Radioactive watch and clock hands and dials

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  • #49184
    chaplin37
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    Is there any safe way of working with radioactive dials and hands? Should i just not work on them for safety purposes? Im sure there is not, but any safe way of removing this paint? Any info would be great thanks

    #59067
    tmac1956
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    chaplin37:

    If it were me, I wouldn’t work on them. If you haven’t seen this, it’s probably worth watching – it is shocking.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLS6NCZPiSY

    Later,
    Tom

    #59068
    david pierce
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    Chaplin37,
    Radioactive material is dangerous. One of the dangers is it can contaminate dust in the air around it which you breathe in and swallow. My older brother died from this many years ago. He contracted cancer from contaminated dust at his work place. They did not figure out what it was until two other employees died in the same way.
    david

    #59069
    arutha
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    I found this information on another forum, I hope it helps as I have been looking at a couple of old watches I have which could possibly have Radium dials.

    It can be difficult to visually identify a radium dial watch. Most of them have obviously thick painted numbers and crystallized paint, but this is not always true. The most definitive test is with a Geiger counter or similar radiation measuring device.

    If the watch was made after 1968, it almost certainly is not radium.

    Watches made before 1968 which are still ‘self-illuminating’ (still emit a glow in a dark room after being left in a closed drawer for a day or two) are almost certainly radium. The other radioactive substances commonly used in watch dials have very short half-lives and/or high evaporation rates, and in watches made before 1968 will have mostly converted into a non-radioactive element.

    Watches made between 1968-1985 which are still self-illuminating are in a “gray area;” it’s anyone’s guess what they used in the paint. Most non-radium substances used in radioluminescent paint have short half-lives (Promethium-147: 2.6 years, Tritium: ~12.5 years) and after more than twenty years will glow very dimly, if at all.

    As long as the watch is left intact, there’s very little danger from wearing most radium dial watches. The sole concern is potential cancer risks from very long-term exposure, and this increased risk would be localized to the area where the watch is being worn.

    Because of the small amounts of radiation involved, it is impossible to give an accurate “increased cancer risk” value. It is possible to place an upper limit on this value; but it may be zero, and there is significant evidence that exposures to low doses of radiation are good for you.

    Refinishing radium watches is best left to people with specific training in dealing with radioactive substances and the facilities for properly disposing of the paint. While the risk from refinishing one watch is quite small, it’s still more of a danger than just wearing the watch as-is.

    Refinishing multiple radium dial watches definitely is a concern, especially if done without proper facilities.
    Watches which use tritium are safe, and present no measurable cancer risk.

    #59070
    ralberto2001
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    Hey Everyone!
    This is very scary! I am beginning to work on clocks, and hopefully later watches.
    How do I tell if I come across one of these clocks or watches? Do they just glow or do you check
    with a Geiger Counter or both?
    Thanks, Richard.

    #59071
    arutha
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    Hi Richard,
    to be honest the safest way to tell would be with a geiger counter. If you have any doubts then just stay away from them, there are plenty of clocks and watches around that don’t have radium dials or hands.
    Paul.

    #59072
    chris mabbott
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    The side benefit of working on these is that you save money on hair products eventually 😆

    #59073
    ralberto2001
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    Hey Chris! That is funny I like that one.
    Well Paul I guess along with my Clock tools that I am purchasing I
    Will get a Geiger Counter as well!
    Thanks ya’ll for the Reply, Richard.

    #59074
    tmac1956
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    • Topics Started: 171
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    Richard:

    I have one alarm clock with a radium painted dial. My guess is that it was made in the 1940’s. Usually, the radium paint begins to break down after 40 years or so and the glow decreases in intensity. Mine still puts out a little glow but you have to look close to see it. However, the radium has a half life of 1600 years so it puts out radiation for 3200 years and generates radon gas during this process.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t open mine as I’m afraid of inhaling the particles of paint that might become air born during the process. I’ve inhaled years of second hand cigarette smoke so I don’t anymore assistance with lung problems. ;)

    Just me…
    Tom

    #59075
    tmac1956
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    • Topics Started: 171
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    @tmac1956 wrote:

    Richard:

    I have one alarm clock with a radium painted dial. My guess is that it was made in the 1940’s. Usually, the radium paint begins to break down after 40 years or so and the glow decreases in intensity. Mine still puts out a little glow but you have to look close to see it. However, the radium has a half life of 1600 years so it puts out radiation for 3200 years and generates radon gas during this process.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t open mine as I’m afraid of inhaling the particles of paint that might become air born during the process. I’ve inhaled years of second hand cigarette smoke so I don’t need anymore assistance with lung problems. ;)

    Just me…
    Tom

    #59076
    ralberto2001
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    thanks Tom!

    #59077
    david pierce
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    I beleive Bob mentioned being stopped at a border crossing due to the radiation from watch hands tripping off their radiation detector.
    david

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chaplin37Radioactive watch and clock hands and dials