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IKN-RS-SOP-10: Radioactive Decontamination Procedure



When radioactive spill occurs, efforts should be directed at minimizing exposure and contamination to personnel as well as containing the spread of contamination. When spills are associated with other events such as a fire or explosion, the risks from radiation exposure may be minimal compared to the risks from other hazards as well as the need to immediately care for injured personnel.



The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) contains proper guidance regarding spills and decontamination of radioactive material while supplementing the procedures stipulated by the Nuclear Medicine Department of Institut Kanser Negara (IKN). Any spillage of radioactive material should be cleaned up immediately by designated personnel.



  • Radiation Protection Officer (RPO)
  • Physicist
  • Radiation Workers



Upon case



  • Calibrated Contamination and Survey meter
  • Radioactive Emergency Spill Kit
  • Personal Dosimeter – Film Badge, TLD Badge, TLD Ring



Emergency Response to a Radioactive Spill

  1. Notify all occupants in the area about the spill; if the contaminant is volatile, evacuate the area immediately.
  2. Secure the area and prevent all individuals from entering the affected area.
  3. Ensure that prompt first aid treatment is administered to the injured personnel.
  4. Remove all contaminated clothing and place it in a plastic bag. Attempts must be made to remove all external contaminants as soon as possible. Flush the area for a minimum of 15 minutes if contaminants have come in contact with the eyes, mouth, or skin.
  5. Report the spill to the RPO immediately.
  6. Contain large volumes of non-volatile liquid spills to prevent further spreading. Ensure proper protective equipment is worn by personnel.
  7. Remain in the area to provide information and assistance during the clean-up.
  8. Ensure all spilled and contaminated materials are properly packaged for disposal and are treated as ‘hazardous waste’. Ensure all other items used in the clean-up process are decontaminated.


Specific Procedures for Managing Personal Contamination

  1. Immediate action should be taken if you know or suspect that you may have radioactive contamination on your clothing or skin. Prompt action will minimize your exposure and will prevent further contamination. The primary concern regarding the contamination of clothing or skin is the increased probability of intake that results in internal radiation exposure. It is worth remembering that radioactivity can enter the body by way of inhalation, ingestion, absorption, or through breaks in the skin.


Guidelines for Contaminated Wounds

Minor wounds (puncture, scrape, or lacerations) obtained while working with radioactive materials require IMMEDIATE action in order to limit any possible internal radiation exposure. Since minor wounds typically involve the hands, the following guideline is meant to counter this situation.

  1. Remove your gloves, turn them inside out, and DO NOT dispose them.
  2. Save the gloves and the object that caused the wound for monitoring and isotope identification. Information obtained from these items may help determine whether an internal exposure is likely.
  3. Allow the wound to bleed and flush it gently with clean water for approximately FIVE minutes. This will remove any radioactivity present in the wound and might prevent its absorption into the body.
  4. Bandage or cover the wound, and seek medical attention if necessary.
  5. Contact the RPO immediately.
  6. For serious injuries or illnesses, always seek prompt medical attention first. Treatment and safety of the seriously injured person(s) ALWAYS takes precedence over radioactive contamination control. Emergency Services will only treat decontaminated individuals.


Guidelines for Contaminated Clothing

  1. Put on a clean pair of gloves to carefully remove all contaminated clothing in order to prevent further contamination, especially to the skin. Remove clothing inside out to contain the contamination.
  2. Seal the contaminated clothing in a plastic bag. Write the following information on the bag: Name, telephone number of the owner of the clothing, and the radioisotopes involved.
  3. After removal of contaminated clothing, carefully monitor all exposed skin areas and your hands.
  4. Follow the guidelines below if skin contamination is detected.
  5. Contact the RPO for cleaning of contaminated clothing. The clothing will most likely be stored until the radioactivity has decayed.


Guidelines for Personal Contamination

  1. Radioactive contamination should be removed from the skin as soon as possible to reduce radiation exposure. Contamination deposited directly on the skin can cause intense irradiation of the skin as well as substantially increase the risk of intake into the body.
  2. Use mild hand soap or other appropriate solution for use on the skin. Some decontamination solutions and cleansers contain harsh or corrosive chemicals that are not intended for use on the skin.
  3. Water used for skin decontamination should be lukewarm in temperature. Water that is too hot or too cold will increase the blood flow to the area and increase the absorption of the contamination.
  4. Gently wash or scrub the affected skin areas for about 2 to 3 minutes. Pay special attention to the fingernails if the hands are contaminated.
  5. Rinse with clean water and gently pat dry. Re-monitor the area with a contamination monitor.
  6. Repeat this procedure if necessary, RUB, DO NOT SCRUB.
  7. Gloves should be worn to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination to the hands during decontamination operations.
  8. Work from the centre of your body out (if your forearm is contaminated wash from the elbow towards the hand, hold your arm so that the water runs off your arm into the sink and not onto the floor or your body).
  9. Monitor affected skin areas after every decontamination while attempting to determine its effectiveness.
  10. Stop cleaning immediately if contamination cannot be removed, or if the skin becomes irritated.
  11. Rinse your eyes in an eyewash station for at least 15 minutes to flush foreign material out.
  12. Rinse your mouth with water, but DO NOT swallows the water.
  13. Blow your nose and keep the tissue, it will be analysed for radioactive contamination. The nose filters approximately 50 % of particulate matter.
  14. Have someone absorb surface liquids, and liquids in the outer ear; lean to the side that has the liquid in it. Do not stick anything in your ear.


Procedure for Decontamination of Equipment and Areas

  1. Tools, equipment, and work areas must be free of radioactive contamination whenever possible. All users are responsible for conducting surveys and promptly decontaminating all items and surfaces, if required.
  2. Always wear protective clothing during decontamination operations. The minimum requirement includes wearing a lab-coat and two pairs of gloves (triple gloving is highly recommended).
  3. There are several products commercially available for decontamination. Alternatively, two tablespoons of Alconox or Sparkleen can be dissolved in water to make a paste.
  4. Methods used in decontamination include washing, scrubbing as well as chafing, and corrosive methods. Always start with washing before progressing to more difficult decontamination methods.
  5. DO NOT use methods such as grinding, sanding, scraping or chipping contaminated surfaces without the specific direction of the RPO.
  6. Complex items should be disassembled as much as possible to allow sufficient cleaning of inner surfaces that might be contaminated. Do not disassemble if such action will jeopardize the operational integrity of the item or equipment.
  7. Use disposable materials, such as paper towels.
  8. Minimize the spread of contamination during decontamination operations. Avoid wiping a highly contaminated cleaning towel over a less contaminated surface. Generally, the best technique is to start at the edge of a contaminated area and work towards the area with the highest contamination. The exception to this, however, would be to clean highly contaminated areas first if those areas are giving off unacceptably high radiation exposure levels.
  9. Frequently monitor surfaces during decontamination with either portable survey instruments or swipe tests to determine the effectiveness of the procedures being used. Continue decontamination if necessary.
  10. Items and surfaces that cannot be successfully decontaminated must be identified and controlled as radioactive material. Such areas might also require shielding.
  11. Ensure that all radioactive waste generated during decontamination is properly collected and disposed of into radioactive solid and liquid waste containers.
  12. Once decontamination procedures are complete, remove gloves and wash hands thoroughly. Monitor hands, body, lab-coats, clothing, etc., for radioactive contamination.



  1. Atomic Energy Licensing (Basic Safety Radiation Protection) Regulations 2010.
  2. Nuclear Medicine Resource Manual, IAEA 2006.
  3. Radiation Protection in Nuclear Medicine, Radiation Protection Series Publication No. 14.2, ARPANSA 2008.
  4. Applying Radiation Safety Standards In Nuclear Medicine, Safety Reports Series No. 40 IAEA 2005.



This Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was developed based on compilation of best available information, knowledge, field experience, and general practices to provide guidance to IKN staff in performing the activities defined herein, in a consistent and standardised manner.
IKN does not guarantee nor accept any legal liability whatsoever arising from or connected to the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained herein.
IKN shall take no responsibility for and will not be held liable for this document being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our power and control.