Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)-May 2010

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

May 2010

IN THIS ISSUE: Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is a concern as both a human contamination hazard and as radioactive waste.  NORM, though naturally occurring, can become concentrated during industrial activities such as mineral extraction or oil production. Unprotected exposure to NORM dusts has been associated with increased risk of cancer and leukemia.

“Most NORM is found in soil where its radioactive content is relatively low.” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP, of OccuSafe, Inc, “The problem is that vast quantities of soil contain these small amounts of radioactive material and that raises the risk of exposure.”

NORM causes concern in many industries that process raw materials such as metal mining, waste processing, oil and gas waste, scrap recycling, and water treatment. Some of these materials can be used as construction backfill and road building materials, as well as in the production of concrete.  Oil and gas production may produce radioactive pipe scale and equipment contamination.

When the presence of NORM is suspected, steps must be taken to protect workers.

  • Assessment.  A hazard assessment should be performed so employees can be advised of its presence, and instructed in applicable safety guidelines to protect themselves.
  • Instruction.  Potentially contaminated equipment can be evaluated with a gamma ray detection instrument.
  • Avoidance. Activities that cause NORM material to become airborne should be avoided or reduced.
  • Controls.  If activities cannot be avoided, control processes through ventilation or other engineering controls and improved work practices, or provide particulate respirators to protect workers. NORM most often contains radioactive materials that can do harm if they enter the body through inhalation or ingestion. NORM does not typically enter through the skin.  To avoid ingestion, provide personal protective clothing, clean restroom and eating facilities, and encourage employees to use proper sanitation.

NORM can be a significant safety hazard, but it can be minimized through radiation monitoring, safe work guidelines, and proper handling of contaminated materials and wastes.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc.   Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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