Information Notice No. 97-03: Defacing of Labels to Comply with 10 CFR 20.1904(b)

                                 UNITED STATES
                         NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                            WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                               February 20, 1997

                               10 CFR 20.1904(b)


All material licensees involved with disposal of medical waste.


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to an issue involved with the defacing of labels,
to comply with 10 CFR 20.1904(b).  It is expected that recipients will review
the information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as
appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  However, suggestions contained in
this information notice are not NRC requirements; therefore, no specific
action nor written response is required.  

Description of Circumstances

Section 20.1904(b) of 10 CFR Part 20 requires licensees to remove or deface
radioactive material labels, or otherwise clearly indicate that the containers
no longer contain radioactive material, before disposing of them as non-
radioactive waste.  NRC became aware of the disposal of used syringes/needles
that had been held for decay-in-storage, without licensees removing or
defacing the radioactive material labels or otherwise indicating that the
containers no longer contained radioactive material.  In this situation,
licensees had placed used syringes/needles into opaque plastic inserts, which
had then been capped and placed inside unit dose shields.  Used
syringes/needles are considered both biohazardous and radioactive waste.  The
sealed plastic inserts are placed into waste barrels, along with other
radioactive waste, for decay-in-storage.  The barrels are sealed and labeled
with radioactive material labels and held for 10 half-lives for decay and
surveys prior to disposal.  Although the waste is no longer considered
radioactive, it is still biohazardous.  The sealed barrels' radioactive
material labels are defaced, and then the barrels are disposed of as
biohazardous waste by incineration.  

The radioactive material labels on the used syringes/needles cannot be defaced
without opening the waste barrels and the plastic inserts, actions that would
expose employees to  

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the risk of injury from the needles.  Additionally, these actions would place
licensees in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(1), which requires precautions to prevent
contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials, including
recommendations not to manipulate used syringes/needles by hand.  The
"Statements of Consideration" for 10 CFR 20.1904(b) indicate that the rule
only applies to "visible" labels, and that when compliance with the
regulations is not feasible, other methods are acceptable.  Such methods
include placing placards or labels with the word "empty" on the containers, or
compacting the waste, provided that there are no visible labels remaining. 
Incineration would be another means of ensuring that there are no visible
labels remaining.  The "Statements of Consideration" also indicate that the
rule primarily pertains to shipping and other outer containers that do not
ordinarily contain radioactive materials in and of themselves, but serve as
secondary barriers.  

If licensees determine that waste disposal procedures are needed to address
defacing of labels to comply with 10 CFR 20.1904(b), the procedures must
ensure that no visible labels remain before transfer for disposal.  In one
case, a nuclear pharmacy licensee proposed, and NRC approved, the following
procedure for disposing used syringes/needles without defacing the radioactive
material labels on the used syringes/needles: 

      1.  The radioactive material labels visible on the outer waste
          barrels/containers will be defaced or removed before transfer to the
          waste disposal firm; 

      2.  Waste barrels are sealed before delivery to the waste disposal firm;
      3.  Waste barrels/containers will be delivered directly from the
          licensee's facility to a waste disposal firm for disposal;

      4.  Medical waste is incinerated, and not sent to a medical waste
          landfill; and

      5.  The waste disposal firm will be notified that the barrels must not
          be opened at any point, and for any reason, before incineration.  

Licensees must continue to comply with the waste disposal procedures described
in 10 CFR 35.92, or equivalent disposal procedures for non-medical licensees.

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This information notice requires no specific action nor written response.  If
you have additional questions about the information in this notice, please
contact the technical contact listed below or the appropriate regional office.

                                                signed by
                                          Donald A. Cool, Director
                                          Division of Industrial and 
                                            Medical Nuclear Safety 
                                          Office of Nuclear Material Safety 
                                            and Safeguards

Technical contact:  Sally L. Merchant, NMSS
                    (301) 415-7874

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