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Should I be worried about radium?


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Hello all,

I recently services a 1948 Glycine Bienne and it is in mint condition.  It is running beautifully and it has zero beat error and is running +2 sec per day.  I want to keep it, but I am concerned about the Radium.  Mayne I am being paranoid, but does anyone have any thoughts on this?  Should I sell it?

Any advice or experience with this would be greatly appreciated.

 

dman2112

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Thanks. This is not something new.  When you received your watch, was it showing 03:28 time? 🙂 Which model of Geiger counter have you purchased? And, did you have a chance to watch this

Sending me your watch helps get over your worry.  

Don't tell anybody I showed you this. Its probably classified.

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If you have been following this discussion on radioactive lume, you might find this interesting.
 

 

Something to bear in mind, most "radioactive" watches are mildly hazardous, if the lume particulate is allowed to escape in to the environment which is why the majority of watches produced today do not contain any radioactive material.

There are a few exceptions that have tritium tubes, but they are mainly intended for military or dive use. 

The doses in normal use from wearing an old radium, Promethium or tritium lumed watch are almost too small to measure, however the devices in this video are actually a genuine radiation risk, all be it a relatively low one.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for something to calibrate your Geiger counter with, then you might like this ebay search -> https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_odkw=Negative+Ion+powder&_sop=15&_osacat=0&_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=Negative+Ion+&_sacat=0

Buy at your own risk of course. :unsure:

The one I found most concerning was this.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Pack-of-4-Energy-Armor-Negative-Ion-Sports-Hair-Bands-Providing-Natures-Ions/251469259674?epid=1388443313&hash=item3a8cbc639a:g:XK0AAOxyXzxTGcHK

s-l1600.jpg

Edited by AndyHull
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wear nitrile gloves and a dust mask if it makes you feel better , and don't lick the dial. I do know that way back before radio activity was understood, factory workers who applied radium lume had many health problems brought about by sharpening the brush in their mouths.  it also has a very long half life, even though the lume is spent it is still radio active.treat it with respect.

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Hello, just looking for a little bit of advice.
I have an old watch that I have purchased, I would like to repair a problem it has with the stem not staying in.
It has tritium hands and hour markers that are approximately 30 years old, would it be safe to remove the hands to replace the movement?

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Tritium is safe, especially that old. Radium, even if not glowing anymore, is not safe, and you should be careful.

A friend of mine did a watch where the radium paint shattered out of the hands when he took them off; he got a Geiger counter a few weeks later and it was still getting readings on his his bench.

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I concur with Nickelsilver.

Ocean water contains tritium where healthy marine life goes on. We get a dose with every fish in the dish.  No worries, safe.

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Documents at the National Records of Scotland also show how the now-defunct Dundee firm UK Time a forerunner to Timex arranged a deal with local fishermen to put 35,000 luminised dials coated with radium into drums and dump them in the Tay Estuary in 1949.

I thought you all might find this interesting.

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/fife/139597/shocking-extent-of-radioactive-waste-dumped-in-scottish-seas/

The article continues with the following little gem.

Quote

The arrangement, according to Scotland Office papers, continued for eight more years at an estimated 5,000 dials a year before dumping was switched to the UK Government’s site at Beaufort’s Dyke between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Now I know why my fish and chips from the chip shop in Broughty ferry stays warm for so long, and here was me thinking it was just the extra layer of newspaper they wrapped them in. 😉

Edited by AndyHull
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This isn't a question, but a warning.

I recently ordered a broken watch off ebay with the intention of fixing it. The dial was discolored under where the hands had been sitting in a fixed position for a while. I decided this was suspicious and ordered a Geiger counter.  The thing is giving off over 10 microsieverts an hour, which means that someone wearing it would receive a full day's dose of background radiation in only a few minutes.

But the real issue is ingesting or inhaling dust from the lume on the hands should you mess with them.

For everyone messing with vintage watches that have lumed hands or dials, invest in a cheap Geiger counter so you know whether the watch you are going to work on is "hot."

I bought mine from walmart.com for $85 including shipping.

 

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49 minutes ago, LeeReynolds said:

This isn't a question, but a warning.

Thanks. This is not something new. 

When you received your watch, was it showing 03:28 time? 🙂

Which model of Geiger counter have you purchased?

And, did you have a chance to watch this video ?

 

 

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I've read things online about the radium dials and hands being dangerous.

I've also read things that say not to worry.

My take is that anything which gives you 24 hours of radiation in a few minutes is probably a bad thing to have on your arm.  Something that will shed radioactive dust when taken apart is something I want even less to do with. 

There's a huge difference between having something radioactive near you -- or on you -- which will give your entire body a dosage of radiation, and having a small speck of radioactive material lodged in your lungs irradiating the immediate area continuously for an indefinite period of time.  I wish I'd waited till I got this geiger counter to take that watch apart.  I won't make that mistake again.

Let's not forget that radium decays into radon.  Where I'm from, most people have radon detectors, especially if they have a basement as the stuff comes up out of the ground.  I don't need it coming off my arm.

This is the geiger counter I bought:

 

 

If anyone is interested, I can post a video of the readings I'm getting from it.

 

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Just for fun I picked up a gieger counter kit from ebay a couple of months back.

image.thumb.png.932f6ec120ce077d0699359a30a96745.png

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Geiger-kit-DIY-Arduino-IDE-compatible-easy-nuclear-radiation-counter-w-o-tube/153986465695?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&var=454085217095&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649
 

Its been sitting waiting for a spare moment to put it together, so this evening I grabbed it and assembled the thing, which took me less than an hour. I do however have quite a lot of experience of electronic repairs and soldering, so I found it pretty simple. Your mileage may vary.

I'll complete the build tomorrow (it only needs the tube connecting and testing).

So far I'm impressed with the build quality, and the seller's response when the first delivery didn't turn up. He was very helpful and popped another one in the post which showed up about a week later.

I picked up a couple of Soviet era  tubes a long time back so I already had a suitable detector. You can also buy the kit with a tube, and even buy it pre-assembled I believe.

I'll keep you posted when I have the thing running.

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Here's a link to a video I made that demonstrates just how "hot" this watch is.

https://d.tube/v/leereyno101/QmTgKeUXedmfVoMRKkRGBuqbBhQtpVigbyVyDw4QU7QKpu

Here's a link to a chart that shows what 11 microsieverts represents in terms of radiation dosage:

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/how-much-radiation-is-too-much-a-handy-guide/8124/

 

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24 minutes ago, jdrichard said:

Should be fine in a million years:)

1 million years = 31556952000000 seconds (3.155 x 10^13 seconds)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_radioactive_nuclides_by_half-life

Radium 226 has a half life of 50x10^9 seconds or around 1,600 years

.. so 1 million years will probably make the lume on those hands safe enough to spread on your toast.

Having said that, the radioactivity is relatively low level, so providing you don't actually intend spreading the lume on your toast, and it will remain in the watch, and that the watch is not worn daily, for may years, then its probably not worth worrying about. Most of the activity is absorbed by the dial and case. A small amount of gamma might make it through the case to you, and a little more might make it through the crystal, but not enough to loose any sleep over. An international flight, or a tooth x-ray, or even a days worth of bright sunshine will do more damage.

A banana a day would probably be similarly dangerous ( as wearing the watch, not eating it obviously, the watch would be a choke hazard).

Edited by AndyHull
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19 hours ago, LeeReynolds said:

  The thing is giving off over 10 microsieverts an hour, which means that someone wearing it would receive a full day's dose of background radiation in only a few minutes.

True, from the dial side, but what was the dose through the case?
What was the dose through the crystal?
Mostly Radium throws out Alpha and Beta radiation, so most of that isn't going anywhere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotopes_of_radium#Radium-226

Some of the gamma will get out.

Dust is the real hazard. Take care when dealing with that.

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20 minutes ago, AndyHull said:

1 million years = 31556952000000 seconds (3.155 x 10^13 seconds)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_radioactive_nuclides_by_half-life

Radium 226 has a half life of 50x10^9 seconds or around 1,600 years

.. so 1 million years will probably make the lume on those hands safe enough to spread on your toast.

Having said that, the radioactivity is relatively low level, so providing you don't actually intend spreading the lume on your toast, and it will remain in the watch, and that the watch is not worn daily, for may years, then its probably not worth worrying about. Most of the activity is absorbed by the dial and case. A small amount of gamma might make it through the case to you, and a little more might make it through the crystal, but not enough to loose any sleep over. An international flight, or a tooth x-ray, or even a days worth of bright sunshine will do more damage.

A banana a day would probably be similarly dangerous ( as wearing the watch, not eating it obviously, the watch would be a choke hazard).

You are a humorous man. Thought you were going to add diagrams for a reactor 

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12.79 microsieverts per hour is more than what I was seeing on my watch.  I was only getting around 10.

I hate the fact that so many older watches with lume are radium based, and the people selling them on Ebay have no idea.

 

I was able to remove virtually all of the radium from the hands on mine, very carefully, by keeping the hands submerged in alcohol and using peg wood to scrape off the lume.  Then I ran the hands through several ultrasonic cleaner cycles.

My watch now reads 0.30 microsieverts an hour, which is roughly double the background radiation in my house

Does your watch have radium in the dial, or just the hands?

If it is just in the hands then you may be able to do the same.

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7 minutes ago, LeeReynolds said:

12.79 microsieverts per hour is more than what I was seeing on my watch.  I was only getting around 10.

I hate the fact that so many older watches with lume are radium based, and the people selling them on Ebay have no idea.

 

I was able to remove virtually all of the radium from the hands on mine, very carefully, by keeping the hands submerged in alcohol and using peg wood to scrape off the lume.  Then I ran the hands through several ultrasonic cleaner cycles.

My watch now reads 0.30 microsieverts an hour, which is roughly double the background radiation in my house

Does your watch have radium in the dial, or just the hands?

If it is just in the hands then you may be able to do the same.

The hands and all the dial markers

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I've got two other watches that are like that, a "Louis" and a "Den-Ro"

I was able to remove the radium from the hands, but not the dials.

One now gives readings of ~ 1.5 microsieverts per hour.

The other now gives ~ 0.9 per hour.

I don't remember how "hot" these were before I removed the radium from the hands.

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