Our radioactive world

Published on August 26th, 2011
Our radioactive world

It’s a fact: almost everything we come across in our daily lives contains radioactive material of some kind. Some of the stuff is naturally occurring, while some of it is man-made. According to an article on www.lifeslittlemysteries.com, most of the radiation we’re exposed to comes from radon – an odourless, colourless gas that occurs naturally in the air – while smaller amounts come from cosmic rays and even the earth itself.

Here are a few examples of everyday things that are radioactive:

Food
All plants and animals contain trace amounts of radioactive potassium-40 and radium-226, but don’t panic – these are really small amounts.

Glass
Believe it or not, glassware, especially antique glassware with a yellow or greenish colour, can contain easily detectable quantities of uranium. Uranium glass can have an attractive glow when exposed to a black light. Did you know that camera lenses in the 1950s to 1970s were often coated with thorium?

Ceramics
Tiles and pottery often contain naturally occurring uranium, thorium, and/or potassium. In many cases, the activities are concentrated in the glaze and, unless there is a large quantity of material, readings are relatively low. However, older pieces – especially those with a red-orange glaze – can be quite radioactive.

Are you aware of anything you come into contact with on a daily basis that is radioactive? Let us know by emailing thinkoutloud@hip2b2.com.

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