General Radiation Safety Information

The purpose of the Radiation Safety Program at UWM is to provide consultation and guidance to ensure a safe working environment. Radiation policies and procedures are in place to maintain compliance with the Department of Health Services and the University’s Radioactive Materials License, and to ensure the protection of all personnel.   These procedures include guidance for keeping personal exposure to radiation AS LOW AS REASONABLY ACHIEVABLE (ALARA), wearing personnel dosimeters when deemed necessary by the Radiation Safety Office, and utilizing all appropriate protective measures. Please review the Radiation Safety Manual for detailed guidance.

Radioactive Usage:

Caution Sign

  • Designate an area for using radionuclides and clearly label all radioactive containers with “Caution Radioactive Material” signs.
  • Wear lab coats, gloves, and safety glasses when working with radioactive materials.
  • Increase your distance (e.g., forceps with rubber sleeves) when handling un-shielded stock solutions with high-energy beta or gamma emitting nuclides.
  • Perform a “dry” run whenever you plan to do a new procedure.
  • Wear whole body/ring radiation badges when handling > 1 mCi or > 200 keV beta emitting radioactive materials.
  • Control potential contamination by covering work areas with absorbent paper, use drip trays, and frequently survey & clean your work area.
  • Survey your hands frequently during and at the end of procedures involving the use of radioactivity. Survey your work at the completion of your work and document that survey.
  • Mouth pipetting, eating and drinking are prohibited in radionuclide labs.
  • If you think you have ingested or inhaled any radioactive material, contact a member of the Radiation Safety Program staff immediately.
  • Use a fume-hood to perform all potentially volatile procedures.
  • Dispose of radioactive waste when generated in proper radioactive waste containers.
  • Do not work over open radioactive containers. Use distance and shielding.
  • Know the location of your lab’s radioactive spill kit.


  • Stock Vials:  Lock radioactive stock materials and sealed sources in a secured container or a secured storage area when not in use. A stock material is radioactive material as provided by the vendor and does not include material withdrawn from the original stock for experimental use.
  • Locking the Lab: Do not leave radioactive materials unsecured in an unattended lab, even for a short time, unless the lab is locked.
  • Supervising Visitors: Supervise your own visitors to the lab.
  • Greeting Visitors: When visitors who are not accompanied by authorized lab personnel enter the lab, courteously find out who they are and why they are there.
  • Missing Materials: If you discover that radioactive material is missing or lost and cannot be accounted for, notify Radiation Safety no later than the next business day.

Signs and Labels

  • Room Labeling:  The Radiation Safety Department labels radioisotope use rooms with “Caution Radioactive Material” signs. If there are no signs on a room in which radioactive materials are used or stored, contact Radiation Safety to request labeling for the room.
  • Container & Equipment Labeling: Label any container of radioactive material or piece of equipment in which radioactive material is stored and any contaminated area or item, regardless of the level of radioactivity, with Radioactive tape. Labeling contaminated items and containers of radioactive material is an important tool for contamination control and is a courtesy to other laboratory personnel.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) “NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES”

Setting up a Radioactive Materials Work Area

  • Absorbent Paper:  Cover the work surface with protective and absorbent bench paper to trap droplets of contamination. It’s especially convenient to cover the entire work area and then to use smaller pieces on top of the large piece. It’s easier to replace the small piece when it becomes contaminated than to replace the entire covering.
  • Dedicated Equipment:  Your radioisotope work area should have a set of equipment that is only used for radioactive material work. Depending on your protocol, this may include pipettors, a microcentrifuge, timers, mixers, a water bath, etc.

A lab bench set up with absorbent paper, dedicated pipettors and shielding

An example of a good radioactive materials work area, showing the use of absorbent paper, shielding, dedicated pipettors, and labeling of equipment.

Dosimetry Information

Liquid Scintillation Counting Handoutpdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required

Radioactive Material Ordering

All radioactive materials brought to or removed from UWM must be authorized, inventoried and inspected by the Radiation Safety Program. Even small amounts of radionuclides, which would qualify as “exempt quantities” at institutions without DHS licenses, must be registered with the Radiation Safety Program.

All orders of radioactive material must be approved by Radiation Safety before the order is placed. This allows us to check the requisition for conformance with DHS license conditions and to record necessary inventory information. Researchers must also notify Radiation Safety when orders are placed on blanket accounts with radionuclide vendors to ensure that the order can be properly received and checked in, and that the amount requested is within the user’s order and possession limits.

Before an Authorized User can instruct his or her department to order radioactive materials, the Radiation Safety Program must be consulted to verify that the applicant is properly authorized and to assure that the use of the radioactive material falls within the permissible scope of UWM’s DHS license.

Ordering Through the UWM Purchasing Department

All orders for radioactive materials must be approved by the Radiation Safety Program before they are placed by the UWM Purchasing Department. Orders will be checked for conformance with DHS license conditions, necessary information will be recorded, and the requisition will be forwarded to the UWM Purchasing Department. The item(s) ordered on the requisition cannot be changed without prior approval of the RSO. Delivery of the order must be made directly to the Radiation Safety Program. The delivery address is:

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Radiation Safety Program
ATTN: Kim Axtman
Lapham Hall, Room S 181
3209 N. Maryland Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211

We can complete the address portion of the requisition for you if desired to ensure proper delivery. The UWM DHS license specifically indicates that all orders of radioactive material must be delivered to the Radiation Safety Program, Lapham Hall, Room S181.

Orders placed directly with a vendor by an Authorized User or departmental official through blanket orders or confirming requisitions must also be approved by the Radiation Safety Program at the time of the order. Call 414-430-7507 for approval and provide information regarding vendor name, purchase order number and the anticipated delivery date.

Receipt of Radioactive Materials

Packages of radioactive materials must be delivered to the Radiation Safety Office, Lapham Hall, Room S181, between the hours of 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). Upon receipt, the packages are checked for radioactive contamination and the contents are inventoried before they are released to the user.

After an order has been received and checked in the Authorized User or his/her representative will be contacted to pick up the material. The Radiation Safety Program does not have the facilities to hold radionuclides shipped on dry ice for more than a few hours, therefore, those items must be picked up as soon as possible. We can assume no responsibility for radioactive material spoilage.

Radioactive Waste Disposal

Transportation of Radioactive Materials

Section currently under revision – please contact Kim Axtman for information on radioactive materials shipping and transportation.

Reference page from the Department of Health and Human Services

Reference page from Nevada Technical Associates