The idea of self-luminous signs for meeting building and fire safety requirements has led to the installation of numerous Tritium-based identifiers; however, these items are now becoming the less ideal choice as better alternatives begin to surface. Glow-in-the-dark visual aids made with Tritium are radioactive in nature and owners or contractors in need of a code compliant implementation must put careful consideration into this decision. While said to be completely safe, the choice of implementing nuclear exit signs within a structure still has to be properly evaluated. The facts must be known before jumping into this decision with both feet. It is important to remember that the inclusion of radioactive materials as part of safety compliance measures has a few possible risks.
Tritium is a type of gas placed in glass tubes within a special container and is used to cause self-illumination. The radioactive hydrogen isotope reacts with a compound coating such as phosphor as beta decay occurs. This reaction causes the coating to produce a red or green glow. As beta decay progresses, the visibility of these signs decreases and they averagely last from ten to twenty years. The radioactive materials are safe as long as the particles do not escape the glass tube, but create health and environmental risks in instances where the tube is broken. The gas itself cannot penetrate the skin or objects unless it is allowed to mix with oxygen molecules. Tritiated water formed by this combination is capable of entering the body, soil, or water sources. Nuclear exit signs must be disposed of in accordance to federal guidelines to prevent environmental harm.
Tritium is Heavily Regulated by the Government
Besides the associated health and environmental dilemmas of nuclear exit sign installation, you also have to consider the federal guidelines that must be followed any time these items are installed. Facilities using these identifiers do not have to acquire a special handling license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), but are required to follow certain guidelines during installation, use, maintenance, and disposal. Failure to do so results in extensive fines from the NRC among other complications. Damaged identifiers are not only capable of contaminating the surrounding atmosphere, but also require an expensive cleanup process. The average disposal cost for an unharmed identifier is around two-hundred dollars. Fines can surpass ten thousand dollars if the NRC finds out of improper disposal practices.
Labeling has to remain on the sign, breakages must be reported to the NRC, and signs cannot be disposed of as regular trash or moved to another location. These identifiers pose a significant danger to the environment as breakages occur in landfills or other disposal areas. A secondary option is available for achieving the implementation of self-luminous signing without the risk of radioactive harm. Non-toxic photoluminescent identifiers provide a dependable visual source with all the benefits offered by Tritium products. This self-luminous alternative is the safest choice for the environment and much less complicated to maintain. Photoluminescent identifiers are recyclable, simple to install, and eliminate electrical usage. They offer a longer lifespan and provide a safe alternative to placing nuclear exit signs throughout your building.