Can tritium-containing exit signs be used at Tufts?
No. Tritium exit signs are sold under a general license from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Intact signs can be handled without special precautions except to avoid damaging the sign. However, they contain very large amounts of radioactive material in the form of tritium gas. These signs should not be purchased or used at Tufts University.
Costs can be very high when it is time to dispose of these signs. There are only a limited number of disposal options for them. Some universities have paid thousands of dollars to dispose of just a few tritium exit signs. There have also been incidents where cleanup from damaged tritium exit signs has cost tens of thousands of dollars. Special training is required to ship tritium exit signs.
If a tritium exit sign is lost, regulatory agencies need to be notified. If a tritium exit sign is damaged, it must be disposed of properly. Alternative signs which are hard-wired or battery-operated are preferred. Prior approval from the Tufts Radiation Safety Committee is required to purchase, replace or use tritium exit signs at Tufts University.
DO NOT REMOVE OR DISPOSE OF TRITIUM EXIT SIGNS – CONTACT THE HEALTH PHYSICS GROUP IN BOSTON OR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND SAFETY (EH&S) FOR THE MEDFORD AND GRAFTON CAMPUSES.
If you see a tritium exit sign at Tufts, please notify:
the Health Physics Group in Boston at 617-636-6168 or
the Tufts EH&S for Grafton or Medford at 617-636-3450.
If you find a damaged tritium exit sign, please immediately contact:
Tufts Police at x66911 and either the Health Physics Group or Tufts EH&S as above.
After hours, contact Tufts police who will summon someone from radiation safety for you.
If you break a tritium exit sign, leave the area. Ventilate the area if feasible. Contact Tufts Police and either the Health Physics Group or Tufts EH&S.
How do I identify a tritium exit sign?
A tritium exit sign has a radioactive materials label on it. The label is often on the bottom or an edge. The radiation trefoil symbol is usually visible. An example of a radiation trefoil symbol can be seen below:
Other information about when the sign was manufactured and how much tritium it contains (for example, 7 Curies) is also on the label. These signs tend to have a thin profile, usually less than 1 1/2 (1.5) inches thick.
Luminescent signs, made of thin plastic less than 1/4 (0.25) inch thick, are not tritium exit signs. Signs that are hardwired or have batteries are also not tritium exit signs. Signs with fluorescent or incandescent bulbs are not tritium exit signs.
If you are not sure if a sign contains tritium, please contact either the Health Physics Group or Tufts EH&S.