Radiation Hazard May Be Right Next Door

A significant number of items from the past that have come down to us contained radium-226 as one of the components of the constant-action luminous mass, which was used in Christmas tree decorations, wrist and wall clocks, aviation and marine instruments, sights, equipment scales, compasses, traverses, etc.

Radium-226 emits alpha particles in the process of natural decay. This alpha radiation, when interacting with zinc sulfide (another component of the constant-action light mass), causes it to be illuminated in green (see Photo 1). Over time, the radioactive light mass becomes fragile, so its particles can crumble and fall on other objects, skin or even in the respiratory tract of a person who was careless to interact with such an object. Without a suitable dosimeter, it is not possible to determine whether an object you are holding in your hands is dangerous due to the lack of glow of the damaged light-mass structure.

Radium-226 behaves in the human body like calcium, it accumulates in bone tissue. One of the most famous cases of overexposure of industrial personnel related to radium is the case of the so-called “radium girls“. This was the name given to women who worked in factories, where, in particular, radioactive light mass was applied to clock dials. The workers performed this work with brushes, constantly pressing them with their lips to form thin tips. In the future, the intake of a significant amount of radium-226 in the body caused massive tooth loss and sarcoma of the bones of the oral cavity.

The uncontrolled use of radium-226 in the past led to the formation of a significant number of household items containing it. SSTC NRS specialists repeatedly discovered such objects during radiation surveys, in particular, on the scales of devices for aiming the KS-19 anti-aircraft gun, which is used as a museum exhibit of the Polytechnic Museum at the Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute (see Photo 4), on the scale of the aviation clock during the radiation survey of the de-occupied territories of the Kyiv region in the framework of the SURVEY project.

The latest case was the detection of radium-226 on the scale of the DP-63-A dosimeter, found during the survey of the premises of one of the educational institutions on the territory of the Borodyanka Territorial Community in the framework of the SURVEY project. The gamma radiation dose rate at a distance of 10 cm from the dosimeter was up to 1.55 μSv/h (at the same time, the dose rate in the room was up to 0.12 μSv/h), on the surface of the dosimeter – up to 33 μSv/h. Information on the detected radiation source (which, in fact, is the dosimeter) was transferred to the National Police, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and the SNRIU. The executive power bodies of the Borodyanka Regional Community organized cooperation with the SSP “Radon Association” in accordance with the Cabinet Resolution No. 813 dated 2 June 2003 “On Approval of the Procedure for the Interaction of Executive Power Bodies and Legal Entities that Conduct Activities in the Field of Nuclear Energy Use, in Case of Detection of Radioactive Materials in Illegal Circulation” for the removal and disposal of a dangerous object.

If you have found a similar item, or you know someone owns such an item, there is a possibility of transferring it to a specialized company. To do this, it is necessary to contact the dispatchers of the National Police (102), the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (101), the SSP “Radon Association”, who will be able to provide the necessary qualified support and advice.

Taking this opportunity we remind you that the voluntary surrender of radioactive sources by individuals does not entail criminal liability in accordance with Clause 4 of Article 265 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine and is free of charge for them.

According to SSTC NRS