Nuclear Exit Light Signs: Is It Time To Remove Old Egress Components?

Signs used to mark egress locations within a structure are an important emergency component. Installed identifiers must not only be reliable, but safe for everyone in their direct vicinity. Numerous owners have chosen non-electrically powered products in an effort to cut both compliance and associated energy costs. The question remains as to which is the safest non-energy alternative when it comes to egress signing. It has been status quo to install Tritium products for reduced energy use; however, this choice poses certain risks to the surrounding environment. Nuclear exit light signs, while fairly reliable, generate light as the included radioactive particles react with a phosphor coating during the beta decay process. This reaction allows them to be illuminated at all times without the need for electricity and does reduce expenses, but at the same time opens the possibility of introducing radioactive particles into the environment.

Nuclear Signing Is a Risky Decision

While Tritium identifiers allow a building to be compliant with egress regulations, they pose their own cost, health, and environmental dangers. The risk surfaces in instances where the tubes are expectantly damaged or an identifier is disposed of incorrectly. It becomes dangerous as the radioactive particles are allowed to mix with molecules in the atmosphere to create tritiated water. This formed water can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested by humans and is capable of seeping into soil or water sources when improperly disposed. The dangers posed to the environment or people’s wellbeing increase the cost of using nuclear exit light signs. These identifiers are subject to extensive federal regulations that require specific processes to be followed both in the case of a busted tube and during disposal. Fines averaging thousands of dollars can result in situations where disposal is not completed correctly. Additionally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must be contacted any time a tube is busted. Nuclear signing is not only dangerous, but can also be a nuisance to building owners desiring a zero-energy solution. Purchasing, maintenance, and disposal costs are much higher than with newly developed self-luminous choices.

Photoluminescent Signs Are the Safe Self-Luminous Alternative

Nuclear exit light signs have several drawbacks that are often overlooked due to the electrical savings they provide; however, a newer option offers the same savings without the risk. Photoluminescent signs are a zero-energy solution consisting of no toxic or radioactive materials. Tritium products rely on a reaction between the radioactive particles and a phosphor coated tube to generate illumination. Photoluminescent alternatives use a pigment designed to absorb ambient light throughout each day. Once a building becomes dark, the energy is released over an extended period of time to produce a consistent green glow. The recyclable qualities of these signs make them the cheapest to dispose and completely safe for the environment. Photoluminescent signs are the most affordable choice in regards to installation, maintenance, and disposal costs. If Tritium products are currently installed a structure, it could be time to consider retrofitting with photoluminescent identifiers. Whether you are purchasing egress components for the first time or thinking about making a switch, photoluminescent signs provide a safe, reliable alternative and save lives.

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