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Re: Advice to teachers? (Was minigenerators)
Jack Couch wrote:
I got to thinking last night about Michael's observation regarding
radioactive waste generated in schools. It's not just the Cs-137
and associated contaminated gloves, absorbant paper, etc. from
minigenerators but a host of other sources of waste. I'm thinking of
alpha, beta and gamma sources no longer needed or sources in liquid
solution (Cs-137, Co-60, Na-22, Sr-90, Pb-210 to name a few with
half-lives) that could produce contaminated waste. Many such sources
purchased by teachers without a license from school science supply
companies, including Oxford, in 0.1 to 10 uCi quantities, depending
radionuclide. These are exempt or "license free" quantities
I have had more than one high school teacher ask me what they should
with their waste, and I haven't really been able to offer a good
answer--one that I'm happy with, anyway. Technically, if I
correctly, exempt quantities of any of the above materials can be
incinerated, disposed of down a sink or thrown in the trash to be
a municipal sanitary landfill.
I wonder, though, if this is a good idea, particularly from the
of public attitudes and perceptions regarding anything that is
It most certainly doesn't set a good example for today's
students. To continue to accumulate and store these wastes in school
science storerooms isn't a good idea, either.
I disagree. I think it sets a very GOOD example to throw away an exempt
quantity in the garbage, toilet or any old way. Perhaps today's
environment-minded students should think QUANTITATIVELY, instead of
qualitatively. Just because we can detect radiation does not make it
hazardous. A quick lesson about ALI, dose and risk would be good for
today's environment-minded kids.
If we HPs display fear when faced with a harmless quantity of
radioactivity, how can we expect others to make reasonable risk
evaluations in their lives?
Wesley R. Van Pelt, Ph.D., CIH, CHP KF2LG
President, Van Pelt Associates, Inc.
Consulting in radiological health and safety.