Special care must be taken to safely dispose X-ray equipment, film, and machines. X-ray machines may contain lead, beryllium and PCB-contaminated oil. We recommend using a commercial X-ray company or recycler for safe disposal of X-ray units and lead aprons. The facility must permanently disable X-ray machines before transferring them to a vendor or recycler.
1. You must notify the Washington State Department of Health or Business Licensing Service of the machine status within 30 days of closure or removal.
2. If the machine is disposed of or transferred within Washington state, you must provide:
a. Name and contact information of the recipient.
b. Address of the recipient.
c. Date of the disposal or transfer.
3. If the machine is to be placed in storage and retained, contact the Department of Health for approval.
Source: WAC 246-224-0090
Radiation - An X-ray machine must be plugged into an electrical source in order to produce radiation. Once you unplug an X-ray machine, there's no residual radiation.
Cobalt 60 - Cobalt 60 is a radioisotope used in radiography and medical applications. Cobalt 60 rods must be professionally removed. Once that's done, many parts of the machine can be recycled.
PCBs - X-ray machines made before July 1979 may contain a toxic substance called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the transformer oil. If your machine has PCBs in it, you will need to contact a waste removal specialist to safely remove this substance. It's also your responsibility to test the machine for PCBs before you transfer ownership.
Hazardous metals - Older equipment may contain hazardous metals. Before taking a machine out of service, you need to be aware of what's in the machine and what needs to be done to dispose of it properly. How you go about this could either save or cost you a lot of money.
If it turns out that your old machine contains a hazardous waste metal regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you will have from 90-180 days from the decommissioning date – the day you take the machine out of service – to properly dispose of the hazardous waste or face potential fines.
Before declaring a machine as waste and taking it out of service, hire a private sector environmental waste consultant or contractor to walk you through the process.
X-Ray tubes - To disable an X-ray machine, remove the head, being careful not to break the X-ray tube. The tube is under vacuum and, if broken, could splinter and cause injuries.
Ways to dispose of an X-ray unit:
- You can donate it to a company that recycles usable machines.
- You can also transfer ownership of a working machine to an individual or institution legally able to use X-ray machines. Your X-ray vendor may know of companies that purchase used equipment.
- Donate the equipment. Partners in Health and Project Cure are two non-profit organizations that sometimes accept donations of high quality, useful X-ray equipment in good condition.
- If a waste disposal company will accept it, you can get rid of the whole machine at once.
- You can also sell the parts for scrap.
More Waste Disposal Information
Contact the local waste disposal site. Each county has different disposal requirements.
- Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, Washington
- Washington State Department of Ecology Hazardous Waste Service Directory
By law, mammography films and patient reports must be maintained for at least five years, or 10 years if the patient has not returned for a checkup during that time. For information about all other types of X-ray films, visit Record Retention of X-Rays.
X-rays older than 50 years might be made of a very flammable material called nitrocellulose. You must follow EPA rules when transporting or getting rid of old X-ray film. Make sure to either hire a private waste disposal expert or contact the X-Ray Program for information on how to go about it safely and legally.
It is illegal to simply toss old X-rays into the garbage or dispose of them in a landfill.
Not only do X-rays contain silver emulsion, a highly reactive and flammable material, they are considered private health records. You must dispose of X-rays in ways that do not hurt the environment, create safety hazards or compromise patient privacy as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The best way to dispose of old X-ray films is to recycle them. A number of companies nationwide melt X-rays to extract and recycle the silver. You'll find them by searching the Internet for X-ray film recycling. Just make sure to use a company that is HIPAA-compliant.
This information is provided as a public service and does not constitute an endorsement by the Department of Health.
Tina Jorgensen, Radiology Client Manager
13708 24th St. E., Suite 105, Sumner, WA 98390
B.W. Recycling, Inc.
DeVries Business Services