doeHealth Care Waste & Toxics Reduction Tips

for small and medium size health care facilities


Health care facilities that use imaging/radiology on-site can benefit from waste reduction and resource efficiency efforts.


readxrayReasons for Change

Radiology and X-ray services may generate dangerous waste from the use of lead shields, film processing (silver), and other activities. 

Film and fixer from the developing processes will contain silver. Spent fixer designates as a dangerous waste (D011 {silver}). While silver is not considered a hazard to humans, it can be hazardous to aquatic plants and animals. It also exhibits  bacteriacidal properties. Many of the chemicals used in developing film are acidic or caustic and require special care when handling. Some are inhalation hazards with concerns for long-term exposure.

Lead is commonly used in radiation shielding and it designates as a dangerous waste (D008). Long-term exposure to even low levels of lead can cause irreversible learning difficulties, mental retardation and delayed neurological and physical development.

By assessing and implementing one or more of the practices described here and on the accompanying downloadable table, health care facilities can enjoy:

          • Reduced regulatory obligations and oversight

          • Increased safety and reduced risks for patients, staff, visitors and the community

          • Less waste in raw materials, by-products, work space, work flow, and staffing

          • Improved cost control at your health care facility 



Opportunities for Action

Specific tips on ways imaging/radiology service providers can reduce and prevent toxic wastes and resource inefficiencies are listed in this fact sheet’s downloadable/printable table. A sampling of these tips is listed below. 

Basic Best Management Practices

  • Implement a silver recovery and recycling program.

  • Recycle x-ray film for silver.

  • Store chemicals, film, and paper properly for longer shelf-life.

  • Extend fixing bath life: add ammonium thiosulfate.

  • Recycle all non-serviceable radiation shielding.



Opportunities to Improve Imaging/Radiology Practices

  • Switch to digital imaging.

  • Use alternatives to lead radiation shielding

  • Manage/treat spoiled or expired chemicals as dangerous waste.

  • Recover the silver in your fixer solution – see the silver recovery TBG fact sheet.

  • After silver recovery, test the discharge for hazardous waste designation; treat and discharge to sewer if permitted by local publicly owned treatment works.



Additional Resources

This resource guide’s home page has links to additional fact sheets in this series, plus other useful tools and information from the Washington Department of Ecology and other experts.

Basic information about the silver recovery process.

List of silver recovery equipment vendors.

List of scrap film buyers.

List of silver refiners and buyers.

Itasca Medical Center case study on waste reduction practices.  See page 10 for the results of their silver recovery efforts.

List of photographic processing hazards.

The Washington State Department of Ecology has a directory of companies providing silver recovery services

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This information is brought to you by the Washington Department of Ecology/Toxics Reduction Unit with assistance from the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) . June 2010