Radiation Safety

Radioactive Materials / X-Rays in Animals

The use of radioactive material in animals requires additional precautions from those used in non-radioactive research techniques. Detailed descriptions and / or protocols regarding the use of radioactive material in animals will be addressed following the introduction.

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Authorized radioisotope users who require care for animals treated with radioactive materials must provide, by direct supervision or complete written instructions, the procedures which the animal caretaker must follow with respect to cage handling and collection and disposal of radioactive waste. Investigators may house animals containing radioactive material in general animal care facilities which are used by several investigators at the same time. All investigators using radionuclides are required to design and execute their studies in a manner which prevents unnecessary exposures to radiation and keeps necessary exposures as low as reasonably achievable. This requirement also applies to animal care and the use of animal care facilities.

To assist authorized users/investigators, who must maintain animals treated with radioactive material, Occupational Safety & Environmental Health/Radiation Safety Service (OSEH/RSS) and the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) have developed a set of three standard protocols for animal care. The protocols specify the radiation conditions permitted for their use, personal hygiene precautions to be taken by animal care personnel, and instructions for cage cleaning and the collection, labeling, and disposal of radioactive wastes. Each protocol is designated by a specific color cage card. The color alerts any person in the vicinity of the animal cage to the presence and degree of potential radiation hazard. The cards are pre-printed and can only be obtained from a ULAM Area Supervisor. Side 1 of each card lists information concerning the user, radionuclide administered, and duration of animal care. Side 2 lists information needed for the radioactive waste record. Each card distributed by ULAM must be complete for all the information listed on each card. Completed cards must be returned to ULAM for permanent record keeping.

Users of facilities administered by other departments, investigators housing animals in their own laboratories, and those directly supervising persons providing animal care should adopt the standard protocols and color coded cage cards.

OSEH/RSS and ULAM will provide information and or assistance upon request (OSEH/RSS: 764-4420 ULAM: 764-0277). Each investigator, regardless of the animal facility used, retains full responsibility for providing written protocols covering emergency and special situations (post-op care, administration of medications, etc.) that may arise with animals.