Pregnancy and Radiation

Regulations require that institutions holding radioactive materials licenses instruct individuals working with radioactive materials in radiation protection as appropriate. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has special considerations for women who are pregnant. The following guide will inform the pregnant worker regarding her rights on the decision whether or not to declare her pregnancy.

Making the Decision to Declare Pregnancy

The decision to declare your pregnancy is completely yours. The NRC has a limit of 0.5 EHS for fetal exposure. This is 1/10 of the normal yearly exposure limit for radiation workers. The only reason the NRC made this limit is to protect the embryo/fetus from unnecessary radiation levels that may put the baby at risk. You, the worker must make your own decision. There are many factors that must be taken into consideration including individual privacy rights regarding pregnancy/termination of pregnancy, equal employment opportunities, and the possible loss of income. Because of these concerns, the declaration of pregnancy is made entirely on the woman's choosing. In addition, the declaration of pregnancy may be removed at any time for any reason. The reason does not need to be disclosed.

What Happens When Pregnancy is Declared

  • When you have made the decision to declare your pregnancy, you must inform your employer. They must know that your work may be affected by the lower limits.
  • After you have informed your employer, contact the Radiation Safety department of EHS (765) 494-6371 and ask to speak with someone regarding your Declaration of Pregnancy.
  • We will inform you of your rights regarding your declaration.
  • If you decide to declare your pregnancy we will have you fill out a "Statement of Declaration of Pregnancy" form. This form will be used to track the monthly exposure readings that you will be getting. On the form we will need your name, Purdue Identification Number, birth date, and your estimated date of conception. We will keep your record until you either call and inform us of your child's birth, at least nine months have elapsed since your estimated date of conception, or you withdraw your declaration. You will be issued a fetal badge after you submit the "Statement of Declaration of Pregnancy" form. If you already wear dosimetry on the job, you will wear this along with the rest of your normal dosimetry. If you normally do not wear any type of dosimetry, you will only wear the fetal badge.
  • EHS will inform you of the risks and possible effects on the fetus due to radiation as compared to other hazards. See the links at the bottom of the page for more information.
  • You will need to provide EHS with the isotope(s) and amounts you will be using so we can provide you with an 9 month estimate of your radiation dose. The limit is 0.5 EHS received over the entire 9 month period. If you have already had that dose from the time of conception to the time of your declaration, you will only be allowed to receive an additional 0.05 EHS.
    • Note: Low-energy beta-emitters such as tritium (3H or H-3) cannot be detected by dosimetry.
  • You will be notified if you are approaching the maximum dose during the your pregnancy. If you accumulate the maximum dose, you will be notified that you may no longer work with radioactive material. At the end of your term, EHS will send you a letter informing you of your accumulated fetal dose.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can I tell my employer orally rather than in writing that I am pregnant?
No, the declaration must be in writing for legal documentation reasons.

Q: If I have not declared my pregnancy in writing, but my employer notices that I am pregnant, do the lower dose limits apply?
A: No. The lower dose limits only apply if you have declared your pregnancy in writing.

Q: If I have declared my pregnancy in writing, can I revoke my declaration of pregnancy even if I am still pregnant?
Yes, it is your right to declare or revoke your pregnancy at any time.

Q: What effect will formally declaring my pregnancy have on my job status?
A: You and your employer must make this decision. Most of the time, the dose limit is not exceeded under normal working conditions. Sometimes, workers normally work around the 0.5 EHS limit during normal working activities. You and your employer must discuss ways that your dose may be limited. In a few circumstances, the employer may decide that you can no longer do your job and that there are no more positions that you would be able to work. This is why it is a good idea to discuss pregnancy and declared pregnancy before you decide to have a child. These are some of the considerations that must be dealt with when deciding whether or not to declare your pregnancy. If you need more information regarding legal issues and this matter there are phone numbers in the "Additional Information" section at the end of this document.

Who Can I Talk To At EHS?

If you are pregnant and would like to declare your pregnancy or are considering pregnancy and would like to talk to someone, please contact EHS at (765) 494-6371.

Links and Other Information:

Radiation: Risks and Realities EPA general radiation information page

Radioactivity in Nature University of Michigan page with great listing of everyday exposures

NRC Regulatory Guide 8.29 Instruction Concerning Risks from Occupational Radiation Exposure Part 11 has a section on health risks from radiation exposure to the embryo/fetus

NRC Regulatory Guide 8.13 Instruction Concerning Prenatal Radiation Exposure

You can telephone the NRC Region III (for Indiana) at (708) 829-9500. Legal questions should be directed to the Regional Counsel, and technical questions should be directed to the Division of Radiation Safety and Safeguards.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you should contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 1801 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20507, or an EEOC Field Office by calling (800) 669-4000 or (800) 669-EEOC. For individuals with hearing impairments, the EEOC's TDD number is (800) 800-3302.