Smoke Detectors and 7 Household Items Containing Radioactive Materials

Smoke Detectors and 7 Household Items Containing Radioactive Materials

Smoke Detectors and 7 Household Items Containing Radioactive Materials

Smoke Detectors and 7 Household Items Containing Radioactive Materials

Were you aware that everything you encounter in your daily life contains radioactive material? It’s true, some of the radioactive materials are naturally occurring and some of it is man-made.

When I said everything in your life contains radioactive materials, I meant everything. Including the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the ground you walk on, and the consumer products you purchase and use. Today we’ll be focusing on the last one on the list. Everyday consumer products containing detectable levels of radioactive materials.

Radioactive Materials

When most people hear the words “radioactive” or “radiation,” they tend to think of mushroom clouds or cancer treatments. A few people, like myself, may conjure images of superheros or mutants that inhabit the world of science fiction and comic books. They don’t tend to think smoke detectors, clocks or glassware.

With the proper equipment it’s possible to identify the radioactive material in anything. I’ll be listing 7 of the most common consumer products containing enough radioactive material to be picked up using a simple handheld radiation meter. Of course, I didn’t test these items myself. So, if you don’t believe me, do a quick google search and you’ll soon realize I’m not trying to blow radioactive smoke up your….you know what.

Get ready to be shocked!

Smoke Detectors contain Radioactive Materials.

Smoke Detectors contain Radioactive Materials.

Believe it or not most residential smoke detectors contain radioactive material. Yes, even the smoke detector hanging on your ceilings or walls. Smoke Detectors contain a form of radioactive material known as americium-241.

Why do Smoke Detectors Contain Radioactive Materials?

It’s a simple reason, Americium is how they know when to alert you to evacuate the premises. Alpha particles emitted by the americium ionize the air, making the air conductive. Any smoke particles that enter the unit reduce the current and set off an alarm.

Is the Radioactive Material inside Smoke Detectors Safe?

Despite the fact that these devices save lives, the question “are smoke detectors safe?” is still asked by those with a fear of radiation. The consensus seems to be, “yes, they are safe.” Considering they are in everyone’s home and most people are unaware of it’s radioactive contents.

The next time you install or remove a smoke detector pay careful attention to the safety instructions for proper installation, handling, and disposal of the unit.

Clocks & Wristwatches can Contain Radioactive Materials.

Clocks & Wristwatches can Contain Radioactive Materials.

Modern watches and clocks sometimes use a small quantity of hydrogen-3 (tritium) or promethium-147 as a source of light. Older (for example, pre-1970) watches and clocks used radium-226 as a source of light.

Why do Wristwatches and Clocks Contain Radioactive Materials?

You know how the numbers on some watches and clocks glow in the dark? Now you know why.

Is the Radioactive Material in Wristwatches and Clocks Safe?

If these older timepieces are opened and the dial or hands handled, some of the radium could be picked up and possibly ingested. As such, caution should be exercised when handling these items.

Pottery & Floor Tiles Contain Radioactive Materials.

Pottery & Floor Tiles Contain Radioactive Materials.

Most ceramic materials (for example, tiles, pottery) often contain elevated levels of naturally occurring uranium, thorium, and/or potassium. In many cases, the activity is concentrated in the glaze. Unless there is a large quantity of the material, readings above background are unlikely. Nevertheless, some older (for example, pre-1960) tiles and pottery, especially those with an orange-red glaze (for example, Fiesta® ware) can be quite radioactive.

Glassware Contains Radioactive Materials.

Glassware Contains Radioactive Materials.

Yep, even glassware, especially antique glassware with a yellow or greenish color, can easily contain detectable quantities of uranium.

Why does glassware Contain Radioactive Materials?

Such uranium-containing glass is often referred to as canary or Vaseline glass. In part, collectors like uranium glass for the attractive glow that is produced when the glass is exposed to a black light. Even ordinary glass can contain high-enough levels of potassium-40 or thorium-232 to be detectable with a survey instrument.

Older Camera Lenses Contain Radioactive Materials.

Older Camera Lenses Contain Radioactive Materials.

Older camera lenses (1950s-1970s) often employed coatings of thorium-232 to alter the index of refraction.

Commercial Fertilizer Contains Radioactive Materials.

Commercial Fertilizer Contains Radioactive Materials.

Commercial fertilizers are designed to provide varying levels of potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen.

Why does Fertilizer Contain Radioactive Materials?

Such fertilizers can be measurably radioactive for two reasons: potassium is naturally radioactive, and the phosphorous can be derived from phosphate ore that contains elevated levels of uranium.

Yes, Even Your Food Contains Radioactive Materials.

Even Your Food Contains Radioactive Materials

Food contains different types and amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials. Although the relatively small quantities of food in the home contain too little radioactivity for the latter to be readily detectable, bulk shipments of food have been known to set off the alarms of radiation monitors at border crossings. One exception is low-sodium salt substitutes that often contain enough potassium-40 to double the background count rate of a radiation detector.

Gas Lanterns Contain Radioactive Materials.

Gas Lanterns Contain Radioactive Materials.

While less common than it once was, some brands of gas lanterns contain thorium-232.

Why do gas lanterns contain Radioactive Materials?

It is the heating of the thorium by the burning gas that is responsible for the emission of light. Such lanterns are sufficiently radioactive that they are often used as a source to check if radiation detectors are working properly.

Conclusion to

Now that you know just about everything around you contains radioactive materials will it cause you to alter your lifestyle? No? Same here, there’s not much we can do about it anyway. Except wait for the cancer diagnosis.

Source hps.org