Duke Radiation Safety
Radiation Dose to the Skin From Various Beta Emitters

You Spilled Radioactive Material on Yourself? Here's What to Do...

First, decontaminate yourself! Flush with plain soap and water (no scrub-brush!). Remove any contaminated clothing. Estimate the concentration of radioactive material you spilled, the volume that hit your skin or clothing and the length of time the spill was in proximity to your skin. Click here to view a diagram that depicts these variables.

Next, complete the form below and click the "Compute Dose" button to estimate the radiation dose to your skin. Enter the radionuclide and the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) you were wearing (if any) from the drop-down lists. Make sure you enter values for all parameters, in the appropriate units. If you leave a field blank, a default value [shown in brackets] will be used.

Select Radionuclide:
Select PPE:
Enter Radioactivity Concentration (microcuries per cubic centimeter): [100 uCi/cc]
Enter Volume Spilled (cubic centimeters): [1 cc]
Enter Time Spill Contacted Skin / Clothing (hours): [ 1 hr]
All Done? Compute the Skin Dose:

Credits and References

This Web application is a tabulation of computational results obtained using the program "Varskin_Mod_2". Varskin_Mod_2, which was written by Dr. James Durham at Colorado State University, computes the radiation dose to the skin for various beta-emitting radionuclides in a choice of geometric configurations. The executable code and reference materials for Varskin_Mod_2 were downloaded from the following Web site: http://www.doseinfo-radar.com/RADARHome.html, courtesy of the Radiation Dose Assessment Resource (RADAR) Team.

The beta doses are computed at a depth of 70 microns in the skin (recommended by the USNRC), with no volume averaging performed. The dose is computed directly beneath the center of a 4-cm diameter, infinitely thin disk of radioactivity with an areal density (microcuries per square cm) which is determined by the total radioactivity in the disk ("spilled activity") and the disk area (12.566 square cm). The total disk activity, in turn, is determined from the concentration (microcuries per cc) and volume spilled (cc), which are input parameters. The dose is averaged over one square cm. If there is PPE material between the spill and the skin, the PPE is modeled as an attenuating slab between the skin and the radioactivity disk. The PPE material and thickness are user-selectable input parameters. The density (grams per cc) of the attenuating PPE slab depends upon the PPE material.

For radionuclides that are both beta- and photon-emitters, only the component of dose due to the betas is included in this extended-geometry model. For short-lived radionuclides, the total dose to the skin is reduced for physical decay that occurs during the exposure interval.

Important Note Concerning This On-line Material

This material is for use by Duke University researchers and staff. It is intended to be a convenient reference in the event of skin contamination with radioactive materials. It should not be used as a primary source of information regarding beta radiation dosimetry. The calculations of skin dose are approximations, and are suitable for rapid risk assessment only. Duke University and OESO make no warranty as to the suitability of these dose computations for any other purpose.

For Questions or Comments, Contact...

Robert E. Reiman, MD
General Secretary, DUMC Radiation Safety Committee

Copyright 2000, Robert E. Reiman, MD, OESO and Duke University Medical Center. All rights reserved.