Disposal of Equipment, Films X-Ray Machines
- Radiation - An X-ray machine must be plugged into an electrical source in order to produce
radiation. Once you unplug an X-ray machine, there's no residual radiation.
- Cobalt 60 - Cobalt 60 is a radioisotope used in
medical applications. Cobalt 60 rods must be professionally removed. Once that's done, many parts of the machine
can be recycled.
- PCBs - X-ray machines made before July 1979 may contain a toxic substance called
polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, in the transformer oil. If your machine has PCBs in it, you will need to
contact a waste removal specialist to handle removal of this substance. (It's also your responsibility to test
the machine for PCBs before you transfer ownership.)
- Hazardous Metals - Older equipment may contain hazardous metals. Before taking a machine out of
service you need to be aware of what's in the machine and what needs to be done to dispose of it properly. How
you go about this could either save or cost you a lot of money.
If it turns out that your old machine contains a hazardous waste metal regulated by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, you will have from 90-180 days from the decommissioning date - the day you take the machine
out of service - to properly dispose of the hazardous waste or face potential fines.
So before declaring a machine as waste and taking it out of service, hire a private sector
Environmental Waste consultant/contractor to walk you through the process.
- X-Ray Tubes - To disable an X-ray machine, you'll need to remove the head, being careful not to
break the X-ray tube. The tube is under vacuum and if broken, could splinter and cause injuries.
Disposal of Machine or Parts
There are different ways to get rid of an X-ray unit.
- You can donate it to a company that recycles usable machines.
- You can also transfer ownership of a working machine to an individual or institution that is legally able to use
X-ray machines. Your X-ray vendor may know of companies that purchase used equipment.
- Donate the equipment. Partners
in Health and Project
Cure are two non-profit organizations that sometimes accept donations of high quality, useful X-ray
equipment in good condition.
- If a waste disposal company will accept it, you can get rid of the whole machine at once.
- Or, you can sell the parts for scrap.
X-Ray Films: Disposal
It is illegal to simply toss old X-rays into the garbage or dispose of them in a landfill.
Not only do X-rays contain silver emulsion, a highly reactive and flammable material, they are considered private
health records. You must dispose of X-rays in ways that do not hurt the environment, create safety hazards or
compromise patient privacy as defined by HIPAA.
The best way to dispose of old X-ray films is to recycle them. A number of companies nationwide melt X-rays to
extract and recycle the silver. You'll find them by searching the Internet for 'X-ray film recycling." Just make
sure to use a company that is HIPAA-compliant.
X-Rays More Than 50 Years Old
X-rays more than 50 years old may be made of a very flammable material called nitrocellulose. You must follow EPA
rules when transporting or getting rid of these older X-ray films. Make sure to either hire a private waste disposal
expert or contact DHEC's Land and Waste staff for information on how to go about it safely and legally.
How long should I keep X-ray films?
By law, mammography
films and patient reports must be maintained for at least 5 years;
10 years if the patient has not returned for a checkup during that time.
For all other types of X-ray films, consult your accrediting organization.
Any person or company that generates or transports infectious waste in South Carolina must be registered. Learn more
about the S.C. infectious waste registration
Radiological and Toxic Waste Laws