Radioactive Waste – EH&S at Your Service by Lauren Kelly

EH&S’departmental Vision drives our continuous effort to “provide expert guidance and timely service to the University Community.”  As you may have already heard, the EH&S and CUMC Radiation Safety Offices have merged as of January 2010 and with this integration comes many positive changes for the University community, and enhancements to our service offerings. 

Among the most important service changes for laboratories are those related to radioactive waste handling.  If your laboratory generates radioactive waste at CUMC you may be familiar with the carbon copy radioactive waste service request form that you were required to complete and hand deliver to the Radiation Safety Office come snow, sleet, rain or heat of summer to arrange a waste pick-up.  Generators in the “super block buildings” (P&S, PH, VC, and Black) were not required to deliver forms to the Radiation Safety Office but had to adhere to the “can hours” schedule, to deliver their lab’s waste to the P&S basement waste storage area.  The alignment of the radioactive waste program with our departmental Vision eliminates these burdens on laboratories.

Effective immediately, all radioactive waste service or radioactive waste supply drop-off requests should be submitted via the EH&S website using the new Radioactive Waste Pick-up Request form (http://vesta.cumc.columbia.edu/ehs/radioactivewastepickup/).  “Can hours” ceased on July 1, 2010, and all radioactive waste is now picked up directly from your laboratory by EH&S upon submission of an on-line Radioactive Waste Pick-up Request form. 

Please note that although the chemical/hazardous waste and radioactive waste pickup requests look similar they are two separate forms and should not be used interchangeably.  Here is a preview of some of the some additional enhancements to the radioactive waste program:

  • A new radioactive waste label has been created for ease of use and management. 
  • A laboratory guide to Radioactive Isotope Safety and Waste is being developed and will be rolled out later this summer.
  • An enhanced Radiation Safety Training, including a new “Radioactive Waste Management” section. 
  • A radioactive waste brochure to guide you on proper radioactive waste management.

If you have other ideas or suggestions for improving the Radioactive waste service in the University community, please email them to lk2292@columbia.edu.

It Is HOT - WATCH OUT!! by Harry Oster

In our part of the United States outside temperatures may rise above 100° Fahrenheit (F) between June and September.  Even on cooler days, high humidity can make the outdoors an undesirable, and unhealthy, place to be.  If your job entails vigorous activity in during hot, humid weather, heat stress can be a major occupational hazard. 
Fortunately, the human body is pretty efficient at keeping its temperature constant by releasing heat through blood circulation and sweating. In hot environments, blood vessels dilate and allow more blood flow to the skin surface where the excess heat is released. The heat released by the evaporation of sweat also helps in the maintenance of normal body temperature.  However, in highly humid environments, less evaporation occurs, making it harder for the body to cool itself.
The potential harmful effects of heat are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat cramps, heat rashes or prickly heat.  The primary symptoms of heat stroke, a true emergency for which medical attention must be immediately obtained, are confusion; irrational behavior; loss of consciousness; convulsions; a lack of sweating (usually); hot, dry skin; and abnormally high body temperature.  The symptoms of heat exhaustion are headache, nausea, vertigo, weakness, thirst, and giddiness.  Prickly heat is manifested as red papules and usually appears in areas where the clothing is restrictive.
The following tips can help prevent adverse health effects related to summer weather:

  • Stay hydrated; drink water even before you feel thirsty.  You may need a cup of water every fifteen minutes during intense outdoor physical activity.
  • Work in the shade, when possible; always take rest breaks in a cool, shady spot.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, preferably made of cotton. Apply sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses (check the UV protection ratings for the glasses and sunscreen).
  • If you travel to a warm area for a new job or a vacation, you will need time for your body to acclimate to the heat. Be extra careful for the first 2 weeks.
  • Heavy work or the need to wear personal protective equipment are additional stressors and extra allowances in terms of hydration and break times will be needed. 
  • If you have a medical condition check with your physician before enraging in any new stressful (heat or otherwise) activity.

 

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