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Old 09-11-2010, 09:45 PM   #1
Larry_OHF
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Default Crap! I have some old Polonium in my possession!

I found an old brush used to clean static off of camera lenses and stuff, and saw a warning label on it that said not to touch the Polonium strip on the inside and to replace after July 1992. I did a quick Google on it and found that this contains a serious amount of the radioactive metal, but that it should be incased in some kind of protective coating...however...why else would the warning label say to replace by 1992 than to warn me that it could get more dangerous with time?

Should I just toss it in the trash or is there some special way to dispose of it now that it's old?

quote from Wikipedia:

Potentially lethal amounts of polonium are present in anti-static brushes sold to photographers.[54] Many of the devices are available by mail order. General Electric markets a static eliminator module with 500 ÁCi (20 MBq), roughly 2.5 times the lethal dose of 210Po if 100%-ingested, for US$79;[55] Staticmaster sells replacement units with the same amount (500 ÁCi) of 210Po for US$36.[56] In USA, the devices with no more than 500 ÁCi of (sealed) 210Po per unit can be bought in any amount under a "general license"[57] which means that a buyer need not be registered by any authorities: the general license "is effective without the filing of an application with the Commission or the issuance of a licensing document to a particular person."
If these sources were used to collect the amount of polonium likely used in the poisoning—and one could devise a method of separating the polonium from its protective casing—it would take 10–100 modules for price of US$360 to US$7,100. That such a thing could be done is extremely difficult according to the manufacturers[citation needed] and would be highly dangerous to anyone attempting to do so without some special equipment like a glovebox.
Potentially lethal amounts of polonium are present in anti-static brushes sold to photographers.[54] Many of the devices are available by mail order. General Electric markets a static eliminator module with 500 ÁCi (20 MBq), roughly 2.5 times the lethal dose of 210Po if 100%-ingested, for US$79;[55] Staticmaster sells replacement units with the same amount (500 ÁCi) of 210Po for US$36.[56] In USA, the devices with no more than 500 ÁCi of (sealed) 210Po per unit can be bought in any amount under a "general license"[57] which means that a buyer need not be registered by any authorities: the general license "is effective without the filing of an application with the Commission or the issuance of a licensing document to a particular person."
If these sources were used to collect the amount of polonium likely used in the poisoning—and one could devise a method of separating the polonium from its protective casing—it would take 10–100 modules for price of US$360 to US$7,100. That such a thing could be done is extremely difficult according to the manufacturers[citation needed] and would be highly dangerous to anyone attempting to do so without some special equipment like a glovebox.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polonium
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:00 PM   #2
VulcanRider
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Default Re: Crap! I have some old Polonium in my possession!

Sounds like you're ok as long as you don't eat the brush -- "100% ingested" ?? If you're worried about disposing of it just email the manufacturer. Why would they want you to dispose of it? Maybe so they can sell you a new one?

A quick Google found this link on the International Atomic Energy site that says:

Quote:
Po-210 has a half-life of 138 days. This is the time it takes for the activity to decrease by half due to a process of radioactive decay. Po-210 decays to stable lead-206 by emitting alpha particles, accompanied by very low intensity gamma rays. The majority of the time Po-210 decays by emission of alpha particles only, not by emission of an alpha particle and a gamma ray. Only about one in a 100,000 decays results in the emission of a gamma ray. Alpha spectroscopy is the best method of measuring this isotope.
That sounds like the polonium has decayed into lead by this time so the brush is less effective now. Also...

Quote:
Po-210 is highly radioactive and chemically toxic element. Direct damage occurs from energy absorption into tissues from alpha particles. As an alpha-emitter Po-210 represents a radiation hazard only if taken into the body. It┤s important to note that alpha particles do not travel very far - no more than a few centimetres in air. They are stopped by a sheet of paper or by the dead layer of outer skin on our bodies. Therefore, external exposure from Po-210 is not a concern and Po-210 does not represent a risk to human health as long as Po-210 remains outside the body. Most traces of it on a person can be eliminated through careful hand-washing and showering.
I was kidding about eating the brush but it sounds like that's really the only way you'd become poisoned by the stuff. As old as it is I'd guess you can safely drop it in the trash.
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:52 PM   #3
Larry_OHF
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Default Re: Crap! I have some old Polonium in my possession!

Thanks for the reply! That makes me feel better about it. It takes somebody else reading the same stuff to get a different take on it, and I missed what you picked up on.
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Old 09-12-2010, 08:21 PM   #4
Cloudbringer
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Default Re: Crap! I have some old Polonium in my possession!

Larry, sounds like it is ok. Glad to hear it!

VulcanRider- that sig cartoon is .....perfect! LOL
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Old 09-13-2010, 10:41 AM   #5
Timber Loftis
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Default Re: Crap! I have some old Polonium in my possession!

You have, what?, 1/40th the polonium in the brush that you did back in 1992?

Anyway, legal answer: what you have is an amount of polonium that is produced in extremely small amounts, and is considered by the NRC to be an exempt quantity for regulatory purposes.

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-co.../polonium.html

So just throw it away. Or keep it. Whatever you want.
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