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Radioactive Material Used in Research

Radiation Facts

  • Radioactive materials are used to help some researchers create and test new medicines, technologies, and procedures that benefit plants, animals and people.
  • Research laboratories must follow strict rules to order, store, use and dispose of radioactive material.

Some research facilities use radioactive materials in scientific studies and experiments to create new medicines or products. Strict requirements must be met before a research facility can order, store or use radioactive materials.

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About Radioactive Material Used in Research

Radioactive materials are used in many laboratories. Here are two of the many examples of how radioactive materials are used to keep us healthy and thriving.

Medical researchers use radioactive materials to develop and test the effectiveness of new medicines and treatments. To do this, some researchers use specialized detectors called “tracers” that track how material travels through a person or animal. Tracers show where medicines or treatments interact with the body, so doctors can diagnose and treat disease. There is a special field in medicine called radiopharmaceuticals that focuses on the use of radioactive materials to help treat or cure diseases. The creation and testing of new radiopharmaceuticals requires the use of radioactive materials. Learn more about Nuclear Medicine.

Agricultural researchers use the same type of tracers used in medical research to see how certain materials move through plants. 

To learn more about jobs and careers in radiation-related fields, visit RadTown’s Careers in Radiation Protection webpage.

When using radioactive materials in laboratories, researchers must consider safety and waste disposal. Strict requirements must be met before a research facility can order, store or use radioactive materials. Facilities that use radioactive materials are required to keep detailed records so that in the case of an emergency responders would be well informed. If the research creates radioactive waste, it must be disposed of according to state and federal requirements. 

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What You Can Do

  • Follow safety guidelines. It is unlikely that you will come into contact with radioactive materials in a research facility. If you do spend time in an area where radioactive materials are used for research, be sure to follow all safety guidelines.

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