Radioactive Isotope

2/15/2022by admin

DEFINITION

Unsealed radioactive material (also called isotopes) refers to radioactive chemicals used in laboratory research for their tagging, labeling, tracing, radiation, or decay properties. In a laboratory setting, these isotopes are usually used in very small quantities, which limit the possible extent of any radiological accident. Unsealed radioactive material is also variously referred to as (radio-) isotopes, (radio-) nuclides, byproduct material, licensed material, or activated material.

A physical characteristic of isotopes is half-life, the rate at which the isotopes decay into non-radioactive material. Under the USDA radiation safety program, a short half-life is 120 days or less. Some isotopes with short half-lives are Phosphorus (P-32), Phosphorus (P-33), Sulfur (S-35), and Iodine (I-125). By the nature of their short half-lives, these isotopes do not pose waste disposal problems. Isotopes with long half-lives are Carbon (C-14) and Tritium (H-3). These isotopes require procedures for periodic disposal.

  • A radionuclide (radioactive nuclide, radioisotope or radioactive isotope) is an atom that has excess nuclear energy, making it unstable.
  • Radioactive isotopes are unstable and will decay. For example, when humans die carbon-14 decays. The isotopes will decay into a stable isotope over time. Scientists can tell how old the rock was from looking at the radioactive isotope's half-life, which tells them how long it would take for there to be half the radioactive isotope and half the.
  • When potassium supply is low, it is possible that the plants are lowering their standards and grabbing the next available element, which in this case, is a Cold War-era radioactive isotope.

The spontaneous breakdown of an atomic nucleus of a radioactive substance causing the emission of radiation from the nucleus is known as Radioactive decay. The formula for radioactive decay is calculated using the initial quantity of substance and half lifetime.

Isotopes present different and varying hazards. Phosphorus (P-32) emits high energy beta radiation which can cause skin burns. Iodine (I-125) emits low energy gamma radiation which can cause injury to the thyroid gland if ingested. Tritium (H-3), Carbon (C-14), Sulfur (S-35), and Phosphorus (P-33), for example, are less hazardous, presenting no acute symptoms of injury. However, if ingested, these isotopes may be harmful.

Radioactive isotope calculator

See related topics and guidance:

  • Contamination Surveys
  • Instrumentation
  • Maintaining an Inventory
  • Radioactive Waste
  • Radionuclide Characteristics
  • Special Use Studies

PART 1: USING UNSEALED ISOTOPES

Authorized Users

There are two categories of authorized users: Permit Holders and associate users. A radioactive material Permit Holder is a person whose training and experience have been reviewed and approved by the Radiation Safety Division, who is named on the Permit, and who uses or directly supervises the use of radioactive material. Any USDA employee seeking to acquire unsealed isotopes must have a Permit issued by the Radiation Safety Division.

An associate user is a person listed on the Permit who is authorized to work with unsealed isotopes under the Permit Holder’s supervision. The Permit Holder must be the supervisor of the associate users listed on the Permit. The Permit Holder may delegate specific tasks to associate users (such as, conducting surveys, keeping records), but the Permit Holder is responsible for the safe use of radioactive material. Only the Permit Holder and the associate users listed on the Permit are authorized to acquire, possess, store, or use unsealed isotopes.

A radioactive material Permit lists approved isotopes and possession limits for the isotopes, isotope rooms, and associate users. Once approved, a Permit Holder has access to the Permit tracking data base known as RSMS, (Radiation Safety Management System). The Permit Holder’s primary responsibility is to ensure that radioactive material, as listed on the Permit, is used safely and according to regulatory requirements. The Permit Holder must also see that procedures and engineering controls are used to keep radiation doses as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).

User Background and Experience

Permit Holders must have adequate training and experience with the radioactive material listed on the Permit so as to provide reasonable assurance that they will use radioactive material safely, including maintaining proper security, and responding appropriately to events or accidents involving radioactive material. It is not necessarily the case that prior employment or academic training covers required USDA safety instruction. Permit Holders and associate users must have USDA-specific training and orientation. Also, ancillary personnel such as clerical, housekeeping, security, or management staff must be informed about radiation hazards and the appropriate precautions. Training must be documented on the Radiation Worker Registration Form.

Training Requirements

A Permit Holder is required to have a college degree at the bachelor level, (or equivalent training and experience in physical, chemical, or biological sciences or in engineering).

A Permit Holder must also have received a minimum of 8 hours of training and experience commensurate with the scope of proposed activities. Training should include:

Use of radioactive isotopes
  • Radiation Protection Principles
  • Characteristics of Ionizing Radiation
  • Units of Radiation Dose and Quantities
  • Radiation Detection Instrumentation
  • Biological Hazards of Radiation Exposure (suitable to radioactive material being used)
  • Hands-on Use of Radioactive Materials.

The Permit Holder must also take specified RSD distance learning presentations and have orientation training with the Location Radiation Protection Officer (LRPO).

Before beginning work with radioactive material, associate users must receive radiation safety training commensurate with their assigned duties and specific to the USDA radiation safety program.

Ancillary staff initially must have 30 minutes of training.

RSD specified annual refresher training is also required.

Approval to Acquire Radioactive Material

A Permit Holder has access to the Permit tracking data base known as RSMS, (Radiation Safety Management System). The Radiation Safety Division uses RSMS to approve a Permit Holder’s request to acquire radioactive material. When the request is approved, RSMS produces a system-generated email notification that includes an approved “request” or inventory number. The purchasing agent at the location may then place the order with the vendor, for the Permit Holder. For locations that order radioactive material, this routine is normally pre-arranged with an understanding between the Radiation Safety Division and the purchasing office at the location. New Permit Holders can learn the procedure from other Permit Holders at the location, or they can contact RSD for assistance.

Gratis shipments, replacements for defective orders, transfers from other Permit Holders, or any other kind of receipt of radioactive material that is not necessarily a purchase, must also be submitted to RSMS for production of the system-generated email notification.

Receiving Radioactive Material Packages

The Permit Holder must make arrangements to receive radioactive packages when they are delivered. If the package of radioactive material is delivered to the facility receiving department, individuals working in that department must be trained to recognize and segregate a radioactive package from other incoming packages, until it is released to an authorized person.

Packages containing radioactive materials that are shipped as limited quantity are exempt from receipt surveys. These packages do not have a hazardous material (diamond-shaped) label. Packages containing radioactive materials that are shipped with a White-I or Yellow-II diamond-shaped label on the outside of the package must be surveyed upon receipt at the facility.

Inventory Receipt and Tracking

Radioactive materials must be tracked from 'receipt to disposal.' Upon receipt of a radioactive material package, it is important to enter the receipt date into RSMS, to activate the computer record for the inventory item and include it on the Permit Holder’s inventory. All receipt information must be documented locally, and will not be tracked in the database. Such information may be noted on the system-generated email notification, or otherwise in an inventory notebook or other tracking sheet.

A Permit Holder must receive the prior approval from the RSD before radioactive materials are transferred to or from another licensed or permitted individual. Disposal of radioactive materials must be performed in accordance with the RSD Guidelines on Radioactive Waste Management.

The RSMS database tracks the life of the radioactive inventory item, from receipt until it is finally all consumed and transferred to the location waste status. The Permit Holder may use the system-generated email notification to document the inventory item, if necessary, or otherwise, use screen prints of the inventory lists.

Security and Control to Prevent Loss or Theft

The Permit Holder must secure radioactive materials in storage against unauthorized access. When radioactive material is in use, it must be under constant surveillance. Acceptable methods for securing radioactive material may vary. To assure compliance with this requirement, the Radiation Safety Division recommends that radioactive material be locked up when not in sight of the Permit Holder or associate user.

The Permit Holder is responsible for all radioactive material under the Permit and should be familiar with the radioactive material inventory. The Permit Holder or Location Radiation Protection Officer (LRPO) shall immediately contact the RSD in case of actual or suspected loss or theft of any quantity of radioactive material. Finding the lost radioactive material must be an urgent priority, which may involve law enforcement and the resources of the NRC.

Radioactive isotope ink

Releasing a Room for Unrestricted Use

Before releasing a radioisotope laboratory or other work area, listed on a Permit, for unrestricted use:

  • all radioactive materials must be removed;
  • the laboratory or work area must be surveyed and, if necessary, decontaminated;
  • all radioactive material labels and signs must be removed;
  • written authorization must be received from the RSD.

Transportation

Radioactive material must be packaged and transported in accordance with NRC and the Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements if the transportation involves common carriers or the use of public highways. Permit Holder should develop and maintain their own safety procedures for transporting radioactive material within their own facilities if it does not involve the use of public highways. Permit Holders should consider the safety of all individuals who may handle or may come into contact with packages containing radioactive material. Therefore, the primary considerations in packaging radioactive material should be to ensure that the package integrity is not compromised during transport, and that the radiation levels at the package surfaces meet the regulatory requirements and are as low as reasonably achievable. RSD is available for assistance in preparing radioactive material for shipment or transport.

Required Authorizing Documents

The following information must be posted so as to be readily observable or otherwise made readily available, or be readily accessible on the computer:

  • 10 CFR 19 Notices, Instructions and Reports to Workers: Inspection and Investigations
  • 10 CFR 20 Standards for Protection Against Radiation
  • the material license,
  • any notice of violation involving radiological working conditions, proposed imposition of civil penalty, or order issued by the NRC, and any response, such notice being posted according to RSD instructions.

Posting of Signs and Labels

Post a 'Caution Radioactive Materials' sign or label in laboratories or areas where unsealed isotopes are used or stored and on each container or piece of equipment in which there is radioactive material. Post an NRC Form-3 'Notice to Employees,” in areas where employees will see it, for example, on a safety bulletin board.

PART 2: GOOD WORK PRACTICES

In the Laboratory

Radioactive Isotopes Quizlet

Don’t …

  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Smoke
  • Apply makeup
  • Store food, drink or personal effect
  • Pipette by mouth.

Do …

  • Cover work surfaces with absorbent paper, or else handle unsealed isotopes in trays;
  • Wear required dosimetry;
  • Plan procedures that minimize the generation of radioactive waste;
  • Dispose of radioactive waste in designated, labeled, and properly shielded containers;
  • Store radioactive material solutions in clearly labeled containers;
  • Plan procedures that minimize where radioactive materials are used and stored;
  • Secure unsealed isotopes when not under the surveillance or control of the user;
  • Use proper shielding;
  • Change gloves frequently;
  • Use protective clothing and equipment;
  • Make frequent surveys;
  • Keep good accounting records;
  • Setup a dry run before doing unfamiliar procedures, to preclude unexpected problems.

For Iodine Isotopes

  • ● Bioassay procedures are required for anyone working with milli-Curie quantities of iodine isotopes;
  • ● Use vented hoods for iodination and for the storage of milli-Curie quantities of iodine isotopes;
  • ● Use lead shielding, when necessary, for iodine (I-125);
  • ● Have procedures for measuring the concentration of radioiodine effluents from the hood.

For Phosphorus (P-32)

  • Use plexiglass shielding, when necessary;
  • Use finger ring dosimeters for procedures that involve one milli-Curie or more.

Small Animal Studies

Small animal studies require the following:

  • Each cage shall be labeled with a ”Caution Radioactive Material” sign;
  • Ventilation systems shall be used where volatilized radioactive material may approach the limits in 10 CFR 20 Appendix B Tables , effluent concentration …
  • All litter, bedding, excreta, and other materials used in the handling of the animals shall be treated as radioactive waste;
  • Cages shall be surveyed prior to release from the animal room and decontaminated before release to a general cage washing area;
  • Animal handlers should receive appropriate training.

Note: For purposes of unsealed isotope general use, a small animal is a fully grown adult animal with a weight not more than 10 kilo-grams (about 22 pounds).

Spill Kit

The LRPO or Permit Holder may maintain equipment and supplies in reserve to handle spills. The need for a spill kit depends on the extent and type of radioactive material used at the location, and may not be considered necessary in some cases. A spill kit is often stored on a cart with wheels, to be called upon at a moment’s notice. A spill kit may include some of the following things:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable lab coats, shoe covers
  • Roll of absorbent paper with plastic backing
  • Masking tape
  • Plastic trash bags with twist ties
  • 'Radioactive Material' labeling tape or tags
  • Pencil, Pen, (Sharpie) Marking pen
  • Box of wipes
  • Clipboard with paper
  • Survey instrument

PART 3: EMERGENCY PROCEDURES

General Information

Each location where there are Permit Holders working with unsealed isotopes must have emergency response procedures. These procedures should be commensurate with the scope of the program activities listed under the Permit. Above and beyond that, accidents and emergencies can happen during any operation with radioisotopes, including their transportation, use, transfer, and disposal. Such incidents can result in contamination or release of material to the environment, and unintended radiation exposure to workers and members of the public. In addition, loss or theft of radioactive material, sabotage, fires, floods, and other events can adversely affect the safety of personnel and members of the public. All of these possibilities should be considered when developing written emergency procedures. Emergency procedures should include provisions for immediate response and after-hours notification. Copies of emergency procedures should be provided to all users and posted in each laboratory where radioactive material is used.

Radioactive isotope of carbon

The posted names and telephone numbers for emergency contacts should include:

  • USDA Radiation Safety Division: 301-504-2440
  • (after hours, USDA Ops Center 202-720-5711)
  • Local Radiation Protection Officer (LRPO)
  • Permit Holder
  • Local emergency contacts

The examples in this document can serve as the basis for the location's emergency response program. Most emergencies encountered in a research laboratory using unsealed radioactive materials can be successfully handled by following four principles:

  • assist people first;
  • monitor all personnel involved;
  • control the area; and
  • call the LRPO for assistance.

Simple Spill

  • Prevent people from walking through the area and spreading the contamination.
  • Cover the spill with absorbent paper.
  • Verify the isotope and estimate the activity involved.
  • Have someone not involved in the accident monitor people in the immediate area.
  • Survey the area to determine the extent of the contamination.
  • Mark the spill area with tape.
  • Begin decontamination efforts, working from the outer edge of the spill in to the center.
Radioactive isotope injection

Spill involving personnel contamination

  • Make others in the area aware of the accident.
  • Keep the contaminated person in one area to prevent spreading the contamination.
  • Carefully remove the person's lab coat and gloves and place them in a plastic bag.
  • Have the person put on new vinyl gloves in case their hands are contaminated.
  • Have someone not involved in the accident monitor people in the immediate area.
  • Survey the area to determine the extent of the contamination.
  • Survey the person involved to determine the extent of their contamination.;
  • Remove all contaminated clothing, placing them in a plastic bag.
  • Begin decontamination, if necessary.

Minor accident involving skin contamination

Most skin contamination can be removed by gentle washing with a mild detergent or chelating agent. Do not scrub in a rough manner since this may allow the contamination to be absorbed into the body. Repeat the gentle washing as necessary until the contamination has been removed.

Accident involving serious injury

With very few exceptions, radioactive contamination can be ignored when it is more important to treat an injury. The fundamental tenet is First Aid First.

Call for help from others in the area. After the injury is stabilized, control the area and initiate surveys and decontamination efforts.

If emergency medical personnel have responded to the injury, advise them of the potential for radioactive contamination. If the accident victim must be transported to a hospital, the location's LRPO, or other designated individual should go to the hospital to assist in monitoring and to describe the likely extent of contamination to hospital personnel.

Accident involving internal exposure

Within the USDA research facilities, accidents involving significant internal exposure are extremely rare. A typical internal exposure would involve either tritium (H-3) or iodine (I-125, in quantities that would be expected to cause no immediate or long-term harm to the individual.

In the case of this type of accident:

  • Have someone not involved in the accident monitor people in the immediate area.
  • Survey the area to determine the extent of the contamination.
  • Survey the person involved to determine the extent of their contamination.

Using a Q-tip, swab the nasal passages. Place the Q-tip in a sealed plastic bag for later analysis. Have the person void their bladder. Save ALL subsequent urine in individual containers. This will be important in determining the actual amount of radioactive material ingested or inhaled.

Call the Radiation Safety Division for instruction. RSD may send someone to the facility to assist in the investigation.

Waste Management

Radioactive waste resulting from a spill and its clean-up should be managed by the LRPO in accordance with the location's radioactive waste management plan.

PART 4: REPORTS AND SURVEYS

Radiation Detection Instruments

Radiation detecting instruments are necessary for the following purposes:

  • package surveys;
  • contamination surveys;
  • dose rate measurements;
  • other specialized air sampling, bioassay, or effluent release measurements.

Following are some available survey instruments used to measure radiological conditions:

  • count rate meters
  • dose rate or exposure rate meters
  • Liquid Scintillation Counters (LSC)
  • Gamma Counters
  • Proportional Counters
  • Solid State Detectors.

With the exception of tritium (H-3), Permit Holders must have a portable survey meter available to monitor for fixed contamination and for radiation levels. This consists of a count rate meter and a detector. Commonly used radioisotopes and appropriate detectors are listed below:

Use a Geiger-Muller (GM) detector for:

  • Carbon (C-14),
  • Sulfur (S-35),
  • Phosphorus (P-32), and
  • Phosphorus (P-33),

Use a Sodium Iodide (NaI) detector for:

  • Iodine (I-125),
  • Cesium (Cs-137),
  • Chromium (Cr-51),
  • Zinc (Zn-65),

Instrument Calibration

Portable survey instruments shall be calibrated yearly by commercial firms or other qualified individuals. Detection efficiencies for radioisotopes used in the laboratory should also be determined. Portable survey instruments should be tested before each use with a small check source to verify proper instrument operation. Instruments shall be recalibrated when failing to respond to a check source or when serviced. For some instruments, it may be useful to determine the “minimum detectable activity” at the time of calibration. Some instruments are unable to monitor low levels of contamination with sufficient accuracy to separate the reading from the normal fluctuations in background.

Laboratory counting equipment shall be calibrated annually by counting standards of known activity. This can be done in the lab. The calibration should consist of an efficiency determination and a determination of the Minimum Detectable Activity for commonly used isotopes.

Surveying Radioactive Material Packages

Packages must be surveyed within three hours of receipt, if delivered during normal working hours. Otherwise, packages must be surveyed within three hours from the beginning of the next working day. The exterior surface of a package requiring a survey must be checked for removable contamination by a wipe test. A wipe test should also be done for the interior packaging before it is discarded. The limit for the removable contamination survey is 2,200 DPM (disintegrations per minute).

The package exterior surface must also be surveyed for radiation levels with an appropriate portable survey meter. The limit for the radiation survey is:

  • 0.5 milli-rad per hour for White-I,
  • 10 milli-rad per hour for Yellow-II.

If the package survey exceeds these contamination or radiation level limits, or if the package is damaged, call RSD for guidance.

Laboratory Surveys

Surveys are evaluations of radiological conditions and potential hazards. Surveys are required when it is reasonable to evaluate a radiological hazard and when necessary to comply with the regulations. Surveys are also used to plan work in areas where radioactive material will be used.

Laboratory areas shall be monitored for contamination with an appropriate portable survey meter at the end of each day when radioisotopes are used. Radiation level and removable contamination surveys shall be conducted either weekly or monthly depending on the amount of radioactive materials used in the area.

If the amount of radioisotope used is less than 200 micro-Ci per experiment, or less than 1 milli-Ci per week, or if radioisotopes are left in storage in a room, then a monthly survey of the room or area is required. Otherwise, a weekly survey of the room or area is required.

Examples Of Radioactive Isotopes

A sufficient number of radiation measurements and swipe samples will be taken to assure that contamination has not spread to unrestricted areas of the facility. Some examples of wipe locations are: work surfaces, frequently touched equipment or devices (including telephones, computers, sink faucets, and light switches) as well as floor surfaces near work stations and in doorways. The survey will include a labeled diagram of the surveyed rooms keyed to counting results and the results of decontamination efforts, if required.

When unsealed isotopes are not used in a given month, no survey of the general laboratory is required. Documentation that no survey was performed is required to avoid a gap in the survey records.

Survey results shall be reported in activity units of disintegrations per minute (DPM) or micro-Curies.

An unsealed isotope Permit Holder has access to the Permit tracking data base, known as RSMS, (Radiation Safety Management System). Using that system, the Permit Holder must log-in laboratory survey results, which can then be reviewed by the Radiation Safety Division.

Radioactive Isotope Examples

Laboratory Closeout

A laboratory closeout survey is the final survey of a laboratory room or space, listed on a unsealed isotope Permit, before removing the room from the Permit, and releasing it from Radiation Safety Division surveillance, for unrestricted use. The closeout survey is a more complete version of the routine laboratory survey and must include more wipes, with the same requirements for documentation and units of activity. Wipes must be taken of work surfaces, frequently touched equipment or devices (including telephones, computers, sink faucets, and light switches) as well as floor surfaces near work stations and in doorways. Using RSMS (Radiation Safety Management System) the Permit Holder must log-in laboratory closeout survey results, which can then be reviewed by the Radiation Safety Division.

Contamination Limits

Years of laboratory experience with unsealed isotopes has shown that unsealed isotope contamination is generally easy to discern, that usually, a contaminated wipe taken during a lab survey will give counting results that are thousands of times background, showing obvious contamination. Wipes with unclear contamination results are more unusual. However, for technical completeness, precise contamination limits are given in this document.

For radioisotope laboratories, restricted areas, and protective clothing worn only in a restricted area, the maximum removable contamination limits (DPM / 100 cm2 ) are:

  • 22,000 for low-risk beta or gamma-ray emitters,
  • 2,200 for beta or gamma-ray emitters, and
  • 220 for alpha emitters.

If a contamination wipe result exceeds 10% of the these limits, decontamination efforts should be undertaken.

Note: Low risk radioisotopes include Tritium (H-3), Carbon (C-14), Sulfur (S-35), and other isotopes with beta energies less than 0.2 MeV maximum, or with gamma-ray emission less than 0.1 R/hr at 1 meter per Curie of activity such as Iodine (I-125)

Fixed contamination limits are five times these limits.

Other Kinds of Surveys

Following are some non-routine surveys that may need to be done under certain circumstances:

  • measurements of radioactive material concentrations in air where operations could expose workers to the inhalation of radioactive material or where radioactive material is or could be released to unrestricted areas;
  • measurements of radioactive material concentrations in water that is released to the environment or to the sanitary sewer;
  • bioassays to determine the kinds, quantities or concentration, and in some cases, the location of radioactive material in the human body.

Audits

The Permit Holder must participate in a review of the radiation protection program annually to ensure compliance with NRC regulations, and the USDA radiation safety program. RSD will request an audit from Permit Holders or others involved in the location radiation safety program. The audits promote safety awareness and interaction between Permit Holders, the LRPO, and the Radiation Safety Division, and helps identify problem areas.

Inspections

The Radiation Safety Division (RSD) inspects each location where unsealed isotopes are used. These inspections seek to identify and correct problems with radiation safety compliance. Inspections are usually done by appointment, with RSD Health Physicists acting as the inspectors. Inspectors compare the scope of radioactive material activities against the Permits at the location. Inspectors look for additional physical and administrative compliance with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission license requirements. A detailed report is transmitted to the location management, and other appropriate officials. If the report lists recommendations or cites violations, RSD works with the location management to resolve these report findings.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) also routinely conducts inspections at USDA locations. NRC inspections are usually unannounced, so location staff may be required to modify and improvise their schedule during an NRC inspection. The Radiation Safety Division should be immediately notified upon the arrival of an NRC inspector. The results of the inspection are usually reported to RSD. The NRC has a complex hierarchy of citations and violations. Serious violations may be circulated to higher management within USDA, for eventual resolution.

Records Retention

The Permit Holder shall maintain the following records for 3 years:

  • purchase or transfer of radioisotopes
  • instrument calibration
  • laboratory surveys

The Permit Holder shall maintain the following records indefinitely:

  • Personnel dosimetry records
  • Disposal of radioisotopes
  • Radioactive waste manifests

Reference:

Consolidated Guidance About Materials Licenses: Program-Specific Guidance About Academic, Research and Development, and Other Licenses of Limited Scope Including Gas Chromatographs and X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzers (NUREG-1556, Volume 7)


When you hear the word “radioactive isotopes,” it might conjure images of people in protective suits carrying around a glowing orb in metal tong-like tool. To find out if radioactive isotopes are safe or not, let’s break down what they are first. Radioactive isotopes are basically unstable chemical elements that release energy in the form of gamma, alpha, and beta rays. Basically, radioactive isotopes are like tiny packets of energy moving in waves through a material or space itself. Certain types of radiative isotopes can be safely used to destroy tumorous cancers, or create detailed real-time images of the inner workings of the body.

More About Radioactive Isotopes

How long are the isotopes radioactive? This varies from isotope to isotope, but medically speaking, these isotopes usually have a half life any where from a few hours to several days. (Meaning that if an isotope has a half life of six hours, then the radiation will dissipate in a total of twelve hours.)

How much radiation is there in isotopes? Very little, because of the way it decays. This is called “isomeric” process, and it involves the emitting of gamma rays and low energy electrons. The dose to the patient is low because there is no high energy beta emitted.

How are radioactive isotopes used? When used in medical practices, radioisotopes are used particularly for diagnosis and therapy of various medical conditions. In regards to diagnoses, the isotopes are used in conjunction with scanning machines such as MRI, CT scans, and others, to image and diagnose disorders that couldn’t otherwise be seen.

The isotopes are put into tracers or chemical compounds that can be given by injection, inhaled, or ingested. The tracers are generally short-lived and emit gamma rays from within the body. The gamma rays are then picked up by the scanning equipment. It can also be used to examine the blood flow to the brain, or how well certain organs are functioning, like the liver, kidneys, or heart.

When used in treatment, the radioactive isotopes are attached to biologically active substances like iodine (for thyroid) or glucose (to treat the brain), and it’s introduced into the normal biological process and evacuated in usual ways. This targets the specific organs that are needed to be treated.

How safe are radioactive isotopes? When used in carefully controlled medical applications, radioactive isotopes are safe and not nearly as scary as we first imagined. The radiation from these isotopes have a short half life and only give off low levels of radiation. They are not only safe to use, but are instrumental in helping to both diagnose and to treat life threatening illnesses.

If you, or a loved one needs any form of nuclear imaging, or treatment using radioactive isotopes, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for any kind of diagnostic imaging, please call (561) 795-5558 today, or go online to make an appointment. Our board-certified radiologists are right here waiting in the Lake Worth, Wellington, Belle Glade, or Royal Palm Beach areas.

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