Radiation producing machines are regulated by Federal and State agencies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates manufacturers of electronic systems capable of producing X-rays. Wisconsin regulates and licenses those who use X-ray machines within the state. Wisconsin Administrative Code, Radiation Protection Chapter 157, describes regulations for machines used in the State of Wisconsin.

It is important to know that radiation-producing machines must not be used on humans except for healing arts. Exceptions to this must be secured in writing from the Department of Health Services (DHS).

All radiation-producing machines have to be registered with DHS. All machines used at UWM are registered by the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO). When you purchase a machine capable of producing X-rays or, the unit is replaced or broken, please have the person responsible for the system notify the Radiation Safety Officer at (414) 430-7507 so the necessary changes in registration can be accomplished.

A copy of the State X-Ray Registration Form can be found here.

If you have any questions regarding regulations of radiation producing machines call 414-430-7507.

UWM Radiation Producing Machines Safety Manual

Cabinet and Analytical X-ray Devices

The predominant X-ray-producing equipment used in research is analytical X-ray. It produces intense beams of low-energy X-rays. Exposure to the direct beam can cause severe injury. To prevent exposures, newer instruments are designed with hood enclosures, interlocks, and beam shielding to minimize the risk of inadvertent exposures. It is possible that the radiation exposure rate from the primary beam can be up to 40,000 Roentgen per minute. With this high exposure rate, the hazard is not limited to the primary beam, but can also be related to leakage or scatter radiation. As result, these X-ray machines shall not be modified without the authorization of the RSO.

A radiation survey shall be done whenever a new sample is placed in the beam, the beam is diffracted, experimental setup changed, or equipment is replaced. The analytical X-ray machines usually have a low energy that can be readily shielded with about one millimeter (1 mm) of lead. Due to the intensity of the primary beam, leakage and scatter may create a significant source of unwanted radiation. Use shutters and collimators, secure unused ports, reduce the beam cross-section by collimation, and whenever appropriate enclose the entire beam path or use a sufficient beam stop. Consider additional sources of X-rays from miscellaneous support equipment such as high-voltage supplies. Investigations of accidents have identified four main causes:

  1. Poor equipment configuration (e.g., unused beam ports not covered)
  2. Manipulation of equipment when energized (e.g., adjustment of samples or alignment of cameras when X-ray is energized)
  3. Equipment failure (e.g., shutter failure, warning light failure)
  4. Inadequate training or violation of procedure (e.g., incorrect use of equipment, overriding interlocks)


All users must take the on-line “Analytical X-ray Diffraction Training” and pass the associated quiz, and have hands-on training provided by the Permit Holder.  The training should include notice of radiation hazards; machine specific safe work practices; proper operating procedure; symptoms of acute exposure; procedure for reporting an emergency situation.  The RSO will document the on-line training, and the Permit Holder will document the in-person training with this form.


The following documents should be placed near the controls of each analytical X-ray unit and readily accessible to the operator:


Analytical x-ray equipment will be posted and labeled with:

  • Label bearing the words “Caution Radiation This Equipment Produces Radiation When Energized” near the tube activation switch.
  • Sign “Caution High-Intensity X-ray Beam,” next to each tube-head. The sign must be clearly visible to any person operating, aligning, or adjusting the unit or handling or changing a sample.
  • Posting on the exterior side of the room’s doors indicating the presence of X-ray producing equipment such that visitors to the lab will see the sign.


All X-ray machines will contain an operational and clearly visible indicator of an active X-ray beam near the X-ray tube. In addition, there must be a shutter status indicator that unambiguously reports if the shutter is open or closed.

Interlocks and Safety Devices

Operational interlocks and safety devices will be provided to ensure that the primary X-ray beam cannot be interrupted by any portion of an individual’s body or extremities or by machine equipment under any operating condition. If the beam is interrupted, this interlock will shut off the primary beam. Interlocks and safety devices may not be altered without the written authorization of the RSO. Approved temporary modifications must be terminated as soon as possible, specified in writing and posted near the X-ray machine tube and operators console. Securely close any unused tube ports to prevent accidental opening.

Analytical X-ray Emergency Procedure

If there is a suspected or actual case of accidental radiation exposure, turn off the system power and notify the RSO immediately. If required, exposed individuals should seek medical attention.

Biological Effects of Acute Radiation Exposures

With a properly functioning machine, there is little risk of radiation exposure. However, one should know the signs of an acute exposure to a localized area of the human body. These symptoms are shown in Table 1. Be aware that these effects can be caused by contact with the beam for only a fraction of a second. Typical primary beam exposures are 100,000 to 400,000 rad per minute. The most common effects from a large radiation exposure from an X-ray device are reddening of the skin (erythema). With a dose of a few hundred rem, the superficial layers of the skin are damaged and the skin will redden in a fashion similar but more complex than a sunburn. The erythema effect will most often reverse itself within a few weeks. It is also possible that doses on this level could damage cell division and temporarily stops hair growth and possibly causes the hair to fall out. With a low enough dose, hair growth should return. There could also be damage to the sebaceous glands that produce the skin oil, which could cause a temporary decrease in the amount of oil produced. There is other less common and less transitory responses. If a large area is exposure to a large amount of radiation, there could be changes in the skin pigmentation. This effect may not be reversible and could result in permanent skin changes. If the exposure is large, the transitory damage to the skin, skin hair, or sebaceous glands could cause skin scarring or lead to Radiation Dermatitis, Chronic Radiation Dermatitis, or radiation induced skin cancer. To protect yourself from the radiation consider the following potential sources of radiation exposure:

  1. The primary beam.
  2. Primary beam leakage from poor shielding or guide tube replacement.
  3. Beam penetration through stops and shutters.
  4. Secondary radiations from beam interaction of the primary beam with the sample or shielding.
  5. Radiation released from the diffraction of the beam.
  6. Radiation produced from support equipment such as power supplies.

Safe Working Practices for Analytical X-ray Equipment

Beam Alignment

  1. A trained and qualified user should only do an alignment, if applicable.
  2. If safety locks must be bypassed, first gain RSO approval and then post a sign indicating the safety switch status. Reinstate the safety switch as soon as possible.
  3. Wear a finger dosimeter (ring badge).
  4. Whenever available, use electronic alignment.
  5. Use the lowest power settings possible for beam alignment procedures.
  6. Use long handles on the fluorescent alignment screens.

Sample Changing

  1. Ensure the X-ray beam is inactive by using a radiation detector.
  2. Use the shutter to stop X-rays. Verify shutter activation that the shutter indicator is properly reporting shutter status.

Table 1. Acute Local Radiation Exposure Symptoms

Received Dose Symptoms
200 – 300 rad to the skin Erythema (redness of the skin). The area may turn red within two to three weeks after the exposure depending upon dose. Epilation (hair loss) is possible within two to three weeks.
1000 – 5000 rad to the skin Wet or dry blisters within one to two weeks of exposure that usually break open and are subject to infection. Epilation may be permanent.
Over 5000 rad to the skin Severe trans epidermal injury that resembles intense scalding or chemical burn with the immediate onset of pain. Epilation is permanent.
Above 200 rad to the eye There may be conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye). It is possible that chronic exposures may lead to cataract formation.

X-ray machine Transfer, Donation, and Disposal

Transfer or Donation

An X-ray unit can be transferred or donated to another organization as long as the organization has appropriate registration.  AUs must contact UWM’s Purchasing Office and the Radiation Safety office before processing the transfer or donation


Most newer X-ray units don’t contain hazardous materials except beryllium and lead.

Generally, beryllium is contained within the X-ray tube and must be removed from the system and disposed of as chemical waste. You must verify the manufacture’s information about the X-ray tube. Most of the time, it is indicated on the tube. Before the disposal process, the AU must remove the head, being careful not to break the X-ray tube. The tube is under vacuum and, if broken, could splinter and cause injuries and exposure to beryllium. Some X-ray systems have beryllium windows and a “poison” sign on the window unit that warns users that the window unit contains a very toxic chemical and must be disposed of properly. If you need assistance, please contact the Radiation Safety Office.

For disposal of X-ray units, contact the Surplus Department. Contact the Radiation Safety office to assist in disposing of the unit.

PCBs-X-ray machines made before July 1979 may contain a toxic chemical called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, in the transformer oil. If your machine is older than 1979 or around that time frame, oil must be tested before the process of disposal. If the test results show that the oil contains PCBs, you need to contact University Safety and Assurances, Environmental Protection to remove the oil and disposed of as chemical waste.

Hazardous Metals-Older equipment may contain hazardous metals. Before taking a machine out of service you need to be aware of what’s in the machine and what needs to be done to dispose of it properly. How you go about this could either save or cost you a lot of money. Contact the Radiation Safety Office and the USA if you need assistance. The Radiation Safety office and USA can help you to determine if your old machine contains a hazardous waste metal regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and assist you to properly dispose of it.

Additional Information on X-ray devices: