What Is Radioactive Contamination?

If radioactive material is not in a sealed source container, it might be spread onto other objects. Contamination occurs when material that contains radioactive atoms is deposited on materials, skin, clothing, or any place where it is not desired. It is important to remember that radiation does not spread or get "on" or "in" people; rather, it is radioactive contamination that can be spread. A person contaminated with radioactive material will receive radiation exposure until the source of radiation (the radioactive material) is removed.

  • A person is externally contaminated if radioactive material is on the skin or clothing.
  • A person is internally contaminated if radioactive material is breathed in, swallowed, or absorbed through wounds.
  • The environment is contaminated if radioactive material is spread about or is unconfined.
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