Radium Dial Disposal

Discussion in 'Wrist Watches' started by hyperhad, Aug 13, 2020.

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  1. hyperhad

    hyperhad Registered User
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    Aug 19, 2010
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    Hello All,

    image002.jpg

    I have a 1950's Westclox Mechanical Travalarm Clock with Bakelite Roll Top. It no longer works, and we were looking for a way to dispose of it responsibly. After some searching, I came across the website below.
    I am in Canada, so it would only apply in this country.

    I also have several early 20thC watches with Radio dials. These are stored over 20 feet away, which is thought to be safe. I don't want to have these destroyed, of course. I do not wear them though.

    Nuclear Substances and Radiation Devices Regulations

    One excerpt regarding watches:

    Devices Containing Radium Luminous Compounds
    8 A person may, without a licence to carry on that activity, possess, transfer or use a device that contains a nuclear substance, if

    • (a) the only nuclear substance contained in the device is a radium luminous compound;

    • (b) the person does not possess more than 10 such devices; and

    • (c) the device is not disassembled or tampered with.
    There is much more information on this website.

    I have been in contact with HARP, through the website, and am in the process of having the clock tested, removed, and disposed of correctly. This is a free service.

    A call around the city revealed that none of the watch repair places knew anything about how to dispose of Radium dials on watches. Some were not even aware of what it was. There are no longer any independent watch repair shops here, so there is nobody who knows of this.

    I contacted Al Archer, who sent me the link to the Canadian website that deals with this material. Thank you again Al.
     
    D.th.munroe likes this.
  2. Adam Harris

    Adam Harris Registered User
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    May 3, 2012
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    Yes - big issue few people know or care.
    Indeed neither do museums.
    NAWCC do have a lead box correctly marked to store RADIUM artefacts
    A
     
  3. D.th.munroe

    D.th.munroe Registered User

    Feb 15, 2018
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    I'm glad you found this and HARP.

    I'm still a bit surprised how many Watchmakers in Canada do not know about this program or even radium for that matter.
    Technically were not supposed to even accept them for repair without the license.
    Dan
     
  4. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
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    A lead box to store a load of radium dials seems like a bad idea. Unless the lead is particularly thick making the box difficult to move it won't do much to stop the gamma, and keeping radium dials in an encolsed space will just lead to a build up of radium. It would be better to keep them well ventilated.

    Here I don't know what the requirements are as a domestic property, but as a licensed holder of sources we can dispose of sources in the trade waste under rules depending on the activity. Watch or clock dials we can just double bag and bin, anything above that we can set in mortar and then bin, depending on what it is. Very few things require professional disposal but when they do it costs a lot of money. Not because we hold anything that dangerous, just that there is a base point of around £350-£500 just to get the special service people to turn up on site.
     
  5. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    And radon gas, one of the decay products of radium.
     
  6. Tomxhar

    Tomxhar Registered User

    Sep 2, 2019
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    Strange how people have worn watches with radium dials for a hundred years+, yet never suffered from the effects.......
     
    JTD, Kevin W. and Hawk53 like this.
  7. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Sorry, I was a bit tired when I wrote that and my eyesight is not the best. It is the radon that would stop me wanting to keep them in a lead box, or any box.

    There is another issue with the radon, one of its daughters is a solid that can collect on the inside of the box making the box contaminated.

    We kept radium until I disposed of the last of it this year and unlike any other source I always had to test the lead pot as well as the source for leakage/contamination.

    The best way to store watches/clocks with radium dials would be in a well ventilated area or permanently sealed in another container but that rather detracts from the collecting and display side.
     
  8. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    We can't say 100% that they have had no effect, but the point is you usually only wear one at a time and you don't usually get intimate with it as the wearer.
     
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  9. Tomxhar

    Tomxhar Registered User

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    I work on my watches and have several dozen, many of which have radium dials.
    I am of course careful when handling dials and hands, but my opinion is that a big fuss is made regarding radium in wristwatches, sometimes leading to owners removing dials or even discarding whole watches.
    Much ado about nothing.
     
    RL, JTD, Kevin W. and 1 other person like this.
  10. S_Owsley

    S_Owsley Registered User
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    I'm not quite sure I understand the danger of an intact watch or clock. The crystal should block most or all of the radiation released from the radium, right? How do people dispose of old ionizing smoke detectors? I've generally thrown mine in the trash, but I haven't checked local regulations lately.
     
  11. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    The alpha is stopped by the crystal, the case, or a sheet of tissue paper. The gamma is stopped by a few feet of concrete or several inches of lead.
     
  12. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    In the city of Ottawa, in Canada, they say to just throw them in the garbage.How do people dispose of old ionizing smoke detectors? I've generally thrown mine in the trash, but I haven't checked local regulations lately.
    I dont see a big problem with clocks and watches that are intact. I understand caution when taking them apart and working on them.
     
  13. hyperhad

    hyperhad Registered User
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    Yikes! That is expensive! Certainly does not encourage responsible disposal. Glad it is free in Canada.
     
  14. hyperhad

    hyperhad Registered User
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    We recycle as much as possible. I wanted to be sure. A quick response from HARP, arranging testing and pick-up, puts my mind at ease.
     
  15. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    We are fortunate that we have not had to use this route and I have disposed of the spent and condemned sources via normal routes at minimal additional cost. We have a chemicals clearout every 3-5 years but save everything up so that it isn't too bad.
     

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