P-32 (Phosphorus -32) Radiation Safety Data

Source: Ionactive Radiation Protection Resource

P-32 (Phosphorus-32)

Half life: 14.3 days

Specific activity: 1.06×1016 Bq/g

Decay product: S-32 (non radioactive)

Significant emissions (keV) [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

In the data below, % refers to the probability of emission of a particular type of radiation at a specified energy

Gamma / x-ray: n/a

Beta (Emax): 1710 keV (100 %) Beta (Eav): 700 keV

Electrons: n/a

Alpha particles: n/a

External exposure (in air) [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

The values below are specified as mSv/h for either 1 MBq of activity or an area source of 1 MBq/m2 depending on the geometry. Unless specified below, any bremsstrahlung dose rate is not specified. (HP 0.07) represents a skin dose rate and (HP 10) represents an 'at depth' tissue dose rate (> 10mm).

Point source (at 30cm)

Point source : 0.118 mSv/h (beta dose rate)

Infinite place source (at 10 cm)

Beta (HP 0.07) : 0.15 mSv/h (0.048 mSv/h at 100cm)

Photon (HP 0.07) : 0.0 mSv/h

Photons (HP 10) : 0.0 mSv/h

External exposure (arising from personal contamination) [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

The values below are either for uniform contamination on the skin (for 1 kBq/cm2) or as a single droplet (1 kBq) and are specified in mSv/h. It is assumed that no PPE is being worn which would attenuate the radiation.

Uniform deposit on the skin: 1.89 mSv/h (beta dose rate)

0.05ml droplet on the skin: 1.33 mSv/h (beta dose rate)

[Note: Working with a high energy beta emitter such as P-32 can be a challenge and careless handling can result in large extremity doses to the fingers, even where gloves have been worn (i.e. glove offers negligible attenuation of the P-32 beta particles). Usefully, everything scales so understanding the problem is not difficult - a droplet of 1MBq P-32 on the finger tip will yield a dose rate of around 1.33 Sv/h (or 22.2 mSv/minute). If you are working with P-32, monitor your working environment and gloved hands frequently, remove contaminated gloves if they are found to be contaminated and then monitor the hand directly - any P-32 contamination must be washed off carefully, avoiding damage to the skin or further contamination spread].

Shielding (external radiation) [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

In the data below beta shielding is specified as mm of material to provide 100% absorption of the beta particle (or electron). Gamma (and x-ray) shielding is specified in terms of mm of material relating to 1 TVT or 1 HVT. The TVT is the thickness of material (in mm) which will reduce the radiation intensity (dose rate) down to 1/10 of the pre-shielded dose rate. The HVT is the thickness of material (in mm) which will reduce the radiation intensity down to 1/2 of the pre-shielded dose rate

Beta radiation (for 100% absorption)

Glass: 3.4mm

Plastic: 6.3 mm (typically 10-12 mm of transparent acrylic is the industry standard shield for higher energy beta emitters).

Typical PPE (glove): negligible absorption

Gamma / x-ray radiation (TVT and HVT)

Pure beta emitter - TVT and HVT are not relevant for primary radiation.

[Note: The high energy nature of the P-32 beta emitter means that bremsstrahlung cannot be ignored. A substantial thickness of lead (e.g. cm's) will act as a shield as the lead will attenuate the bremsstrahlung x-rays that will be created on the surface of the shielding material. However, it is best to minimise bremsstrahlung radiation in the first place by using low density shielding materials as specified above for beta radiation. If necessary low thickness lead (1-2mm) can be used to mop up any remaining x-rays, be sure to place the shielding in the right order: P-32 → acrylic → lead ].

Internal exposure [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

The data featured below is derived for employees who work with ionising radiation (and are therefore subject to dose limits specified by the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 in the UK, and similar regulation around the world). Whilst not directly applicable to public exposure (e.g. exposure resulting from environmental releases - either planned or accidental), the data will provide a good indication of likely exposures and is therefore adequate for general research, illustration and asking 'what if?' type questions. If you need professional advice, please consider consulting a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA).

Internal radiation exposure generally means the intake of a radioactive substances by inhalation, ingestion or through cuts (or absorption) in the skin. For this resource assume cuts / absorption are similar to the ingestion values.

This data provides the dose delivered (committed effective dose equivalent) for an intake of [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)] by inhalation or ingestion to yield 1mSv effective dose. The dose value provided assumes that all the dose is delivered in the first year of intake, in reality this will vary greatly with radioisotope due to a combination of physical half-life, biological half-life and the biochemical behaviour of the particular radioactive substances in the body.

Target organ: Whole body

Inhalation dose (1 mSv): 0.315 MBq

Ingestion dose (1 mSv): 0.50 MBq

Talking to trainees and clients we find that the above data is generally easier to use than quoting dose data such as Sv.Bq-1, since most users are working in MBq (or kBq) levels of activity and comparing with dose limits generally quoted in mSv. Remember that the figures can be scaled - so 1MBq of P-32 ingested (taken into the systemic system), will yield a committed effective dose of 2 mSv (based on the above data).

Workplace Monitoring and Dosimetry [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

General comment

Workplace monitoring means using techniques to detect ionising radiation sources in the working environment (e.g. on benchtops, floors, walls, drains and similar). The monitoring can be direct (e.g. using a radiation detector to gain real time measurements of dose rate and / or activity) or indirect (where a smear / wipe of an area is made and this is then offered up to a radiation monitoring probe or placed in scintillation fluid for liquid scintillation counting).

Dosimetry is used to measure personal exposure from a source of ionising radiation. Passive dosimetry (e.g. film badge, thermoluminescent dosimeter - TLD etc) is worn on the body (e.g. trunk / extremities / near eyes) and measures total integrated dose over time. Active dosimetry (e.g. electronic personal dosimeter - EPD, personal electronic dosimeter - PED etc) is worn on the trunk of the body and provides real time accumulated dose (and sometimes dose rate) - audible dose and dose rate alarms may also be available. Biological monitoring [bioassay] (e.g. urine sampling, faecal sampling etc) takes biological samples from the body where they are analysed in a sensitive detector to determine activity of radionuclides in the body (usually due to the intake of radioactive material by inhalation, ingestion or through absorption / cuts in the skin).

Workplace monitoring [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]
  • Geiger-Mueller (GM) tube with thin end window (e.g. Mini E / EP15) - 10-30% efficiency
  • Beta Scintillation probe with large area window (e.g. Thermo HP-380B) - up to 50% efficiency
  • LB 124 SCINT probe - large area surface contamination monitor (170 cm2) - efficiency > 50%
  • Area wipes following by liquid scintillation counting (usable results, but direct monitoring more useful)
Dosimetry [P-32(Phosphorus-32)]
  • Extremity dosimeter (e.g. finger TLD) - measures potentially high beta dose
  • Passive whole body dosimeter (e.g TLD, Film badge etc) - may measure bremsstrahlung x-rays from P-32 stock > 9.25 MBq
  • Urine sampling followed by laboratory assessment (bioassay)

Occurrences and uses [P-32 (Phosphorus-32)]

  • P-32 is not found in nature (in any meaningful or useful activity).
  • P-32 is formed in a nuclear reactor (irradiation of S-32 with fast neutrons).
  • Formed during atomic (nuclear) explosions.
  • Treatment of polycythaemia vera (PV) & essential thrombocythaemia (ET) - a method using beta particles to slow down the number of red blood cells and platelets made in the body.
  • Biomedical studies in plant and animal cells - radiolabelling cells with P-32 is a common research analytical technique.

Physics is, hopefully, simple. Physicists are not

– Edward Teller -