[ RadSafe ] Nuc Med pt x-contamination of other people

Janet L. Westbrook janet.westbrook at comcast.net
Sat Jan 7 12:08:58 CST 2012

Folks --

With regard to the message below, there was such an incident that occurred
at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in about 1995. I have just ran some brief
notes I made at the time and my memory, but here are the details as best I
know them.

There was a high-ranking Department of Energy (DOE) official who had come
from his office in Oak Ridge to attend a meeting at the main building at
ORNL. While at ORNL, he used the restroom. He had had a nuclear medicine
test using I-131 -- I was told the test had been done two weeks earlier, but
this information might have been faulty.

An ORNL manager who was in the main building at the same time concluded
whatever business he had there and then left the main building for his
office in the next building. This second building had rad operations, so
portal monitors had been installed at all main portals of the building. The
ORNL manager entered through one of the monitors and it alarmed. An RCT was
called to the scene and found that his shoes were contaminated.

At first, it was thought that the manager had simply picked up the
contamination earlier within the building. But the RCT found no
contamination on the floor of the hall near the monitor, while he did find
contamination where the manager had stepped into the building just before
the monitor.

Following the trail, the RCT and his colleagues tracked the contamination
outside, across the sidewalk to the main building, down the hall....and into
the restroom. They found that the restroom floor was significantly
contaminated, i.e., the levels were not extremely high but they were readily

The swipes were checked to identify the isotope. I failed to record in my
notes what it was, but it was probably Tc-99m. With this information, they
knew to check everybody (about 20 people) who had been in that area of the
building that day and eventually found who it was who had had the test.

Although the checking was done discreetly, this information was of course
too juicy for some people to maintain confidentiality and the name of the
poor manager was soon leaked all over ORNL and Oak Ridge. I don't imagine
that he cared if people knew he had had the nuclear medicine test, but it
was the mechanism of how the contamination was spread that was embarrassing
for him.

I have always thought that this incident reflected well on the savvy RCT(s)
who tracked down the true source of the contamination and did not just shrug
it off at the start as one of those mysterious things that happen in a
building with rad operations.

						Janet Westbrook

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Rees, Brian G
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 8:55 AM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Nuc Med pt x-contamination of other people

Is there any documented instances of a nuclear medicine patient
cross-contaminating another person?  I'm even interested in anecdotal cases!

I promise I won't try to promote and market pills to protect anyone from
such events!

Brian Rees
You are currently subscribed to the RadSafe mailing list

Before posting a message to RadSafe be sure to have read and understood the
RadSafe rules. These can be found at:

For information on how to subscribe or unsubscribe and other settings visit:

More information about the RadSafe mailing list