Time to decorate! I'll take this potpourri urn, these palm frond bookends, a nice neutral-colored bathmat, and WHY IS THIS TISSUE BOX EMITTING DANGEROUS RADIATION?!!
|The recalled tissue box from Bed Bath & Beyond. source|
In reality, radiation contamination in consumer products is no laughing matter, and this is no isolated case. Contaminated consumer products have been traded between many countries, and a wide range of products have been identified.
In 2009, Wal-Mart was fined almost $400,000 by the Nuclear Regulatory Committee for exit signs containing radioactive material2. 500 sets of radioactive elevator buttons were found in France in 20083. A few cheese graters turned up in Michigan containing cobalt-60, the same isotope found in the Bed Bath & Beyond’s tissue box holders. Even a batch of 1000 La-Z-Boy recliners was found to have radioactive metal brackets in 19984. Due to the common occurrence of radiation in consumer products, the US government even set up a Nuclear Material Events Database in 1990. Since then over 20,000 cases of radiation releases have been documented5.
The additional radiation exposure to consumers of these products is generally low level but still a cause for concern. The tissue boxes were estimated to expose consumers using bathrooms with the boxes to the equivalent of a few extra chest x-rays per year. Unexpected radiation sources add up: chronic exposure of even low doses of radiation can lead to cataracts, cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A 2005 study of more than 6,000 Taiwanese who lived in apartments built with radioactive reinforcing steel from 1983 to 2005 showed a statistically significant increase in leukemia and breast cancer 6.
The question remains: if we don’t carry a radiation detector with us every time we go shopping, how will we know which products to avoid? The solution has to involve better detection along increasingly complex supply chains. Most of the tainted metal introduced into consumer products comes from contaminated batches of scrap metal, sometimes containing radiation acquired in nuclear power activities. As this metal travels is formed, shaped, and implemented in products, too few check points are involved to catch radiation. Radiation detectors need to become part of the manufacturing process, not just a safeguard against large foreign radiation sources. And due to the wide range of consumer products tainted by radioactive materials, detectors need to screen more products.
With new guideless and increased detection during manufacturing and distribution, we can finally be confident that our next hot buy won’t really be hot.
D-tect Systems is a supplier of advanced radiation and chemical detection equipment sold around the world. www.dtectsystems.com.