Dangers & Risks of Tritium Exit Signs

Radioluminescent exit signs contain a radioactive and toxic componenet - tritium.

The use of tritium exit signs is prohibited by the US Department of Defense, the city of Berkeley, CA, and numerous college campuses.

Tritium exit signs last for only 10, 15 or 20 years; until the radioactive tritium is exhausted.

Tritium is monitored and controlled by the NRC - Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Failure to comply with NRC requirements regarding the use and disposal of tritium exit signs may result in severe penalties.

Tritium, escaping from broken or damaged exit signs, will contaminate your facility and could result in huge liability or safety issues.

Clean-up of tritium is an enormously costly and complicated process typically is over $100,000 per occurence.

Tritium is the only radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

Tritium is used in fission and thermonuclear weapons to increase the yield (explosive force). Exports of tritium are controlled by agencies of the US government to prevent rogue states and terrorists from collecting enough material to aid the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The US Environment Protection Agency recommends the following actions. Some basic precautions can minimize the risks of broken or damaged tritium exit signs. The tritium in exit signs can be identified by the tube (sealed source) that contains tritium. In an exit sign, the tubes are used to spell out the word EXIT.

Tritium Exit Sign Precautions

A tritium exit sign should be clearly labeled with a statement that it contains tritium. Return outdated tritium exit signs to the manufacturer. The address of the manufacturer usually can be found on the back of the tritium exit sign. The manufacturer can provide instructions on how to ship the tritium exit sign safely. Disposal of the broken sign should be arranged through the manufacturer or a health physics consultant.

When an exit sign containing tritium is damaged and the sealed tube within the sign is broken, you should:

Leave the sign alone;
Do not touch it.

Evacuate the area immediately.

Isolate the area;
Do not allow entry.

Ventilate the area to the outside.

Identify all individuals possibly exposed.


If you think you have been contaminated, you should:

Shower with soap and water (or at least wash face and hands).

Change clothing and put the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag for testing

Collect a urine sample for testing to confirm or rule out internal exposure

Drink plenty of fluids to help the tritium leave the body

Call your local fire or police departments

Call the state's radiation control program

Call the manufacturer for technical information

How to dispose of your tritium exit signs.

Do it yourself option: Customer initiated tritium recycling option

Customer registers tritium sign with US Nuclear regulatory commission

Customer has to store expired tritium signs in a safe storage area on property

Once return authorization letter is received, the customer can return the sign

Customer is responsible for safe packaging of the tritium exit sign

Customer must arrange shipment through an approved shipper than can ship nuclear materials.

Customer is responsible for filling out necessary paperwork for state regulatory agencies

Customer must send recycling verification letters to appropriate regulatory agencies

What to do once your signs have been recycled.

Replace with new tritium or electric exit signs.

Run Wire
Run Conduit
Junction Boxes
Electrician Labor
Aquire Permits
Certified Inspections

Typical cost is $150 per 25' away from nearest emergency circuit

Electricty exit sign costs
$30 - $500+

Ongoing Costs

Batteries $7 - $15
Electricity $5 - $7
Testing $20 - $40
Bulbs $5 - $10
Annual Cost $40 - $50

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