- 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 radiography and 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 process .