[Histonet] Re: Carbon 14

Bob Richmond rsrichmond <@t> gmail.com
Tue Jan 31 10:06:37 CST 2012

Jim Staruk asks: >>Does anyone have any experience with tissue
injected with carbon 14? I have some questions about precautions and

Natural carbon derived from atmospheric carbon (like the tissues of
plants and animals) contains some natural carbon 14, formed in the
upper atmosphere by cosmic-ray irradiation of nitrogen 14. So when you
incinerate carbon 14 labeled material, you're adding some more carbon
14 to a smokestack that's already emitting some anyway. The isotope
has a half-life of around 5,700 years, undergoing beta decay whose
product is nitrogen 14.

To put some numbers on that: when carbon 14 labeled glucose was used
in clinical blood culture bottles, it was estimated that incinerating
the bottles would roughly double a hospital incinerator's smokestack
emissions of the isotope, an amount that was considered safe by

As René Buesa suggests, I'd certainly check with a radiation safety
officer (if you can find one), but I think you can probably incinerate
this material. I have no idea if you can landfill it or not.

Bob Richmond
Samurai Pathologist
Knoxville TN

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