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Thread: Radium - really safe?

  1. #1
    Member simonk's Avatar
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    Default Radium - really safe?

    I've read the various posts here and elsewhere about the former use of radium on watch dials. It seems the consensus is that the real danger was for watchmakers, and that simply wearing a wristwatch with radium painted numbers poses no danger for the wearer as the radiation cannot penetrate the case and crystal.

    Well, 4 or 5 years ago I purchased this HMT as new old stock.




    Just a reminder, these watches were made in India (by the Hindustan Machine Tool company) and are marked with a broad arrow and a W10/6645 stock number. I have read that they were manufactured in the 60s and issued to commonwealth troops during the conflict in Indonesia (1965) as well as to Indian troops during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965.

    I have never worn the watch, but when I put it away I put a protective plastic film on the rather soft-looking acrylic crystal. Went to wind the watch the other and spotted something I had never noticed before - what appears to be radium burn on the plastic film. Worrying?


  2. #2

    Default yup, think you're right

    While I think one piece is probably ok, I wouldn't wear one regularly. Radium remains radioactive, with a half-life of 1600 years. Individual pieces are probably not a great concern although they do give off energy, even if the glow is gone (because the radioactive energy broke down the chemical compound used to create that glow). After all, this is why Promethium and Tritium were used as replacements.
    I fear that by collecting a series of pieces you DO create a greater overall hazard, in essence you are concentrating emitters. The concern would grow with the greater number of radium pieces you may have in one area. If you have access to a DP5V, PDR-27 similar counter/detector, you may want to scan your collection. If you can, get a dose rate to establish what your collection is giving off.
    In my case, I don't have the means to assemble such a cool collection like that, so I guess I am thankful? My pile of radioactive fiestaware, glass and other such antiques are kept in my garage. Haven't had a mouse problem now for two years, wondering if....

  3. #3
    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    Default If radium was so dangerous

    then we probably would not have any old watchmakers. I've met hundreds of old watchmakers. I've had a box of radium paste in my bench for 20 years, I should be dead already right?

  4. #4
    Senior Member lambstew's Avatar
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    Default The highest annual environmental..

    ..background radiation count is 400 dose in μSv per year..so what it is for a radium watch dial/hands combined?

  5. #5

    Default

    I wear radium watches at least 4 days a week.

    Apart from my tiny penis I havent noticed any side effects... given the fact ive been married for 10 years I dont have much use for a penis, so no worries!!!!

  6. #6
    Senior Member lysander's Avatar
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    Default

    First, those are not radiation burns on the plastic film.

    1) the film only has one discoloration on it. If it were a burn from the hands, there would be two one for each hand.

    2) the discoloration shape does not match the luminous shape in the hand.

    3) given the fact that the luminous dial markers are bigger than the luminous hands bits, the dial markers would have burned into the film as well as the hands.

    4) the discoloration is confined to where the plastic film has been bent to fit the contours of the crystal, this tends to indicate the discoloration is due to something in the film or something that rubbed against the film, not heat from the luminous compounds.

    5) the amount or radium used in luminous paints in the late 1950s and early 1960s was reduced so that burning was less prevalent.

    Second, your watch probably has tritium luminous material, not radium. By the 1960, it was rather rare to find radium dials.

  7. #7
    Member fletch01's Avatar
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    Default

    I visit the University in Kiel and got some interesting Infos

    i wrote it on VRF

    here you go

    http://www.network54.com/Forum/20759...ches+---------
    cheers

    Marcus

  8. #8
    Member RTFM's Avatar
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    Default United States Code of Federal Regulations: 10 CFR 30.15(a)(1)(viii)

    U.S. 10 CFR 30.15(a)(1)(viii) is generally interpreted to mean that:

    Intact timepieces containing a quantity of up to 1 µCi of Ra-226 which were manufactured prior to November 30, 2007 are exempt from NRC regulatory requirements (i.e., no NRC license is required to possess them).

    By "intact" I assume that the NRC means completely assembled watches and not loose dials or hands.

    As you probably all know, the problem with Ra-226 in watches stems from its ingestion by female factory workers ("Radium Girls") at United States Radium in Orange, New Jersey about 1917. The Radium Girls were licking the paintbrushes they used to paint watch dials and hands with Undark (radium paint) to give them a fine point. Many of the women developed anemia and later, bone cancer. By the 1960s the use of Ra-226 in watch manufacturing had ended.

    So, is Radium safe? I think the answer is a qualified "yes" provided that you don't lick the watch dial or hands.

    I also think the switch from Tritium paints to LumiNova has more to do with the public's general uneasiness with radioactive materials than it has to do with actual detriment to their health by wearing Tritium painted watches.

    As an aside, I've neither imported nor exported a watch into or from the U.S. containing Ra-226, so I have no idea how U.S. Customs would handle the matter-but I've heard rumors that they'll confiscate it.

    Regards,
    RTFM

  9. #9
    Member simonk's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lysander View Post
    First, those are not radiation burns on the plastic film.

    1) the film only has one discoloration on it. If it were a burn from the hands, there would be two one for each hand.

    2) the discoloration shape does not match the luminous shape in the hand.

    3) given the fact that the luminous dial markers are bigger than the luminous hands bits, the dial markers would have burned into the film as well as the hands.

    4) the discoloration is confined to where the plastic film has been bent to fit the contours of the crystal, this tends to indicate the discoloration is due to something in the film or something that rubbed against the film, not heat from the luminous compounds.

    5) the amount or radium used in luminous paints in the late 1950s and early 1960s was reduced so that burning was less prevalent.

    Second, your watch probably has tritium luminous material, not radium. By the 1960, it was rather rare to find radium dials.
    The staining to the plastic film has most definitely been caused by the luminous material on the watch face. my camera had some difficulty focusing on the shiny surface of the film, but I can tell you that the dark radial mark was directly above the stopped hands, which were very close - perhaps at around 4:20. The dark circle was directly above the luminous hour and minute markers. The film was not bent or rubbing against anything; I simply took it off a new watch - a Seiko monster if memory serves - and stuck it on the HMT which has been stored in a watch box.

  10. #10
    Ninja co-Moderator Billy's Avatar
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    Default

    Paul Frame has kindly allowed me to host his article, which has quite a lot of useful info in regard to radium and other radioluminescent paint:

    http://milspectime.com/?p=716

    Kind regards, B.

  11. #11
    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    Default I'd bet money that the staining on the crystal

    was caused by someone buffing it too hard with a polishing wheel. Some residual rouge left in the cotton wheel for the color. It didn't show on the watch because of the black dial. This type of burning is easy to do with a buffing wheel.

  12. #12
    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    Default Never mind....

    I didn't understand "Plastic film" why?

  13. #13

    Default I have different theory . . .

    I think the discoloration of the thin plastic film is caused by bad Karma for having the watch on a calf leather strap.

    If only the protective plastic "sticker" on the outside is discolored, then how can that be a radiation burn if the perspex crystal does not show signs of discoloration, too? Does the dial show any discoloration?

    From examining my watch (on a plastic Tropic), I suspect there is no radiological material on the dial. I think it is just a light-activated zinc compound.

    You haven't told us where the watch was stored. If it was in a drawer with office supplies or other things, that plastic film could have picked up ink or other stray particles over five years.

    You should wear the watch.

    If anyone is afraid of collecting watches with radiological compounds in the luminous paint, they probably shouldn't be collecting military watches.

    Also, if someone is reporting readings from a detector, they need to first report the background readings for that location. Otherwise, there is little meaning to the data. And, if someone says they think a person will die in 60 days from absorbing a dose of Ra-226, they are not a health physicist and should do a bit of reading. The poster woman and heroine of radium is, of course, Madame Curie, who handled radium for many years in her investigations of the element. Her hands were horribly disfigured when she died, but she had the courage to pursue her science. It was later dicovered that radium isotopes, when absorbed into the body, tend to gravitate to bones and joints, where bone cancer becomes an increased probablity.

    Of course, the probablity of getting cancer is proportional to the dose or exposure to radiation. The very low doses coming from our military watches should not concern us, since they are only marginally above background. I wear a dosimeter at work and my raised readings (mostly from where I drop my dosimeter over the weekend on my desk near my watches) get zeroed out by my health physicist. I'm well within the annual limits.
    Bill in Sacramento

  14. #14
    Senior Member Flightpath's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by oinkitt View Post
    I wear radium watches at least 4 days a week.

    Apart from my tiny penis I havent noticed any side effects... given the fact ive been married for 10 years I dont have much use for a penis, so no worries!!!!


    Please don't.... I was just jokeing!!!!

    -John

  15. #15
    Member Triggerfish's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Flightpath View Post


    Please don't.... I was just jokeing!!!!

    -John
    How about a picture of the wife, then?

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