Tritium Keychains.. Watchout.

StarHalo

StarHalo

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A one square mile and one foot deep plot of soil radiates over 17 curies. Good luck avoiding that :p
 
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Bradlee

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The DOE has a good bit of information on this webpage. There is also a nice list of references in the wikipedia entry (which I have yet to look through myself). Interestingly, the DOE page mentions that tritium is pretty much the weakest beta emitter known and that the beta emissions from tritium travel no more than 5 mm through air (and 0.005 mm through skin!) before being dissipated. This would suggest to me that it was almost a total fluke that any beta emission from your glowring was detectable. OR - perhaps this is somewhat dated information and, once again, more research is needed to fully understand the hazard. Who knows, but working in R&D for 10 years has turned me into quite a skeptic I guess.

Anyway, you can never be too careful! (and this is coming from a guy who currently has 3 of [email protected]'s TiGlow glowrings on his keychain - over three curies of tritium which is many, many times what is typically contained in the little 5mm vials)

Yeah, based on my experience, 5mm seems awfully conservative (full-body test repeatedly gave the same 'contaminated' result through clothes at > 3" away). I'm not too worried about the glowring though, it's the 2 curie source in my bag that would be of more concern- but not enough concern to stop carrying my last-ditch tritium light source.

A one square mile and one foot deep plot of soil radiates over 17 curies. Good luck avoiding that :p

Very interesting page (I assuming you were looking here?). The vast majority of that 17 curies is in the form of beta radiation. I also learned I have ~ 3.5 billion bananas worth of beta decay in my backpack :grin2:.
 
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AvidHiker

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Right, I think we covered natural sources and background, etc. Not sure about the purpose of your post StarHalo, are you having a little joke at my expense? Your post comes off somewhat condescending, and seems out of line to me. It suggests that you think I'm paranoid or something (which I really don't get), but if you read my posts carefully, I'm simply being inquisitive.:thinking:
Maybe I'm misinterpreting you, but given the context, this was the only conclusion I could draw. I'm just looking for some other folks to weigh in here who might have a better understanding or other interesting things to offer. You appear to have some knowledge of the subject, but you haven't offered any references or details of your personal education, so I don't know where you're coming from.

I feel like I have a good understanding of the dangers (or lack therof) of various forms of radiation. So let me reiterate...

1) I'm not concerned with any external beta exposure I may or may not be receiving from my trits, I think that the risk assessment in this respect is fairly well defined. The same would go for rocks, soil, whatever (none of which I regularly consume :popcorn:)
2) I do question the assertion that escaping tritium gas remains in a relatively harmless gaseous form, and feel like people should understand the potential dangers under such circumstances. It's simply not something you want to get into your body, that's all, and recent research has suggested that, in such cases, it may be even more harmful than previously thought.

I know this has been discussed in numerous past threads, but given the new report I've heard about (have yet to read it myself, or find it for that matter), I thought it could be interesting to continue the discussion.:shrug:
 
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Bradlee

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The potential legal ramifications (e.g. being accused of terrorism) for having a precursor to a boosted fission weapon (edit to add: or sued by a paranoid individual for increased radiation exposure), seems much more of a concern (at least in my mind) than any health effects. For that reason I don't foresee ever wanting to take a tritium source through airport security.
 
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AvidHiker

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I see what you're saying Brad. I wouldn't risk any of my beloved tritium in an airport, too hard to come by these days (especially in the US). At the same time, from what I've read, nobody could accuse you of smuggling a significant amount of tritium, even if you had hundreds of trit spheres in your bag, it really doesn't amount to much.

I still find it odd that your glowring was detectable.:thinking:

Anyway, maybe I should clarify a bit more - I think my concern with tritium is in a broader sense, not so much from any single exposure one could receive from a GTLS of any size. It would appear that the environmental accumulation of T2O, for example in our drinking water, might one day become a concern and I think it would be irresponsible to ignore mounting evidence. At the same time, I think there is a lot more research needed to draw any conclusions. I guess the dismissive attitude people tend to have towards tritium is what bothers me, and I'm just trying to offer a counterpoint for those who might be looking for that.

Here is the study I was referring to. Seems pretty extensive, not sure if I have the time or background to fully process this... but I know someone I can probably pester to do it for me!:naughty:
 
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Bradlee

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AvidHiker, thanks for the link to that study. I'll have to find some time to read that- it looks very interesting.
 
StarHalo

StarHalo

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Not sure about the purpose of your post StarHalo, are you having a little joke at my expense?

Not at all, just pointing out that exposure to notably higher levels of radiation than any tritium could provide is merely a part of daily life. If you live at a higher elevation you get a lot more radiation than people at ground level, the act of flying exposes you to more radiation than would set off a radiation alarm at an airport, any porcelain dental work you might have radiates strongly enough to set off a Geiger counter, etc. Some scientific studies are debating if a modicum of radiation is actually good for you, we did after all evolve with it always present one way or another.
 
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AvidHiker

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Righto, no offense taken then.

I guess since I had already made that point, I wasn't expecting it to be repeated without at least some kind of acknowledgement that it had already been raised. Not a criticism, just explaning myself. My defensiveness comes from the fact that it wouldn't have been the first time someone has chimed in seemingly with no purpose other than to irritate me and disturb the thread.

I've read some about purported benefits of radiation, but you have to admit (as respected as that guy was, iirc) he didn't have much support from the scientific community. I'm not saying it's out of the question, but in the scientific world, peer review is pretty much our only defense for quackery.
 
gorn

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I attended a training course a few years ago at Lawrence Livermore Lab called "Pursuit and recovery of weapons grade nuclear materiel". Tritium was talked about by the instructors. According to them the radiation emitted by tritium is not able to penetrate human skin. So with that in mind, watches, fob's, etc. with tritium are not harmful to people.
 
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Bradlee

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Some scientific studies are debating if a modicum of radiation is actually good for you.

BBC Horizon did an episode called "Nuclear Nightmares", which explored pretty much this issue (i.e. the effects of low level radiation), and there is indeed some anecdotal evidence for this. Very interesting show if you can get ahold of it.
 
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AvidHiker

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I attended a training course a few years ago at Lawrence Livermore Lab called "Pursuit and recovery of weapons grade nuclear materiel". Tritium was talked about by the instructors. According to them the radiation emitted by tritium is not able to penetrate human skin. So with that in mind, watches, fob's, etc. with tritium are not harmful to people.

Correct, but c'mon man, that has already been covered in numerous earlier posts (and I don't think there was much argument there). If you check the most recent posts, we were discussing the dangers of internal exposure to beta radiation. Such exposures would be contingent upon a sufficient quantity of tritium both escaping the vial AND undergoing (apparently common) chemical reactions which could significantly enhance its ability to do harm should it find its way into the body (see my links in earlier posts).

Admittedly, the risk of significant internal exposure from typical quantities contained in markers should still be pretty low. I was simply wondering if anyone was aware of anything out there which might have addressed this in light of the recent findings by the HPA. Further, I was also just spreading the word that tritium from other sources (most notably power plants) appears to be finding its way into our air and water supplies in increasingly larger amounts. The common wisdom often used to educate people here in these forums then could give one a false sense of security, and I was simply trying to put more info out there for the benefit of those who might be interested.
 
gorn

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I was going by the title of the thread. Guess I missed the "internal" part of the talk. But then again going by the title, how many tritium keyfobs would you have to swallow to become a problem. I guess I don't see that as a problem, but more like natural selection. If someone is that stupid then maybe they need to get nuked.
 
reptiles

reptiles

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...I wouldn't risk any of my beloved tritium in an airport, too hard to come by these days (especially in the US)...

I noticed tritium markers on the plane's emergency exit doors last time I flew on US Air.

=Mark
 
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Casebrius

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I work with radioactive sources for logging oil wells on a daily basis (Cesium-137, Americium-241 Berillium, Californium-252). Out of curiosity I tried our Geiger counter set to sensitivity of .01 mRem/hr to see it it picked up my glow ring - didn't budge the needle at all!
 
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paulr

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Geiger counters detect alpha particles, I thought.
 
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donn_

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Geiger counters detect alpha particles, I thought.

It depends on what sort of GM tube is used. A tube with a mica window will detect alpha, but the more common glass window tube detects x-ray, gamma and some beta particles.
 
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Casebrius

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It depends on what sort of GM tube is used. A tube with a mica window will detect alpha, but the more common glass window tube detects x-ray, gamma and some beta particles.

We use a Ludlum 44-6. It detects Primarily Gamma, but Beta too. It uses a Geiger-Mueller tube. I would guess a scintillation crystal sensor (more sensitive) would be needed to detect the level of Beta that small tritium tubes emit.
 
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Bradlee

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Should it break: The actual radioactive component in the vial is an isotope of hydrogen, which is much lighter than air; the tiny amount gas would immediately disperse and float away. Even if you were standing directly over a freshly broken vial, odds are the gas would be too dispersed for even a single molecule to reach your breathing space. If the vial were in your hand or pocket - again, it's a radioactive gas and not solid or fluid, it would simply float off and away, no more glow from your vial.

Worst case scenario: You break the vial on a table/desk, then IMMEDIATELY cup your hands around the vial and place your face directly over it and inhale deeply. If this were to happen, you'd receive as much radiation as ...a dental x-ray.

I talked to my Nuclear Engineering professor about tritium today. He noted that tritium gas when exposed to air readily binds to the moisture in the air. Apparently when bound in the form of tritiated water it can not only be inhaled more easily but you could actually absorb ~50% as much as you'd inhale, through the skin. Once in your body it mixes with your total body water, causing prolonged exposure to increased beta radiation.

If you check out the report AvidHiker posted (post #25) by the Health Protection Agency, it is also suggested that the Relative Biological Effectiveness of tritium (to induce “cellular inactivation for a range of cell types in addition to chromosome aberrations, mutation, transformation and DNA DSB induction”) is higher than in conventional high energy x-rays or gamma rays.
 
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mpteach

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How long does tritiated water reside in the body and how many grams of inhaled tritium would it take to do as much damage as say a common medical xray.
 

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