Breakage of Self Luminous Exit Signs

If Your Tritium Exit Sign Breaks...

The great thing about self luminous exit signs is their simple yet robust design. They are able to withstand far colder temperatures than any electronic exit sign and can sustain a great amount of blunt force common to industrial locations.


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Even if they are knocked down, a shock absorbant tray inside will protect the glass tubes containing radioactive tritium - the source of the sign's illumination.

But self powered signs can break, especially through intentional vandalism. Here we'll talk about identifying a broken tritium exit sign and how to properly dispose of it.

Is My Self Luminous Exit Sign Broken?

Let's say we are in an industrial environment where forklifts and other heavy machinery are regularly milling around. One forklift backs into ceiling or wall-mounted SL sign, knocking it down and doing some superficial damage to the housing.

Inspect the exit sign:

  • Leave the sign where it is, divert foot traffic around the affected area
  • Ventilate the area (if possible) by opening doors and windows
  • Gather rubber gloves and eye protection

Tritium Leakage

Self luminous exit signs are harmless when tritium is contained. However, if one of the glass tubes has broken and your sign is leaking tritium it does pose a radiation threat, even if a minimal one.

Tritium is a low-level beta radiation that cannot penetrate human skin. The only threat of contamination is if the tritium particles mix in into the hydrogen elements in the air. Humans will recieve small doses of radiation if they breathe in this toxic air.

If you see bright green liquid spilling from the sign, you definitely have a leak. However, sometimes it takes a while for the tritium to leak from the housing.

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If this is the case, find the nearest dark room or turn off the lights and try to observe the 'exit' lettering. If every part of the sign glows evenly, we suggest leaving it outside in a well ventilated space for half a day. Then re-inspect the unit to see if it glows evenly.


There is no need to be afraid of tritium if you know all the facts. Check out our other informative articles on this site.

Call us at 800-379-1129 or email the production staff to learn more.

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