Radium-painted clock dials a radiation concern?

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by Robert Gift, Mar 15, 2017.

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  1. Robert Gift

    Robert Gift Registered User

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    Radium emits alpha and gamma radiation, I recall.
    Radium also decays into radon gas which I believe is more dangerous to humans because it can be
    moreadily absorbed.

    Has anyone taken a Gieger counter to a radium-painted clock dial?

    Thank you.
     
  2. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    Yes. This discussion has been had a few times. The radiation is there but not easily absorbed by human skin. If care is taken not to create dust and disposal of any particles that fall are or cleaned off the clock be done with care. Don't breathe the dust and don't lick your fingers or the tools.
     
  3. THTanner

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  4. novicetimekeeper

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    We regularly put a GM tube over a radium painted dial at work as a demonstration. We also use radon gas for decay experiments done by yr 13 students. We do have the windows open in case any of the gas escapes but that's as excited about it as we get.

    If you don't inhale or ingest the radium pain then it isn't likely to cause you much harm. I have probably mentioned before that when a radiation advisor on School safety retired a few years ago he gave his wristwatch to his employers as a leaving present because he had used it in so many demonstrations and thought they would like to continue with that. Probably the first time a retiree has given his employers a watch.
     
  5. Robert Gift

    Robert Gift Registered User

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    Fortunately I have stopped the habit of licking my tools.

    So sad about the "Radium Girls" who needlessly died horrible deaths.
     
  6. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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  7. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    They thought they were doing their job properly. They were employed for their skills with a paintbrush. Nobody told them not to lick it.
     
  8. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    Worse than that, if I recall they were told to do it that way to speed up production.
     
  9. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    Most people didn't really understand the risk. It was just magic glowing
    stuff.
    I'm always reminded of Feyman's story of going the the place where they
    stored the uranium oxide. It was in barrels. They we told to not store more
    than some number of barrel in the same place.
    He'd gone into one room and see a pile next to one wall.
    He'd go to the next room and wouldn't you know it, they'd stored the barrels
    against the same wall. The wall was even increasing the reaction as a
    moderator. Guys in heavy lead suites had to quickly separate them.
    And, these were people that were trained?
    Tinker Dwight
     
  10. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    Yep. Look at Fukishima. It was trained people there as well. I know everything was against them but training should heve preceded the problem.

    It is a strange world where, people need to keep away from radiation sources that put less siverts into your lungs than cigarette smoke does.
     
  11. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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  12. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    As was mentioned earlier in this thread. The risks of the radium in a watch is less than your interaction with earth's soil on a daily basis.
     
  13. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    Did you read the link, more than soil was mentioned. Its not something i ever lost sleep over. its all around us, radiation.
     
  14. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    Yes, I read most everything that seems to have been posted sensibly.

    I was always a bit frightened about old bottles of luminous stuff that were found in old watchmaker's gear.
     
  15. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    Some of the old times cleaning chemicals i think is much more hazardous.
     
  16. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    Trichlorethylene.. nasty
     
  17. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    Yes it is very nasty, i was exposed to it a fair bit back in the 1980,s, no mask, no gloves, bare hands no ventilation.
     
  18. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    I have a coffee table with lovely red granite. I put my pocket counter
    on it and it is 3 time background.
    I set the counter on one of the large granite chunks in Yosemite and it
    is 2 times background. Make you think the next time you sit on a rock.
    As was mentioned, potassium 40, left over from whatever super nova
    created the stuff we are made of, is in us all the time.
    One has to realize that we've evolved in a constant rain of radiation.
    Our bodies are designed to tolerate some levels and repair it self. Still
    it isn't 100%. Cancer still happens.
    Then, we are lucky to be here, without some level of things like radiation
    we wouldn't even be here. Evolution requires mutations.
    I made a cloud chamber for the kids at school. They were surprised that
    The little tracks seen were also whizzing through them as well as my
    cloud chamber.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  19. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    Its a very interesting subject. I never knew there was that much radiation in flying.
     
  20. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    I got into trouble for using the phrase; mostly deteriorated, earlier.

    When you look at half lives, quite a lot is lost in the first few half lives.
     
  21. novicetimekeeper

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    It's cumulative though, so it does all add up.

    However cosmic rays account for around 10,000 particles per square metre per second so that gives you a base level. Of course those are going to just go straight through you in the main, you are basically made up of a lot of empty space anyway which helps.
     
  22. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    The whole point of half lives is that half is lost in each but it is half of what is remaining hence the exponential curve.

    The isotope of Radium here has a half life of around 1600 years, Radon around a minute.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I made onehere too because it was a real wow for me when I was at school. We have no access to dry ice so I used a peltier sandwich and a computer chip cooler.
     
  23. stewey

    stewey Registered User

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    I have to ask, knowing really nothing about radio-active materials, if I come across a watch or a clock dial which 'glows in the dark' how can I tell if it's radium or just some type of luminous paint?
     
  24. novicetimekeeper

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    put it in a dark place for a few hours, if it still glows as bright then it suggests it is producing the light itself rather than reacting to light shone on it. That's the difference. If, however, it is first or second world war period it may no longer be bright at all but will still be just as active.
     
  25. stewey

    stewey Registered User

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    Thanks, novicetimekeeper.
     
  26. Robert Gift

    Robert Gift Registered User

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    At a Chinese knick-knack store, Youqing negotiated a price and bought a heavy 5-inch round sphere on fake wood pedestal. It glows!
    The store owner claims it is a natural rock. Aiming the cellphone flashlight on it, the yellowish green spot lasted a number of minutes.

    I placed it in clothing in the bottom drawer to be in total darkness. After a few days, at 4 a.m. while my eyes were adjusted to the dark, I opened the drawer and unwrapped the sphere. It wastill slightly glowing!

    We plan to take it to the fire station which has a Gieger counter as part of their hazmat monitoring equipment.
     
  27. Kevin W.

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  28. stewey

    stewey Registered User

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    I wonder if the other reindeer are aware of Rudolph's hazardously emitting nose?
     
  29. THTanner

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    There are also Tritium dials now being produced. These are neither luminous paint nor radium and should glow the same regardless of being exposed to light. Tritium is also radio active with a 1/2 life of about 12 years but is harmless unless you swallow or inhale it.

     
  30. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    Yes, I'm aware of those, which is why I worded it as I did.
     
  31. Peter A. Nunes

    Peter A. Nunes Super Moderator
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    In poor taste, yet...

    [​IMG]

    As with all memes, there is an error- "everyday" should be two words.
     

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  32. Robert Gift

    Robert Gift Registered User

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    Re: In 1979 I bought tritium (T or 3H) backlit quartz LCD watches as gifts

    What a wonderful combination of technologies!
    In darkness one could even read part of a page by the greenish glow.
    Tritium emits low energy beta particles, I recall, which strike a phosphor coating causing it to fluoresce.
    Tritium half-life is 12 years. Would love to know what happened to that watch and see how bright it is now.
     
  33. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    #33 Tinker Dwight, Mar 16, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
    Actually that is not true. It is an odds problem, not an accumulation that counts.
    The cumulative is just the way the government sets practical limits.

    For a radium dial, since the old ones will be burnt out, one way is to use a Geiger counter
    but there is another way that can be done with simple materials.
    One can make a foil leaf electrometer.
    There are many examples on Youtube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIiuWalYKtU

    and

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JsVZwc1dOo

    If you charge it up and watch how quickly it drops, you can then
    bring a radium dial close and it will drop quite fast. You'll easily see the
    difference.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  34. novicetimekeeper

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    Sorry,I was unclear. I agrree it is the odds that are cumulative, not the radiation.

    Edit> Though thinking about it in the case of ingesting radium and smoking it's both, as radium is accumulated in the bones and polonium from smoking tobacco in the lungs.
     
  35. THTanner

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    Re: In 1979 I bought tritium (T or 3H) backlit quartz LCD watches as gifts

    Yes - and today tritium guns sights in all sorts of colors are available. Vials of tritium are used to control the yield in thermo nuclear devices- which I hope we never hear about except as a test. I guess most tritium today comes from splitting Lithium 6.

     
  36. Tinker Dwight

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    Some specific isotopes can be incorporated into the body. But even those are an odds game.
    They do tend to flush out over time, as long as your living.
    What I was referring to was specific exposures to non-ingested or non-absorbed chemical radiation.
    This is such as you'd get from an Xray or a airplane right.
    Chemically active radioactive substances are another issue entirely.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  37. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    My recollection was that the real danger was to the young women who were painting the dials.

    They would put them in their mouths to obtain a fine point on the brush. They then developed radiation poisoning.

    One of the early reports of occupational disease which lead to passing laws. So, some interesting history behind these radium painted dials.

    See this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium_Girls

    RM
     
  38. novicetimekeeper

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    I don't think we are in disagreement here, though I didn't think radium was flushed once it had replaced calcium in the bone structure. I fully agree that any effects from ionising radiation are an odds game, What I was saying is that those odds aren't an either or, just because, for instance, you might be more at risk of injury driving to an airport than catching a plane doesn't mean that there is no risk catching the plane.
     
  39. THTanner

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    Yes - they licked the brushes and also painted their bodies, like eye liner, to glow in the dark at parties - -or so the stories go.

     
  40. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    That's what I learned, too.

    Apparently the dangers of radium were known (the inventor of radium paint died of radiation poisoning) but these women/girls were made to believe it was safe.

    When they did become ill, the company doctors apparently told them that their problems were due to other causes, including syphilis! Well, in those days, you can imagine the stigma attached to that illness. Would certainly discourage anyone from coming forward. Lead to the passage of laws protecting people from hazardous work.

    RM
     
  41. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    The reason workers unions were formed was to break the laws that prevented them from having a right to a safe work place. Yet we still see governments today attempting to take the right of protest back from the workers.
     
  42. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    This is a good read on the subject, it was a group of 5 women who took their employer to work.
     
  43. stewey

    stewey Registered User

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  44. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Come to think of it, there are other routine consumer products that are now collectible about which there have been concerns about them being a source of radiation exposure.

    Vaseline glass was made with uranium. See this: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/these-people-love-to-collect-radioactive-glass/

    In some instances, people ate and drank form this stuff.

    I also recalled that certain colors of Fiesta Ware also contained uranium. I found this: https://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer%20products/fiesta.htm

    This link talks about that as well as some other American ceramics where the glazes contained uranium.

    This stuff was popular and widely available. It was used as tableware, for food serving and storage.

    So much for worrying about clock and watch dials.

    RM
     
  45. THTanner

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    Interesting read on Uranium 235 and 238 and their real dangers to man.

    http://www.radioactivity.eu.com/site/pages/Uranium_238_235.htm

    I am on the water board for our community which sits on mostly decomposed granite which contains a fair amount of uranium. Our aquifer flows through the decomposed granite and the uranium. We constantly monitor our water for all the usual and required substances. We are far below the federal standards on all items except two - uranium and alpha particles. On both of those items we are below the standards, but at times, when the aquifer drops, we get close to the limits. When we get close to the standard we send out notices that infants, women who are, or may become pregnant in the near future, and seniors with serious health issues, may wish to obtain drinking water from other sources, but that there is no danger from external contact. The 1/2 life on U238 is 4.5 billion years and of U235 is 700 million years. Given the choice of drinking from glass containing uranium, platinum or lead I would choose uranium. Of course I would choose none of the above given the chance.


     
  46. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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  47. novicetimekeeper

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    When trying to get across at school how safe it was to use thoriated welding rod as a source I made the case using BED or Banana Equivalent Dose.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_equivalent_dose

    It's not really an equivalent to anything as the body can only hold so much potassium so eating more bananas just means excreting more potassium but it does show how daft some of the objection I had were. (Science is generally over run with Biologists as they are far more common, I didn't have trouble with Chemists and Physicists)
     
  48. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    And probably a lot less dangerous than the nuclear testing that used to occur in Nevada?

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    RM
     
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