Radium Paint on the TBX

David Stinson arc5 at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Dec 23 13:39:46 EST 1998

This has been covered before but it never hurts to
read about it again.  Besides-- new members come along.
(from a letter- copied to the list for general information)

> Wanted to ask you a question.
> You know that this set (has)...
> radioactive panel markings.
> How do you handle this?...
> Do you seal them with a clear coat? OR?

One thing working many years at the Nevada Test Site
tought me about was ionizing radiation :-).
Our society has been so brainwashed by the media about
ionizing radiation that it engenders more fear then it should.

Handling radiation is similar to handling fire.
In fact, heat from fire IS radiation; it's just at
a different wavelength.  Ionizing radiation deserves the
same respect as fire and can be thought-of in similar ways.
A small radiation source is like a small fire and a large one
is like a large fire.  You wouldn't run screaming from
a lit match, but neither would you stick your finger on it.
This is like a "small" source, such as an RBZ or TBX.
On the other hand, I would certainly get away from
a few grams of, say, Cobalt 60.
That's a LARGE source and should be treated
like a forest fire- meaning RUN! ;-)

There is no need to be nervous if you arm yourself with
the proper knowledge and respect, just as you would for fire.
The radiation levels on this gear are not threatening
in normal use or sitting on a shelf, even in close proximity.
To give you perspective-- the "hottest" rig I have is the thick
radium paint on the BC-9 meter.  It's about 10 millirem/hour
contact, which means right slam-up against it.
Every inch away from it reduces that level drastically.
10 millirem/hour means if you put it in your pocket so it was
against your skin and carried it for an hour, your leg would
receive ten thousandths of a REM dose.
Assuming non-ingestion,
it takes a 100 REM whole-body dose (100,000 millirem)
to a human population
for 50% of the people to show any effect, and that is detectable
only through blood tests (change in white cell count).
90%+ of those detected will recover without proven lasting effects.
There are people who will argue theory about injury from
small doses, but my data comes from real-world evidence.
People in Denver receive much higher whole-body doses
then the general U.S. population (and more then this gear delivers)
with no detectable increase in disease in the overall population.

That having been said, the important threat
is inhaling or ingesting the stuff.
This is a real danger that should not be taken lightly.
Radium lodged in the lungs or digestive tract
means a serious increase in the chance for cancer,
because it sits there for a long time
bombarding the same set of cells.

The best way to handle radium paint that isn't flaking is
                     LEAVE IT ALONE.
However-  Hams have a genetic inablity to keep screwdrivers
out of things, so there are times you might need
to open your RBZ and do some work.
We handled this problem at The Site by using ventalition tables
and by paint fixatives.

When handling small items, we put them on a table that had vent
holes in the surface and a vent hood on top. A steady
current of air carried any loose particulates up the vent
and into a filter system to trap them.
Down in the tunnels, if there was any fear of active
particulates, we'd spray the walls and surfaces with a paint
fixative to trap them on a surface.  Again- casual contact
on a surface won't hurt you; injestion will.

We hobbiest don't have vent tables available,
so here are my guidelines for working on this stuff:

1.  NEVER eat, drink or smoke while working with
    radioactive items.

2.  Work only in a well-vented area like a garage
    with the big door OPEN.
    DON'T work in the house where people can be exposed.

3.  Place a fan blowing *gently* ACROSS your work area
    toward the outside.  This will blow any particulates
    away from your lungs.  A fast breeze will just create
    eddy-currents.  Make sure the path to the door is clear
    so no eddy-currents carry particles back to you.
    Radium is heavy and wants to sink to the floor.  Let it.
    If you don't want to do this,
    I very much recommend at least a painter's cloth breathing mask.

4.  Wash your hands with soup and water when you're finished.

5.  The best way to clean a radium-painted surface is DON'T!
    But people will.  Remember that any brushing, wiping
    or scrubbing you do WILL pick-up particulates.  You now
    have a radioactive cleaning cloth.  Good luck with it.

6.  DON'T attempt to remove the paint to "get rid of the problem."
    You'll end-up with LOTS of particulates and run a
    serious risk of contaminating yourself and everything
    around you, not to mention creating a waste product
    for which, were you to throw it in the garbage,
    you could go to jail.

Sealing exposed radium paint on surfaces like the TBX
or Wireless 19 sets with clear-coat should be a good idea.
I've never personally had to do this.  I would ask
the experts because, if you use the wrong paint, the
clear-coat could eventually flake off the aluminum
and carry the radium with it.
Someone out there knows which would be best to use.

Hope this helps,
Happy Holidays ES 73 DE David Stinson AB5S
arc5 at ix.netcom.com

Occupied Texas, CSA

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