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Thread: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Recently a fellow CPFER I have known since high school obtained some tritium vials for his "shelf queen" lights...(rarely used and expensive)

    I did some research and found tritium is quite commonly used for exit signs in case of power failure. Road signs. Gunsights, keychains. Flashlights! the Military uses them alot for marking things.

    My GF the Lab rat she is uses Alpha, beta, and gamma radiation emitters and sources daily at the lab. Each type of radiation has a different source, and safety protocol.

    Turns out the casing of the tritium vial is all that is needed to contain the dangerous beta particles coming off the tritium, while still allowing only mostly visible light to come thru the casing.

    I bought some of these recently for my keychain, lights, and my security guard wanted a few.

    I talked about it at the lab. They use the same type of plastic in their face shield when handling beta emitters. While their body is covered, they still have to see.

    I spoke to the PHD and grad students at length and the only problem they see is if theres a common house fire and you have these in your home...Plastic melts in excessive heat and can actually burn in a fire. this would release all the tritium into the immediate surrounding areas contaminating the place where the fire was, and the tritium vial used to be. Heat would carry unstable tritium and beta particles up to the ceiling and wherever heat, smoke, water, and gravity, sent it.

    Beta particles cannot pass thru skin or a tshirt even and arent that dangerous, but if they are ingested they can kill. they can be inhaled or swallowed unknowingly. think household dust particles but much smaller.

    the worst case scenario would be inhaling or ingesting the tritium itself, not just the resulting beta particles. Ingestion most often happens if you have tritium on you and you eat or drink or smoke something before being decontaminated. Touching ones eyes, mouth, nose, or ears also can lead to ingestion.

    According to Wiki, I just found out it can be absorbed directly thru the skin.

    if any vials burst, burned, or leaked as a result of a fire, anyone living in the area during or after the fire, you, and the firefighters if needed, would be exposed; from inhaling smoke or fighting the fire, or inspecting the damage.


    itd be a "dirty fire"

    Putting some primary lithium batteries right next to a small amount of tritium is a small risk as if there was a lithium fueled fire it would burn very hot.

    we just saw a Cops flashlight explode all by itself with a great deal of fury and heat..good thing he didnt have a tritium vial attatched to this. http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...d.php?t=247638

    Just a thought.

    FYI: Beta particles are more dangerous than alpha particles but less dangerous than gamma rays.

    Tritium is more dangerous to ingest or inhale than beta particles as it continues to produce more beta particles for 50 years or more.

    I think this is why I am allowed to own, but not Re-sell these in the USA.

    MY GF wanted me to add:

    The low energy of tritium's radiation makes it difficult to detect tritium-labelled compounds except by using liquid scintillation counting.
    AND
    As tritium is not a strong beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally, but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food, water, or absorbed through the skin
    (wikipedia)
    Last edited by Nite; 11-22-2009 at 04:24 PM.
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

  2. #2
    Flashaholic Nos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Short answer, no i am not concerned as i dont stock masses of vials.
    proud Fenix T1 aspheric R2 owner

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Unless you directly ingest the gas as the vial is broken (it's a glass vial inside), there is no concern. Dissipation is extremely quick, and even if you suffered the "full force" of a vial, it is similar to the dose received of a number of chest X-ray's IIRC.

    I would be interested however to know how you fair ingesting the superheated gas associated with the fire itself...

    The phrase "bigger problems to worry about" comes to mind.

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    What are the properties of tritium?

    Tritium is a hydrogen atom that has two neutrons in the nucleus, in addition to its single proton, giving it an atomic weight near three. Although tritium can be a gas, its most common form is in water, because, like non-radioactive hydrogen, radioactive tritium reacts with oxygen to form water. Tritium replaces one of the stable hydrogens in the water molecule, H2O, and is called tritiated water (HTO). Like H2O, tritiated water is colorless and odorless. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years and emits a very weak beta particle.
    http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/tritium.html

    So My GF, speaking over my shoulder telling me what to google...says that when the gas is exposed to oxygen it likes to combine with the air in the room to become "tritiated water"

    "So when the gas hits the air in the room, it can become liquid.
    This is now easily absorbed into the body, and once it becomes part of your body it will continue to emit beta particles..... "

    How does tritium change in the environment?

    Tritium readily forms water when exposed to oxygen. As it undergoes radioactive decay, tritium emits a very low energy beta particle and transforms to stable, nonradioactive helium. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years.

    Current treatment of landfill leachates do not remove tritium.


    What does tritium do once it gets into the body?

    Tritium is almost always found as water, or "tritiated" water. Once tritium enters the body, it disperses quickly and is uniformly distributed throughout the body. Tritium is excreted through the urine within a month or so after ingestion. Organically bound tritium (tritium that is incorporated in organic compounds) can remain in the body for a longer period.

    Tritium atoms can exchange with any hydrogen atoms. If the hydrogen atom is part of an organic molecule, the tritium becomes 'organically bound' and is transported with the molecule rather than moving freely like water
    She wont let me have this stuff in the house!

    but I told her

    Health Effects of Tritium
    How does tritium affect people's health?

    As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer. However, because it emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly, for a given amount of activity ingested, tritium is one of the least dangerous radionuclides. Since tritium is almost always found as water, it goes directly into soft tissues and organs. The associated dose to these tissues are generally uniform and dependent on the tissues' water content.
    Its because I want to have something like this:http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...2&postcount=65
    Last edited by Nite; 11-22-2009 at 05:44 PM.
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

  5. #5
    *Flashaholic* Sgt. LED's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Tastes good.

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    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    From the last "When Tritium Attacks" thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    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.

    That's the beauty of the tritium vial design, rather than relying on the radioactive substance itself to glow, it uses a strong phosphor that glows brightly with very little energy, so you can use a remarkably weak source of radioactivity to produce a glow. The beta radiation that comes off of a tritium vial cannot penetrate tissue paper, and can only make it about a quarter inch from the vial in open air before dissipating. It's so weak that even if you were to set a Geiger Counter on its most sensitive setting, then press the probe directly onto the vial, it would not register a reading at all.
    Also, regarding ingestion of tritium, you might want to look up the radioactive properties of bananas and nuts; you eat radiation all the time..

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    From the last "When Tritium Attacks" thread:

    Also, regarding ingestion of tritium, you might want to look up the radioactive properties of bananas and nuts; you eat radiation all the time..
    Yes, we ingest alot of tritium thru what the epa calls "safe levels" everyday, im sad to say, by drinking our tapwater. Thats what happens when its produced Commercially in huge reactors in huge quantites for Our nuclear defense.

    What is tritium used for?

    Tritium has several important uses. Its most significant use is as a component in the triggering mechanism in thermonuclear (fusion) weapons. Very large quantities of tritium are required for the maintenance of our nation's nuclear weapons capabilities.

    Tritium is also produced commercially in reactors. It is used in various self-luminescent devices, such as exit signs in buildings, aircraft dials, gauges, luminous paints, and wristwatches. Tritium is also used in life science research, and in studies investigating the metabolism of potential new drugs.

    Exposure to Tritium:

    How does tritium get into the environment?

    Tritium occurs naturally in the environment in very low concentrations. Most tritium in the environment is in the form of tritiated water, which easily disburses in the atmosphere, water bodies, soil, and rock.

    In the mid-1950s and early 1960s, tritium was widely dispersed during the above-ground testing of nuclear weapons. The quantity of tritium in the atmosphere from weapons testing peaked in 1963 and has been decreasing ever since.

    Today, sources of tritium include commercial nuclear reactors and research reactors, and government weapons production plants. Tritium may be released as steam from these facilities or may leak into the underlying soil and ground water. However, such releases are usually small and are required not to exceed federal environmental limits.

    A recently documented source of tritium in the environment is tritium exit signs that have been illegally disposed of in municipal landfills. Water, which seeps through the landfill, is contaminated with tritium from broken signs and can pass into water ways, carrying the tritium with it.
    and the Beta particles are thrown off very slowly..thats why it wont register..it looks like background radiation to a geiger counter. If it broke open im sure the geiger counter would register a few beta particles, indistinguishable from background radiation. It requires a scintillation detector to find tritium.

    The beta particles shouldnt even be able to penetrate the plastic shell on the glass vial.

    However if you breathe it in some of it will become liquid in your lungs...it will take a few months to leave your system unless it bonds to some other organic molecule.

    its good to know that its a gas that will go up like natural gas and not accumulate.

    It looks like im getting more tritium from food and water here than in any vials that I might have around...that might break..
    Last edited by Nite; 11-22-2009 at 08:04 PM.
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    You are probably exposed to more radiation from the potassium in a banana than tritium in the water you drink...

    BTW, you don't live in a brick house do you??

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    Flashaholic post tenebras's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Thank you for posting this, Nite!

    Looks like the CPF community is as callous to the health risks of tritium in vials as they are to the health risks of nanoparticles in lubricants.

  10. #10
    *Flashaholic* Size15's's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    IMHO, this scenario is like worrying about poisoning from contact with lead-based paint on a vehicle hitting you at 70mph.

    But lets look at how Tritium vials are considered in England & Wales from the perspective of use and storage according to the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

    First some terminology:

    GTLD = gaseous tritium light device defined as an illuminant, instrument, sign or indicator which contains tritium gas in robust sealed containers, is constructed to withstand normal use and contains no other radioactive material

    GTLS = A sealed container [such as a glass vial] of tritium gas forming part of a GTLD

    Essentially, if you purchase a GTLD you can keep it and use it without registering it.
    This assumes that you have purchased the GTLD that has been manufactured and/or imported 'legally'. I think this means no single device can have more than about twenty (20) of the Class B GTLS vials B@rt uses for his TiGlow. These vials appear to be the most Tritium we 'play with'.

    What about Storage?
    In England and Wales, premises used for storage or supply of smaller GTLDs ("small" = Class A, less than 20 GBq) are exempt from registration up to a total holding of 5 TBq; this implies that at least 250 small GTLDs may be held without registration.

    I understand normal Tritium vials (traditional Glowring sized) contain in the order of 25 millicuries (mCi) or <1 GBq.
    If this is correct you could hold up to 5000 (five thousand) Glowrings without registering for an exemption under RSA 93.

    All the vials used in a watch [made for the USA market] contain up to a total of 25 mCi unless its a Ball "T" which means it could contain up to 100 mCi.
    You could hold up to 1351 "T" Ball Watches!

    B@rt's High Pressure vials used in his TiGlow contain upwards of 1 Ci or ~40-50 GBq. This is not considered to be a "small" GTLD. It is Class B (a GTLD of total activity less that 1TBq and a maximum in each GTLS of 80 GBq).
    This means storage for sale or hire of these requires registration.
    You can keep and use a Class B GTLD without registration.

    What about if I use Tritium vials to make or modify a device such as create my own keyring or add them to a flashlight?
    If you manufacturer, create or modify a device (GTLD) using a source (GTLS) regardless of its Class, you should take a look here and consider seeking expert advice or contacting the Environment Agency directly.
    I suspect that the causal modder using Tritium vials for his own ends, working with a small number of vials will be treated differently from somebody selling creations either made or modified.
    At the very least you should consider the scale of your 'activity' and take any suitable precautions not to harm yourself, others or the environment.

    How does all this relate back to the 'fire scenario'?
    Given the quantities and numbers referenced above I conclude that the tiny amount of Tritium in small vials we have for personal use poses no appreciable risk in any realistic reasonably foreseeable scenario involving fire.

    Al
    [written with my Flashaholic hat on]
    Last edited by Size15's; 11-22-2009 at 08:14 PM.

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    Flashaholic Qoose's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Don't forget that flying a couple of times will also subject you to a mSv or two of radiation.

    Or just get your hands on a copy of the Fallout series of games. Then you will only get afraid when you are swimming in a radiated lake.

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    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marduke View Post
    You are probably exposed to more radiation from the potassium in a banana than tritium in the water you drink...

    BTW, you don't live in a brick house do you??
    if you spent thirty days working in grand central station, thats one chest xray per month......the granite is mildly radioactive.
    Airline pilots get way more.

    I wanna order some more trit rings..bart is maybe the best source. he never lost a shipment.

    I think I got one from DX or some other Site.

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    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by Size15's View Post
    IMHO, this scenario is like worrying about poisoning from contact with lead-based paint on a vehicle hitting you at 70mph.

    -edit-

    How does all this relate back to the 'fire scenario'?
    Given the quantities and numbers referenced above I conclude that the tiny amount of Tritium in small vials we have for personal use poses no appreciable risk in any realistic reasonably foreseeable scenario involving fire.

    Al
    [written with my Flashaholic hat on]
    thanks!
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

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    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Wink2 Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by post tenebras View Post
    Thank you for posting this, Nite!

    Looks like the CPF community is as callous to the health risks of tritium in vials as they are to the health risks of nanoparticles in lubricants.
    WTH? Nanoparticles? Dangerous?
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

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    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by post tenebras View Post
    Looks like the CPF community is as callous to the health risks of tritium in vials as they are to the health risks of nanoparticles in lubricants.
    In order for tritium to pose a risk, you must first have a vial break, then have the vial somewhere near your face, then inhale deeply in the area immediately near the vial. Out of all the tritium lights and fobs owned here on CPF, I've never once heard of any such event. Most flashaholics are rightfully more concerned about battery venting.

    And the only way to ingest nanoparticles is to not wash your hands after lubing your light, or deliberately rub your fingers all over your slimy lubed threads, and then go eat finger foods; and again, I don't know of any CPFer who has done either..

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by post tenebras View Post
    Thank you for posting this, Nite!

    Looks like the CPF community is as callous to the health risks of tritium in vials as they are to the health risks of nanoparticles in lubricants.
    I think it is more of a matter of the CPF community being thoroughly educated enough to realize the LACK of a health risk associated with tritium.

  17. #17
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by Size15's View Post
    IMHO, this scenario is like worrying about poisoning from contact with lead-based paint on a vehicle hitting you at 70mph.
    Oh crap. Now I'm going to have lead paint nightmares. What happened to the good old days where you could just get hit broadside by a 70mph vehicle and be done with it?

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    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    And the only way to ingest nanoparticles is to not wash your hands after lubing your light, or deliberately rub your fingers all over your slimy lubed threads, and then go eat finger foods; and again, I don't know of any CPFer who has done either..
    Chicken McNuggets don't count, right?

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    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    so the tritium is safe...but ive been poisoning myself with nanoparticles if i havent washed my hands each time I used flashlight lube?

    I mean I usually do especially if i get any lubricant on me, And I try not to get that stuff on me...used or new.

    what kind of nanoparticle?
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

  20. #20
    *Flashaholic* Sgt. LED's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    The kind chip weevils breed in.

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* Nite's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgt. LED View Post
    The kind chip weevils breed in.
    thanks!

    Found it!

    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...83&postcount=6

    thats scary stuff.....wish I knew this sooner

    I get a micro bit of this on me everytime I change my cells...sometimes I cant wash my hands after.
    My Father, WonderLite, sells FM1794 bulbs, FiveMega 18mm Bodies, and AW cells on CPFM. www.nitemods.com

  22. #22
    Flashaholic* Launch Mini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    I think you would have more of a concern with all those CFL with mercury burning up & releasing mercury vapours.

  23. #23
    *Flashaholic* Sgt. LED's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    STOP! LOL

    You're going to give him a seizure.

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    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by LuxLuthor View Post
    Chicken McNuggets don't count, right?
    Feed 'em to the dog, the lube helps prevent seizing..


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    Beamhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    I think people in PA have more to worry about.

    http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?se...cal&id=7131935
    Quando Omni Flunkis Moritati

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    Flashaholic* gsxrac's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Ahhhhh America the beautiful. I swear if I ever wanted to start a company in the US it would be one that sold sterilized clear inhabitable bubbles! Seriously Dont worry about it, if it was that hazardous to your health it wouldnt be so easily obtainable and you would hear far more about it through the news. And really I bet you every person that has posted in this thread has done something far more dangerous and detrimental to their health today... drive a car? smoke a cig? eat at McD's?

    So should we bring up the point that Incandescent flashlights put out IR that is bad for you too? Time to toss out all them incans I guess? Not to mention shining a 200+lm light in your eyes on a regular basis CANT be good for your eyes... Rasie your hand if you honestly havent done this in the last week?

    Live a little, and enjoy them trits! And to the OP I would suggest hiding the trit filled lights from your GF but I guess she might find them at the most inopportune time.... when the lights go out

  27. #27
    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    It's interesting that the forum that's oh-so-concerned about where their flashlights are made never asks where the tritium comes from. (What's the Chinese word for "reactor"?)

  28. #28
    *Flashaholic* Size15's's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    It's interesting that the forum that's oh-so-concerned about where their flashlights are made never asks where the tritium comes from. (What's the Chinese word for "reactor"?)
    The vials are made in Switzerland but from Chinese made Tritium?
    Interesting if true... I assumed that the Tritium was produced in Switzerland also.
    That said, I heard the Titanium for the SR71 Blackbirds front landing gear was from the USSR/Russia...

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* leukos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    In order for tritium to pose a risk, you must first have a vial break, then have the vial somewhere near your face, then inhale deeply in the area immediately near the vial. Out of all the tritium lights and fobs owned here on CPF, I've never once heard of any such event.
    Hopefully tritium studded teeth braces don't catch on with teenagers.....
    Light is sweet and pleasing to the eyes....

  30. #30
    Flashaholic*
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    Wink2 Re: Tritium Vials + a common fire. A safety concern?

    Quote Originally Posted by gsxrac View Post
    Not to mention shining a 200+lm light in your eyes on a regular basis CANT be good for your eyes... Rasie your hand if you honestly havent done this in the last week?



    ( Well, a day or two. Perhaps since last night.)

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