Student Splashed Tritiated (H-3) Tyrosine on Face and Eye

 

What Happened?

A student was in the process of transferring a solution containing 1 uCi/ml tritiated (H-3) tyrosine. When opening the microfuge tube filled with the solution, the tube popped out of the rack and splashed approximately 0.2 ml of the radioactive solution onto the student’s face and into her eyes. The student immediately removed her gloves and rinsed her eye and face at the nearest eyewash station for several minutes. The student then decontaminated the work area and determined residual radioactivity by swiping the area and counting the swipes with the scintillation counter. She then reported the incident to her PI. At the time of the incident, the student wore a lab coat, gloves and a surgical face mask but no eye protection. The student’s urine sample taken 2 days after the incident showed background levels of radiation. EH&S radiation safety officers ensured that the risk of H-3 to the student’s health is very low: H-3 is a weak beta-emitter and does not penetrate tissue deeply. Furthermore, the ingested amount of approximately 200 nCi of H-3 is less than 0.01% of the Annual Limit on Intake (ALI) for ingested or inhaled H-3 compounds of 80 mCi.

What Was The Cause?

An unintended, rash movement caused the open microfuge tube to jump out of the rack and spill the radioactive solution. The student did not wear eye protection.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

• Eye protection must be worn when handling hazardous material such as radioactive solutions
• Unannounced PPE inspections are performed to reinforce PPE compliance

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

• Wear eye protection
• Do not rush when performing experiments

Resources

> Radiation Emergency
> Guides and Tools for Radioisotopes Commonly Used at Universities
> Hydrogen - 3 (3H) Data Sheet

QUICK ACTION TIPS 

In the event of a spill on yourself:

1. Wash the affected area with soap and water, then survey for radiation; do not scrub excessively

2. Rinse eyes for 15 min at the nearest eyewash station

3. Report the incident to your supervisor

In the event of a spill in the work area:

1. Stop the spill

2. Warn others

3. Isolate the spill area

4. Minimize your exposure

5. Report the incident to your supervisor