Radiation Workers and Pregnancy by Thomas Cummings and Shira Abraham

If you work near radiation and are pregnant or may become pregnant, federal law protects you against job discrimination. With a few simple steps, you can also ensure that your unborn child is protected from occupational radiation exposure.  If you become pregnant, you are entitled to voluntarily submit a Declaration of Pregnancy form to the Radiation Safety Office. This form is part of the Radiation Protection Policy for Pregnant Workers which must be posted in all laboratories that use radioactive materials. Once the Declaration is filed, a physicist from the Radiation Safety Office will meet with you to answer any questions you may have, and to determine whether your situation requires any reassignment of your job duties. In most cases, job re-assignment will not be necessary because the majority of workers receive exposures well below the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) limits. The Declaration is confidential, and the Radiation Safety Office will not discuss your pregnancy status with anyone without your consent.

 Once a pregnancy has been declared, radiation dose to the fetus is tracked via a fetal badge monitor that is given to the worker in addition to a regular dosimetry badge. Since the radiation dose to the fetus is limited to 500 mrem for the duration of the pregnancy, radiation workers are urged to declare their pregnancy as early as possible. Once a worker declares their pregnancy, the Radiation Safety Office will monitor the dose to the fetus to ensure that for the remaining period of pregnancy, the exposure will be less than 50 mrem per month.

 Principal Investigators must ensure that the Radiation Protection Policy for Pregnant Workers is posted in a prominent place in the laboratory.  In discussing the issue with an employee, PI’s should note the importance of extra fetal monitoring and emphasize that pregnant workers are protected by law against job discrimination. In the case where job re-assignment is necessary, the Radiation Safety Office will be available to discuss alternatives with the individual and the immediate supervisor. Remember: filing a Declaration of Pregnancy is the best policy for everyone – especially the fetus.

Aerosols Cans: They aren’t just regular trash by Lauren Kelly

There is a consistent interpretation of environmental regulations that characterizes aerosol cans,   whether the can is full, empty or somewhere in between, “hazardous waste” when disposed.  Since many aerosols contain environmentally harmful contents for example a flammable propellant, or flammable or halogenated solvents) and/or are under pressure, all aerosol cans must be handled through the University’s hazardous waste management program for disposal. Aerosol cans must NEVER be crushed or punctured, placed in the trash or red bag waste containers, or stored at high temperatures.  Mismanagement of aerosol cans can result in serious injury and/or environmental contamination.  To ensure safe handling and proper disposal, remove the spray nozzle or affix the can’s original cap, and then place a hazardous waste label on either the individual can or collection container.  Place the aerosol cans in a closeable container such as a 5-gallon pail provided by EH&S.  Once full, submit a chemical waste pickup request, available at http://vesta.cumc.columbia.edu/ehs/wastepickup/

 

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Editorial Staff: Kathleen Crowley, Chris Pitoscia, Paul Rubock
Graphics, Design, Lay-out: Jean Lee

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