X-ray Film Recycling And Careful Storage

Jun 7, 2012 by

Data loss can be devastating to any company, and it can happen at any moment, whether it’s by obvious reasons like fire or misplacement, or by more insidious occurrences like climate and humidity; which deteriorates papers to an unreadable extent. But there are companies that provide professional data storage, offering protection against these undesirable possibilities. Data storage is especially recommended for extra sensitive materials, and, if storage is an unnecessary long term expense, x-ray film recycling, or even shredding are available alternatives.

Film negative contains light sensitive silver ions, that are extracted from silver which is dug up from the ground; these films are used in many practices, including radiology, in which the films are a little more distinct as they contain silver in the form of halides, giving them their special characteristics.

Throughout the years radiological devises have provided important information on the human body, but the films used, as opposed to film used for the moving image, are quite hazardous to the environment. When it decomposes, carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas is released, causing death almost instantaneously. Decomposition occurs naturally and slowly enough that the gas omitted will not cause harmful effects, but it is possible that very large collections of this matter could do so. In any case, said documents contain a number of risks as long as they are in possession.

In the 1930′s and 40′s they had a proclivity to burn, as the properties used to make the film were highly flammable, and were the cause of some fires in hospitals. While steps to reduce the flammability have been implement, these films are still quite susceptible to heat.

Diagnostic radiology is the technique that creates the images which are ultimately used to help doctors diagnose patients. But the information imprinted on x-ray film quickly becomes redundant afterwards; there are a plethora of these negatives that have passed their use-by dates and sit in filing cabinets picking up dust. Fortunately for us, and the environment, there are methods for recycling this film.

The recycling process is simple. The negative is chemically washed before being incinerated at temperatures of around 1000C, where the silver is extracted and then converted into a solid silver form of near 100% purity. The silver is then reused as film, silverware, jewellery and soldering.

The facilities to recycle are not everywhere, and careful consideration is needed when transporting film, as combined with the economics of the recovery process, transportation over long distances may not be appropriate. If it does turn uneconomical then safe storage is the adequate step.

Shredding of said documents is probably not recommended, as they do contain toxic substances that the process will not purge. However, if recycling is not available, but removal of the documents is necessary or strongly desired, then shredding should be undertaken before eventually trashing the documents. This will result in a faster decomposition, and is slightly better for the environment, but, as stated, this is not a recommendable option.

While there should be some consideration into the viability of the process, x-ray film recycling or careful storage are smart options for old, unused x-ray film.


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