Tritium, a form of hydrogen gas, is put into a phosphor coated glass tube to create a zero-energy light source. It is also used in research facilities to perform scientific experiments within fusion reactors. Tritium exit signs use the combination of gas and phosphor to provide a dim light source at times when a standard or backup illumination method is not available. They are commonly implemented throughout the United States as an emergency measure for building safety code compliance. Tritium is additionally used in the facings of watches, as part of rifle sights, and in novelty items. Its longstanding application in various industries has caused many individuals to assume the technology is completely safe; however, these identifiers contain radioactive materials and must go through beta decay to create the desired glow. The low energy beta generated by this process is incapable of penetrating a person’s skin and hazards are minimal as long as the holding tubes do not break.
What Are The Possible Risks After a Tube Breakage?
It is the gases inability to penetrate dead skin cells that causes most individuals assume the overall safety of this signing option. The hazards of a Tritium exit sign break include an individual inhaling or ingesting the gas or beta decay particles. Tritium intake must be significant to harm individual health due to a short biological half-life; however, the largest concern is release into the environment caused by incorrect disposal. Additionally, the gas molecules are capable of mixing with oxygen to form what is called tritiated water. The water can be absorbed or consumed meaning a larger amount will enter the body. A massive release into the environment from busted tubes does pose harm to the environment. The cost of purchasing, maintaining, and disposing these signs is higher due to the radioactive materials used to generate self-illumination. Each broken tube must be reported, cannot be thrown away as regular trash, and has to be cared for appropriately to avoid Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues.
Photoluminescent Options Eliminate Hazard Concerns
Tritium is capable of mixing with oxygen molecules once it enters the atmosphere and the formed water can seep into surrounding soil or larger water sources. Tritiated water is typically ingested or absorbed by an individual rather than inhaled. Tritium can take as much as a month to be eliminated once it enters the body. The time frame may be more or less depending on how much is ingested. Organically bound Tritium remains in the body for a longer timeframe and prolonged exposure increases the risk of cancer. Photoluminescent signs provide the same benefits as Tritium exit signs, but do not contain radioactive materials. They are completely non-toxic, less costly to purchase, easy to maintain, and are recyclable. There is no substantial impact on the environment throughout usage or after duration of life. Additionally, owners choosing photoluminescent identifiers over tritium-based options will experience fewer complications at time of disposal. Tritium exit signs are fairly expensive to replace and must be eliminated properly to avoid extensive fines. Glow-in-the-dark identifiers provide a zero-energy, safe option to owners seeking the best code compliant solution.