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Old 03-02-2018, 01:24 PM   #1  
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Default Radiation exposure

Not really sure where this should go but I was wondering about old flight instruments that used a radium based paint to help those old instruments glow in the dark. Clearly anyone can get one from say ebay in almost any price range. Just how serious is it to actually own one of those concerning exposure to radioactive decay. What if it's broken or taken apart? Or were these instruments required at one point to be decontaminated after the signs of possible health risks?
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Old 03-02-2018, 02:45 PM   #2  
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Not really sure where this should go but I was wondering about old flight instruments that used a radium based paint to help those old instruments glow in the dark. Clearly anyone can get one from say ebay in almost any price range. Just how serious is it to actually own one of those concerning exposure to radioactive decay. What if it's broken or taken apart? Or were these instruments required at one point to be decontaminated after the signs of possible health risks?
You understand that "radioactive decay" means that the radioactivity diminishes, right?

Unless you plan to remove the paint and eat it, the health risks are nonexistent. If you do plan to remove the paint and eat it, the health risks are negligible.

I don't recommend eating the aircraft instruments.
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Old 03-02-2018, 03:19 PM   #3  
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You're fine in a flight deck. Just don't work in the factory that produces them -- at least if you're living in the 1920's.

https://www.npr.org/2014/12/28/37351...ls-dies-at-107
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Old 03-02-2018, 05:18 PM   #4  
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You understand that "radioactive decay" means that the radioactivity diminishes, right?
Radium has a very long half-life relative to human life-spans... practically speaking any radium device will be just as radioactive as the day it was manufactured. I would be careful possessing or handling such antiques...

If the paint deteriorates (if the inherent chemistry doesn't do that, the radiation likely will), the dust could be hazardous. Although the risk is probably pretty low compared to being a professional radium paint licker.

Tritium (commonly used today) has a much shorter half-life, about a decade.
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Old 03-02-2018, 05:49 PM   #5  
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Radium has a very long half-life relative to human life-spans... practically speaking any radium device will be just as radioactive as the day it was manufactured. I would be careful possessing or handling such antiques...

If the paint deteriorates (if the inherent chemistry doesn't do that, the radiation likely will), the dust could be hazardous. Although the risk is probably pretty low compared to being a professional radium paint licker.

Tritium (commonly used today) has a much shorter half-life, about a decade.
Inside an aircraft instrument, it's just not an issue at all. None.
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Old 03-02-2018, 06:02 PM   #6  
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Thanks for the info so itís okay to have one on display but just donít open up. But itís very toxic if you do end up opening it or if the glass happens to break and you expose yourself even it was just once. Just wondering why such a device is allowed to be sold if itís very harmful should something happen.
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Old 03-02-2018, 06:47 PM   #7  
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Thanks for the info so itís okay to have one on display but just donít open up. But itís very toxic if you do end up opening it or if the glass happens to break and you expose yourself even it was just once. Just wondering why such a device is allowed to be sold if itís very harmful should something happen.
I have two 1915 Enfields in working condition. Very possibly one or both of them killed someone in WWI because that's why they were manufactured. Obviously I'm not the original owner, but POTENTIALLY deadly as they are, they've been pretty safe in my hands.

You do realize East Coast cities still have lead water pipes and asbestos insulation in many of their older buildings, right?
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Old 03-02-2018, 07:06 PM   #8  
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The cosmic radiation you receive over time by flying above FL180 and the RF microwave exposure from your cell phone are far worse to your health than the instrument paint.
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Old 03-03-2018, 07:25 PM   #9  
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Inside an aircraft instrument, it's just not an issue at all. None.
As long as it stays there. If it gets out (like the one I took apart as a kid) and into your body the long half-life means it will keep slow-cooking whatever tissue it absorbs into for the rest of your life.

It's mostly alpha radiation, so correct that it won't emit out of a closed instrument, or penetrate skin (the problem is if the radium compound gets inside you).

Last edited by rickair7777; 03-03-2018 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 03-03-2018, 07:42 PM   #10  
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But itís very toxic if you do end up opening it or if the glass happens to break and you expose yourself even it was just once.
No, it's not.

Ever seen turn of the century green glass? It's prized by collectors. It's also radioactive, and contains uranium. You might be surprised what's out there. Watches, glow in the dark alarm clocks, aircraft instruments, etc.

If the glass happens to break? Did you know that one of the means in venting the static system in many aircraft was breaking the glass on the VSI? It's not that big a deal. It really isn't.

You may have heard of the concept of making a mountain of a mole hill. Put the mole down carefully and back away. Nobody gets hurt. Especially the mole.
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