What is ALARA?
You may have heard or seen ALARA and are unsure of its meaning. Regarding radiation doses, ALARA stands for “as low as reasonably achievable.” Radiationsafety.com is a radiation detection company that provides instruments for measuring radiation in the form of a radiation dosimetry badge and rings.
The ALARA principle is based on a linear-no-threshold dose model and is the foundation of a program to keep radiation exposure at a minimum. ALARA programs are required for all radiation protection programs by federal and state rules and regulations. ALARA is suggested to protect people from exposure to radiation and the environment from additional and unintended release of radioactive materials.
Three techniques in an ALARA program are time, distance, and shielding. These three principles are practical individually but most effectively work in tandem.
Time: Limit or minimize the time you are exposed to radiation. The radiation dose is linearly correlated to the length of time you are exposed to radiation. The longer the exposure, the more damage. Like sunburn can occur within 30 minutes, radiation burns from x-rays, alpha rays, or gamma rays can happen quickly and cause painful injury.
Distance: Limit or minimize the proximity to the source of radiation. The closer the exposure, the more damage. The severity of injury due to radiation exposure exponentially decreases comparatively to the distance to the source.
Shielding: Devices can protect from radioactivity. Shielding works because of the principle of attenuation, the gradual decrease of energy’s intensity through a medium, by absorbing radiation between the source of radioactivity and the location to be protected. Radiation shielding comes in many forms, including the lead in aprons, glasses, walls, and shields.
Additionally, ALARA programs can incorporate techniques to limit internal radiation exposure, including controlling contamination, minimizing airborne hazards, proper hygiene, and using the correct PPE.
Controlling Contamination: If a spill or exposure to radioactive materials occurs, managing it quickly with absorbent papers and spill trays disposed of in a labeled waste container is essential. Radioactive materials should have proper labels and containers before a spill occurs to limit possible contamination.
Minimizing Airborne Hazards: During or after a spill or when working with gaseous substances, measures should be taken to reduce airborne contamination. Using ventilation hoods and avoiding aerosols minimizes the potential to breathe in radioactive particles.
Proper Hygiene: You reduce radiation hazards by exercising good hygiene and cleanliness at work and home. It is not advised to eat or drink when radioactive substances are present. Take caution not to put your hands near your mouth or nose or touch your eyes in the presence of radiation. These simple practices help reduce internal radiation exposure.
PPE: Personal protective equipment must be worn in all circumstances around radioactivity. Gloves, a lab coat, goggles, and any shielding devices should be worn, but it is ineffective if PPE is not worn correctly. In addition, an instrument for measuring radiation, like those sold at radiationsafety.com, must be included in PPE.
Implementing these ALARA techniques and educating staff to utilize them can minimize radiation exposure and keep radioactive doses as low as reasonably achievable. As always, check with your RSO.