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UN Atomic Agency Launches Graphic New Radiation Symbol

The new supplementary radiation warning symbol.
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Feb 15, 2007
The UN atomic agency on Thursday launched a new, more graphic symbol to denote dangerous radioactive material -- a skull and crossbones with a person running. The new design will stand alongside, rather than replace, the trefoil -- the original radiation symbol that resembles a kind of three-sail windmill, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement.

More explanatory than the trefoil, "which has no intuitive meaning and little recognition beyond those educated in its significance," the new logo will "help reduce needless deaths and serious injuries from accidental exposure to large radioactive sources," the UN watchdog said.

The symbol features an exit-sign-like pictogram of a person running, the skull and crossbones and radiation waves in a red triangle trimmed with black.

It will be attached to devices, including cancer treatment machines and food irradiators, that fall under the IAEA category of "dangerous sources capable of death or serious injury," the agency said.

The new symbol will be placed not on machines or on doors but on the actual source of radiation, "as a warning not to dismantle the device or to get any closer. It will not be visible under normal use, only if someone attempts to disassemble the device," the statement said.

The pictogram was designed for the illiterate and the poor, who are most often injured in radiation accidents. It was tested on young children and in 11 countries around the world "to ensure that its message of 'danger - stay away' was crystal clear and understood by all," the IAEA said.

Use of the symbol is still voluntary and the agency is working with manufacturers to have it placed on new machines and older ones that are brought in for servicing, IAEA radiation specialist Carolyn MacKenzie said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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