assure you, there is nothing to be nervous about. Im just trying to overcome the "phobia". And I do really appreciate everyone's comments.

6. Jul 10, 2008

### DaveC426913

Re: decontamination

Why don't you simply get a Geiger counter?

7. Jul 10, 2008

### vanesch

Staff Emeritus
Re: decontamination

We've been through that already. I guess there are two kinds of solution to your problem, as had been suggested earlier: the first one is to get psychiatric help, to help you cope with the situation. The other one is to buy yourself a simple handheld dosimeter. I had posted a few links to sites where you can buy that stuff. For $500 -$1000 you have a professional apparatus which can detect even very small amounts of radiation which aren't even dangerous. A few brands which come to mind are Rados, Berthold, Novelec,... but there are several of them. Radiation, contrary to biological agents, has the advantage of being extremely easily detectable. If you have a lot of $$to spend, you can even buy a whole-body scanner. That's in fact the same kind of apparatus, only, there are lots of them, and you just have to stand for a few seconds near it. 8. Jul 11, 2008 ### roy2008 Re: decontamination I guess I will try buying a dosimeter. Perhaps that will solve the problem. I thank you all for your comments and time in your responses. I am currently getting psychiatric help-its just that so far it hasnt helped. Oh, well-I'll keep trying. But thank you all again for your advice and comments! 9. Jul 11, 2008 ### daveb Re: decontamination It all depends on the type and isotope. Many powders or liquids will wash off in the sink with soap and water, and there are commercially available decontamination supplies. Windex seems to work well too for a good number of isotopes you might encounter in nuclear medicine. Inhaled contamination is more difficult and pretty much can't be removed unless it's a noble gas (and I've heard that xenon sometimes gets physically absorbed into fatty tissue). Sealed sources these days don't really leak (unless it's a really old source) since they're resin based. 10. Jul 11, 2008 ### Astronuc Staff Emeritus Re: decontamination Unless one works in a nuclear power plant (with BWR) doing service on the primary ciruit, turbine or off-gas system, and only when there is leaking fuel, one will not be exposed to Xe or Kr isotopes. Roy perhaps it's best to by an inexpensive radiation detector as some kind of assurance. Please realize that there are many 1000's of people working in the nuclear and airline industries who are more likely to be exposed to radiation, and while it's more than the general public, it's still very low. They generally do not show ill-effects, and they do not show higher rates of diseases like cancer than the normal population. 11. Jul 11, 2008 ### vanesch Staff Emeritus Re: decontamination Look at it this way: you have a phobia for which there exists a not-too-expensive solution to reassure you: a dosimeter. If you would have suffered a phobia for alien bodysnatchers, it would be much harder to provide you with a way to bring peace to your mind: there are no alien bodysnatcher detectors. As many people pointed out, the probability that the dosimeter will actually indicate something (above background level) is essentially nihil - which is why most people don't need such a dosimeter in the first place. But it is a simple solution. It might also be that after you've been testing yourself, your desk and all that for a year or so, you will integrate the fact that all stuff around you is not seriously radioactive, and you will be able to cope without - as most of us do. EDIT: I did a search for you for hand-held detectors: http://www.geigercounters.com/Pocket.htm [Broken] general purpose or: http://www.jrtassociates.com/emergency_prep/radiation_detection/survey_meters/general_survey_meters/m_survey_meter_rds30.html [Broken] the RDS-30 is the routine survey meter we use to find out whether we have a potential problem or not (not extremely sensitive). You can find more survey and dosimeters here: http://www.jrtassoc.com/emergency_prep/radiation_detection/index.html or: http://www.novelec.fr/descriptionDG5.htm#DG5 [Broken] by Novelec (extremely sensitive !) If you have a lot of$$\$, a whole-body scan apparatus (we use some of these):

There's much more out there...

Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
12. Jul 11, 2008

### Mech_Engineer

Re: decontamination

Its always a surprise to people when they hear that the profession with the highest average radiation dose per year is not in the nuclear industry, or the national labs; in fact it is airline pilots and stewards. Because modern airplanes fly above a significant portion of the atmosphere (30,000ft + or higher), workers that spend lots of time in the air are exposed to much higher doses of cosmic rays than people that live at sea level for example.

I think that buying a personal radiation detector is an excellent option. One can be had relatively cheaply, and will be able to directly assuage your fears since it will tell you if there is any radioactive contamination on a surface. It will be useful to also see what normal everyday objects and materials have measurable amounts or radioactivity, like certain types of ceramic pottery and concrete.

Last edited: Jul 11, 2008
13. Jul 11, 2008

### roy2008

Re: decontamination

from the bottom of my heart-thank you all for your reassurances. I am going to take your suggestions, and I bet after testing for a while my mind will get bored of this silly phobia and move. Thanks for all of your responses, and maybe in a few weeks I'll let you know how its going with my new detction "toy" All of you have a wonderful weekend!

14. Jul 14, 2008

### Homer Simpson

Re: decontamination

A guy I work with tested in a whole body monitor positive for Cesium... I think they figured it was likely from deer meat he had eaten from up north, which apparently can have low levels of contam left over from the Chernobyl days. So I would suggest building an electric deer fence around your kitchen. :surprised

(of course the Cs levels he had were insignificant)

15. Jul 15, 2008

### chayced

Re: decontamination

Homer sounds like your friend ate some C.R.U.D. or Chalk River Unknown Deposits, from what I understand they are still floating around in the ecosystem in Canada a bit. Not much of a worry though, whole body monitors are designed to be very sensitive. In fact if you receive any nuclear imaging involving isotopes you could be setting them off, at a distance, for weeks.

Decontamination is really pretty simple. If your watch got contaminated then it could possibly get decontaminated by applying and removing adhesive tape (if it was loose surface contamination.) or alternatively it might be permanent (if it was internal contamination or fixed surface contamination.) But really there is no reason to be concerned, I do understand that phobias are irrational, but please try to focus it on something a little more likely. Nuclear radiation/contamination has only cause a small handful of deaths in the history of mankind (excluding nuclear weapons which are designed to kill.) Chernobyl caused only 57 deaths that can be directly attributed and those were people who were at ground zero and directly involved with the open core. Three mile island caused no attributable deaths, but it shut down US nuclear development until now. I'd be much more afraid of getting struck by lightning.

Oh one more thing, the sun gives off radiation. So do ciggerattes, because of alpha emiters in the tobacco. Radiation and contamination are all around us. In fact C-14 is inside all of us and naturaly there.