Tritium Exit Signs Are Great for the Environment

Tritium exit sign are great for the environment

In a well-lit room, tritium’s eco-friendly nature remains hidden from the human eye. Once the lights have gone out, the glow produced by tritium (H-3) becomes visible. In fact, its brightness exceeds the minimum acceptable brightness, as specified in Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards. The intensity of tritium’s glow helps to substantiate the claim that the tritium exit sign is great for the environment.


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The glow produced by H-3 results from a slow decay of the hydrogen atom, one that has an extra electron. It does not depend on the movement of electrons in an electrical wire, or between two plates within a battery. No materials are used and no energy is consumed in order to ensure the production of this reliable green glow.

H-3 exit signs

This is not the only reason that an exit sign with H-3 should be viewed as something that is good for the environment. The second reason relates to the procedures for disposal of the radioactive material inside of these exit signs. In the United States, the government has gone to great lengths to publicize the specific aspects of that procedure. The procedure’s many steps guarantee a careful tracking of the spot in which any such sign can be located.

Notifications to USNRC

Among the many agencies in the U.S. government is one called the United States Regulatory Commission (USNRC). Any manufacturer of tritium exit signs must notify the USNRC regarding the sale of any of its products. Furthermore, the retailer/supplier who has purchased that sign must notify the USNRC when it has been sold to a buyer, such as a building owner.

Only licensed tritium disposal

At no point should any those who handle, sell, or distribute tritium exit signs remove from any of those items the label that must go on each of them. The government requires that the designated manufacturer place that radioactive label on all appropriate exit signs. Upon noting the label’s presence, a retailer/supplier is expected to carry out a careful inspection of that doorway-topping item.

How tritium exit signs work

Even though tritium’s decay leads to release of only a small amount of radioactivity, the USNRC has taken steps to keep the enclosed H-3 from leaking out into the surrounding environment. Although traces of H-3 can be found in nature, specifically in the atmosphere, the government’s rules require placement of that naturally-occurring material in specially-sealed tubes. Furthermore, each such tube must be protected by another set of high impact tubing.  If a retailer/supplier detects a break in any of those tubes, then he or she must contact the USNRC.

The government regulations ensure the tracking of any tritium-containing sign even after a building owner has chosen to replace it. That bit of radioactive exit sign cannot be disposed of in the way similar to common trash. It must be returned to the manufacturer. The manufacturer’s license number should appear on the object that is to be returned.

Licensed disposals

Once a sign’s former owner/user has returned that glowing object to the site at which it was manufactured, then he or she cannot simply forget about the fact that it used to sit atop a doorway in his or her building. The appropriate arm of the US government, notably the Regulatory Commission must be made aware of the fact that yet another of the many tritium exit signs has made its way back to the place where it was originally produced. The controls placed on those who sell, buy, or use radioactive exit signs allow those same men and women to claim that the tritium exit sign is great for the environment.

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