Radiation User Permits – To Terminate or Inactivate? by Thomas L. Morgan

Investigators who use radioactive materials are issued a permit by the Radiation Safety Officer.  With this permit comes a variety of responsibilities, including monthly contamination surveys in the lab, annual radiation safety refresher training for personnel, and maintaining logs of radioactive material use and waste. 
When radioactive materials have not been used for some time and there are no specific plans to do so in the future, the Investigator has 2 options – termination or inactivation of the permit.

Termination.  Permit termination occurs most often when the Investigator retires or leaves the University.  However, it can occur when the focus of the laboratory’s research moves away from procedures requiring radioactive materials.  Upon termination, the laboratory surrenders all radioactive materials, including stored stock vials and all waste.   Equipment and laboratory spaces must be surveyed to ensure there is no residual contamination present.  If the Investigator decides to use radioactive materials again in the future, a formal application to the appropriate Radiation Safety Committee must be presented (see http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/RequestAddIsotopeLicense.pdf). 

Inactivation.  Investigators may choose to temporarily suspend the use of radioactive materials.  Like termination, all radioactive materials must be surrendered and a comprehensive survey of laboratory spaces must be performed.  In addition, during the inactivation period, in lieu of monthly surveys the laboratory must document their lack of use of radioactive materials, and the lab remains subject to an annual audit.  In contrast to termination, however, the Investigator may request re-activation of the permit at any time by simply contacting the Radiation Safety Officer in writing.  If the permit expires while it is inactive, it will not be automatically renewed.

If you have questions about these policies, please contact Radiation Safety at 212-305-0303 (CUMC) and 212-854-4442 (Morningside, Barnard College, Nevis Laboratories, and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Think Sharp by Rebecca Lonergan

The University has recently updated disposal procedures for chemically contaminated “sharps.” “Sharps” are contaminated items from research that may tear a red bag during transport, including: hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, slides, cover slips, serological pipettes (glass or plastic), Pasteur pipettes, pipette tips and blood vials. All chemically contaminated sharps that contain no free liquids must be disposed of into puncture resistant “sharps” disposal containers. Containers are provided and removed by the University’s regulated medical waste vendor, Stericycle. For information on sharps collection, or to obtain containers, visit our website at: http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/bsSharpsContainers.html.

As a reminder, sharps containers must not be filled to the point where pipettes stick out through the top. Please ensure that the laboratory has a sufficient number of containers on-hand to prevent overfilling. Red bags (i.e., Regulated Medical Waste) are to be used only for ‘soft’ items, such as contaminated paper towels and Petri dishes that will not puncture or tear the bag. Do not use red bags or sharps containers for “regular” trash (e.g., packaging materials, papers, cardboard boxes, and unwanted or broken plastic or glass bottles that are otherwise free of biological contamination).  Full containers should be placed in the appropriate location for removal by the University’s regulated medical waste vendor.



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