Let's Talk Tritium

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Have you heard of tritium? Tritium is a rare isotope of hydrogen, and the only radioactive form of this widespread natural element. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates tritium releases into the environment to protect you and your community and wants to hear from you.

Worried about exposure to tritium?

Wondering about potential uses of tritium?

Send the CNSC your questions and its experts will answer them here.


Background on tritium

Cosmic rays produce tritium when they interact with gases in the upper atmosphere. In Canada, tritium is a by-product created by nuclear reactors and tritium processing facilities.

Tritium has several industrial uses, including glow-in-the-dark lighting, like in exit signs or airport runway lights, and as a biomedical tracer in research.

CNSC experts study the environmental behaviour and health effects of tritium in collaboration with national and international partners.

The CNSC recently updated its tritium resources to provide more information on this important isotope.

Let's Talk Tritium is now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions.

Have you heard of tritium? Tritium is a rare isotope of hydrogen, and the only radioactive form of this widespread natural element. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates tritium releases into the environment to protect you and your community and wants to hear from you.

Worried about exposure to tritium?

Wondering about potential uses of tritium?

Send the CNSC your questions and its experts will answer them here.


Background on tritium

Cosmic rays produce tritium when they interact with gases in the upper atmosphere. In Canada, tritium is a by-product created by nuclear reactors and tritium processing facilities.

Tritium has several industrial uses, including glow-in-the-dark lighting, like in exit signs or airport runway lights, and as a biomedical tracer in research.

CNSC experts study the environmental behaviour and health effects of tritium in collaboration with national and international partners.

The CNSC recently updated its tritium resources to provide more information on this important isotope.

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  • Sample Question

    16 days ago

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    As a mom living near Darlington, should I be concerned about tritium? Is tritium worse for my family’s health compared to other radiation?

    Answer: Thanks for your question. The CNSC actively monitors tritium intake levels across Canada and knows that Canadians are not at risk from current exposure levels. There is no demonstrated evidence of adverse health effects – this conclusion is based on biological experiments, observations of humans following accidental intakes of tritium, and routine surveillance of radiation workers at current exposure levels.

    Radiation doses from nuclear power plants to members of the public are extremely low – at least 100 to 1,000 times lower than natural background radiation and public dose limits. That’s true for the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, and all other nuclear power plants in Canada. You can find more information about doses on the CNSC website.

    A radiation dose from tritium can be compared to a radiation dose from any other type of radiation, including radiation that occurs naturally in the environment or during medical procedures like X-rays.

    Exposure to tritium in Canada

    • Members of the public receive annual doses of radiation from tritium of 0.0001 to 0.013 millisieverts (mSv).
    • Near nuclear facilities, where tritium levels are slightly higher, the average annual dose to adults is about 0.0015 mSv.
    • These doses are well below what Canadian regulations allow, which is a dose limit of 1 mSv per year from nuclear activities (i.e., in addition to natural background and medical exposure).
    • The average Canadian is exposed to about 1.8 mSv from natural background radiation.

    I hope that this answers your question.

    Julie Burtt, Radiation and Health Sciences Officer, CNSC