Image for Skin Contamination from Opening an Overpressurized Ampule Skin Contamination from Opening an Overpressurized Ampule
Published By: Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL - ANL
Topics: Chemical Safety, Laboratory
Document ID: 2013-ANL-016

A lab researcher was preparing to open a sealed glass ampule containing a 5 milliliter solution of 25 microCuries per gram Americium 241 in dilute nitric acid. The process to open these types of ampules involves using a small hand file to score the glass ampule, allowing the vial to be broken open cleanly along the narrowed neck. When the researcher was in the process of scoring the vial, the vial ruptured as if under pressure. When the vial ruptured, liquid sprayed out of the vial, out of the hood opening and onto the face and lab coat of the researcher.

Lessons Learned: When opening sealed glass ampules containing alpha emitting radionuclides, proper use of engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment must be employed to mitigate the contamination hazard. When analyzing the hazard, mitigations must be implemented to reduce the risk related to the possibility of the ampule being pressurized above atmospheric pressure due to radiolysis from alpha decay.

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