Myth busters: The truth behind radioactive waste management by Lauren Kelly

MYTH:  uncapped, radioactive needles and syringes may be placed in dry solid waste containers because the outer container is rigid and puncture proof.  TRUTH:  all needles, syringes and other sharps (including pipettes and pipette tips) must be collected in rigid, puncture proof containers, such as empty cell media bottles prior to placing them into dry solid waste collection containers.
MYTH:  Coomassie blue and transfer buffer process waste (typically mixed with water, methanol and glacial acetic acid) in a radioactive application may be collected in radioactive aqueous waste container as it’s just a color indicator/dye.  TRUTH:  Coomassie blue when used in an application with radioactive materials is considered a mixed waste (hazardous and radioactive) and must be collected separately from aqueous radioactive liquids.   Please consult EH&S if additional clarification is needed regarding the laboratory’s radioactive waste stream.
MYTH:  lead pigs/lined containers from radioactive materials may be thrown in the regular trash if they were wipe-tested clean.  TRUTH:  all lead materials must be cleared through EH&S and recycled in accordance with environmental regulations.
MYTH:   autoclave or red regulated medical waste bags may be used to collect radioactive waste.  TRUTH:  clear bags must be used to collect radioactive waste on bench tops and inside the waste collection containers unless the material is potentially infectious.  If the laboratory’s waste stream is potentially infectious, please contact EH&S for guidance regarding disposal.
MYTH:  radioactive waste containers may only be submitted for pickup once full.   TRUTH:  if the lab is no longer utilizing a protocol that generates radioactive waste, pick-up requests for semi-full containers may be submitted. 
MYTH:   unwanted check sources may be placed in dry waste containers when no longer needed.  TRUTH:  Check sources must be discarded separately from all other waste streams in a clear plastic bag and with a radioactive waste label affixed to it for discard through EH&S.
MYTH:  cold rooms can be used as radioactive waste storage areas.  TRUTH:  Radioactive wastes should only be stored in cold rooms if the laboratory process generates wastes that are temperature sensitive.  These cold rooms must be assigned as radioactive use areas and on the list of Radiation Safety permitted spaces associated with the PI.
MYTH:  cold rooms shared by multiple PIs are not part of the EH&S laboratory clearance procedure.  TRUTH:  shared cold rooms need to be cleared by EH&S prior to vacating the associated laboratories.  Radioactive wastes may not be left behind during the move.
MYTH:  fume hoods that are out of service for radioactive materials may be used for chemicals.  TRUTH:  no materials may be used in malfunctioning hood. Please submit a service request to Facilities.
MYTH:  the door signage “Caution Radioactive Material” implies everything in the room is radioactive.  TRUTH:  door signage is meant to inform emergency responders that radioactive materials may be in use, but that the entire lab and its contents are not radioactive.
MYTH:  plastic and glass liquid scintillation vials (LSV) have to be separated by glass or plastic vials.  TRUTH:  plastic and glass LSV may be comingled in the same collection container independent of the type of vial.  Please note, only 3H and 14C wastes may be mixed together, all other isotopes must be separated by isotope and PI.
When in doubt, please contact EH&S with questions regarding radioactive wastes.

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