Take a look around your apartment building. Pay particular attention to the exit signs. Do they glow in lighted conditions, even though they are not electric? If your building has exit signs that glow during both the night and day, they are most likely tritium exit signs. Tritium is a radioactive material that is regulated by the EPA because it poses certain risks to human health. If you have these signs in your building, read on to learn why you may want to replace them with a safer alternative.
What is Tritium?
Tritium is naturally occurring in the environment in very small amounts. Like other forms of radiation, we are all exposed to tritium in trace amounts on a regular basis. The trouble occurs when our exposure becomes more than trace. The quantity of tritium in the atmosphere peaked in 1963 as a result of the above ground testing of nuclear weapons. Today, tritium levels are highest around commercial nuclear reactors, research reactors, and government weapon production plants.
Tritium exit signs are much rarer today than they were a few decades ago, but they can still be found in commercial and residential buildings.
Tritium Exit Signs and You
Having tritium exit signs in your building doesn’t put you in immediate danger, but it does expose you to unnecessary risks. The EPA specifically warns against breaking open tritium exit signs, and such signs must be disposed of in accordance with government standards – they can’t simply be thrown away due to the risks that they pose to the environment. People can become exposed to tritium through water, inhalation, and through direct contact. Overexposure to tritium can result in an increased risk of developing cancer.
Needless to say, there are safer options for emergency exit signs. At GloBrite®, a division of Jessup Manufacturing Company, we make exit signs out of an inorganic photoluminescent material which glows in the dark. These signs have none of tritium’s health risks, and are better for the environment than both tritium and electric emergency signs because they don’t require any electricity to operate and can be disposed of like any other normal material.
If your workplace or apartment building has tritium exit signs, talk to the building owner about replacing those signs with safe, cost-effective photoluminescent signs.