Radiation Safety Office

Polonium 210 (Po-210)

Prior Approval is Required for the Purchase of Static Eliminators Containing Polonium 210 (Po-210)

Static eliminators may be used in research laboratories as part of analytical balances, or to neutralize static charges on membrane filters. These devices may contain Po-210, a radioactive material which emits alpha radiation. If a device contains Po-210, it is usually sold under a general license issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

If you own or wish to purchase these devices there are regulatory requirements that must be followed. Please contact the Radiation Safety Office at 335-8916 if you own a static eliminator containing Po-210 that the RSO was not apprised of prior to purchasing. Radiation Safety Office training and radiation badging is not required however the devices must be registered under the authorization of the director of radiation safety and have a six month swipe test performed for radiation leakage.


Prior to Purchasing

Fax or send your purchase order to:
Radiation Safety Office
Dodgen Research Facility
Fax: 509-335-1615
Campus zip: 1302

The RSO will fax your purchase order back to you with an approval stamp for you to submit to purchasing. Please write in the person's name that will be responsible for the security of the device while it is in your possession on the purchase order. This person will be listed in RSO records as the custodian of the device.

Potential Hazards

Static eliminators often contain 500 microcuries of Po-210. Po-210 used in static eliminators is not in its pure form. It is combined with silver or other metals in the form of a foil mounted inside a protective cage, using designs approved by the NRC or a state regulatory agency. Po-210 emits alpha radiation, which cannot penetrate paper or skin. Therefore, external exposure does not pose a health hazard. It also decays quickly, with a half-life (the time it takes to lose half its radioactivity) of 138 days. That means polonium-210 effectively loses its radioactivity in about two-and-a-half years.

However, if swallowed or inhaled in sufficient quantities and absorbed into the bodily system , polonium-210 can be extremely toxic. Prevent damage to the device. Do not ingest or inhale Po-210.

Changing out

Make arrangements with the WSU Radiation Safety Office for pickup when the device is no longer useful to your lab. The Radiation Safety Office will either return the device to the vendor for disposal or dispose of it in their radioactive waste.

Security of Po-210 Sources

Even though these are generally licensed, users must ensure that the radioactive material is not lost or stolen.

Static eliminators are often small items, 3 x 1 x ¼ inch in size. Ensure the items are not lost or misplaced. Lost devices must be reported to the Radiation Safety Office.

Radiation Safety Office, PO Box 641302, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-1302, 509-335-8916, Contact Us