Is There a Better Alternative to Tritium Exit Signs?

Tritium exit signs have been status quo for building safety since the 1950’s and are safer than the original Radium painted identifiers. The radioactive isotope consists of one proton with two neutrons. It is rare to find a natural occurrence of the isotope making its low energy form used in commercial items man-made. Tritium by itself cannot penetrate the outermost layer of a person’s skin. The danger of this self-luminous option lies in the chance of inhalation of its gas form or consumption when mixed with oxygen molecules. Tritiated water forms when the radioactive isotope is allowed to combine with oxygen and the generated water can be absorbed through the skin or consumed. When released into the air, the danger of inhalation becomes significant and it is these dangers that raise concern about the common use of Tritium exit signs throughout buildings. The radioactive isotope is often used as light source for wristwatches and in exit signs. Photoluminescent options have been developed to create a less harmful atmosphere and dependable visual source for building occupants without putting the environment at risk.

Growing Concerns Regarding Tritium

Identifiers painted with Radium are more hazardous than the offered alternative of Tritium exit signs. Several owners choose this self-illuminating option due to a lack of awareness regarding the dangers it poses to people and the environment. The radioactive isotope was discovered in 1934 by three physicists as part of a scientific experiment. It bonds with oxygen when released into the air to create tritiated water, which is capable of entering the atmosphere, water, and soil. Small tubes in a shockproof container house the radioactive material, which emits light as it hits the phosphor layer during beta decay. While safe to handle throughout daily operations, they become hazardous if a tube should leak or break. A breakage is possible during regular maintenance, in the event of explosion, and any time old signs are disposed of improperly. Specific nuclear safety requirements increase the purchasing, maintenance, and disposal costs of this option. If they are not disposed of properly, the fines for failure to follow regulations result in tens of thousands of dollars. The investigation of a less harmful option is important to building owners due to these among other reasons.

Photoluminescent Products: A Safer Structural Choice

A new alternative using photoluminescent or glow-in-the-dark pigments was developed as the dangers of Tritium exit signs have been recognized. It eliminates the risks of Tritium to occupants within a structure and the environment after disposal. Zero-energy photoluminescent identifiers are better for the environment due to the use of non-toxic materials. Owners switching to this code compliant option do not have to worry about harming the environment or individuals residing within their structure. Photoluminescent products are affordable to implement in small or large structures and their recyclable qualities remove the worry of extensive fees for disposal. The utilized pigment absorbs energy during daily operations from normal light sources and then emits it as a green glow when a structure becomes dark. These products can last for up to twenty-five years and offer a safe, dependable alternative to the original self-luminous choice of Tritium exit signs.

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