Debbie Knight

Radiation safety tales, part 3: Hot shoes, cold feet

In observation on August 15, 2011 at 9:27 am

Ah, there’s nothing like a favorite pair of tennies. Comfortable. Well broken in.

And “hot.” Literally.

A few years ago, our graduate student was running a gel during a radioactive experiment. When you run a gel, it is submerged in a large volume of liquid called “running buffer.” Well, somehow this liquid, which may have had low levels of radioactivity, spilled all over the floor and onto the graduate student’s favorite pair of sneakers.

I also believe he had to change out of his clothes into some hospital scrubs because he had gotten some droplets of liquid on the cuffs of his jeans.

The spill was properly cleaned up. The floor tiles were decontaminated. And, for safe measure, the student’s shoes were stored in a bag in a cabinet until the radioisotope had undergone ten half-lives (the amount of time for half of the radioactivity to diminish).

In this case, he was working with P-32 and, with a half life of 14 days, he didn’t get to wear his favorite shoes again for nearly five months.

Plenty of time for him to find a new pair of “favorite” tennies. But he was glad to get his old favorites back.


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