ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




This type of radiation is related to ultraviolet and visible light (including lasers), infra-red lasers, acoustic and ultrasonic energy.112

Sources of Non-Ionising Radiation include the following examples:


  • Low pressure mercury or Xenon gas discharge lamp - as used in fluorescence microscopy.
  • Germicidal lamps (see also Ozone).


  • High pressure mercury or sodium lamps.
  • Tungsten Halogen lamps.


  • Heated objects - all objects emit infra red radiation but this is only a hazard when the object becomes luminous. At this point considerable heat is generated within the object. Likely effects to eyes are corneal pain whilst outer surfaces of the body may suffer burns and vasodilation of the arteriolar system. Damage to the male testicles and sperm production have been reported.113 114


  • Lasers may emit in the infra-red or ultra violet range depending upon their class and construction. Powerful lasers produce radiation that can severely damage the cornea of the eye and produce burns to the skin similar in appearance and intensity to deep electrical burns. Others utilise toxic substances in their construction which can be a health hazard (carbon monoxide and hydrogen fluoride).115-117


  • Microwave ovens - an increase in the incidence of cancer in staff exposed to microwave radiation has been reported.118 Blood forming organs are the target. Microwave cataract and loss of hearing have also been reported after severe exposure.


  • Ultrasonic cleaning devices.

Principles of protection
Adequate protection fundamentally relies upon recognising potential hazards from using various pieces of equipment, ensuring correct use, minimising potential hazards, protecting from irradiation and reporting incidents should they occur. Non-authorised personnel should be excluded from the area and equipment must be adequately shielded to prevent direct or indirect exposure. The distance between source and operator should be maximised and only the minimum exposure used. Appropriate protective clothing and equipment must be provided and used.

All equipment in these categories must be checked before being commissioned and at regular intervals to ensure compliance with local regulations. If shielding is provided it must be used at all times.

The first sign of any problem, skin burn, 'welders flash' or loss of hearing must be reported to the Responsible Safety Officer for immediate action.


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