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A Electroplating - radioactive materials in my drawer?

  1. Apr 12, 2017 #1
    Hello! I'm a high school science teacher who was recently switched to teaching physics for the first time mid-year.

    I remember doing an electroplating demonstration in my gradeschool days for a science fair. It was fascinating and now I want to give my students a chance to do some hands-on science with this very useful process.

    This is the website I liked the best because of its simplicity in materials and procedure: https://www.homesciencetools.com/a/electroplating-science-project

    I began to check for materials in the old backroom of the physics classroom and found a huge cache of copper and iron electrodes. The trouble is, I also found a plastic container filled with what looks like zinc or iron electrodes, but the container has a Radioactive Material warning on it! I'd attach a picture I took but this forum wants an image url and I don't remember my ancient photobucket password...

    My questions (at this moment) are: What could this material be? Why is it radioactive? Is it safe to leave uncovered in a drawer for so long? Is it a joke? What should I do about it (if anything)?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2017 #2

    sophiecentaur

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    I would suggest that you press the big red button and refer this up the line to your manager and safety rep. Historically, schools had a massive amount of substances that are not needed for modern courses and which are potential Chemical or Radioactive hazards. They are not part of modern syllabi.
    In the UK, at least, if you find a potential hazard it is a legal requirement that you report it. It won't matter if the stuff you have found is harmless.
     
  4. Apr 12, 2017 #3

    Nidum

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  5. Apr 13, 2017 #4

    CWatters

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    Back in the 1970s the school i went to had a small radioactive sources for physics experiments. As i remember it was kept in a lead lined wooden box when not in use but could be handled by students.

    I would get yours checked out asap.
     
  6. Apr 13, 2017 #5

    davenn

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    you can upload images from your computer quite easily use the upload button, lower right side of the text box you type a response in ..... no need for an image url

    as far as the sample goes, a local university geology or physics dept would probably gladly take it off your hands
    When I was doing geology at university, one of the departments had a solid chunk of pitchblende in a lead crucible, it would make my Geiger counter go crazy.
     
  7. Apr 13, 2017 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    How do you expect us to answer any of these things? How is this different from "I have an object in my hand now - what is it?"

    You need to report it to the proper authorities. A bunch of guys on the internet are not the proper authorities.
     
  8. Apr 13, 2017 #7
    Vanadium, because I said it was with electroplating stuff and it looked like zinc electrodes. I thought maybe someone had used a radioactive form before that could remember doing so...

    Oh, and of course I notified someone, silly. But I still wanted to engage in some 'friendly' inquiry...if that's ok with you, that is ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
  9. Apr 13, 2017 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    I agree with the other posters- you must report finding that container *immediately* to your principal and whomever is in charge of facilities. Maybe the sticker is a joke- but maybe it's not, and you can't treat it as a joke.
     
  10. Apr 13, 2017 #9

    DrDu

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  11. Apr 13, 2017 #10

    mfb

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    You won't detect alpha radiation with the Geiger counter. Pure alpha emitters are rare, but don't assume something is not radioactive just because a Geiger counter didn't react.
     
  12. Apr 13, 2017 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Tritium, for example, will not set off a Geiger counter with a typical window.

    As for saying it looks kind of like zinc (or earlier, iron) doesn't help much with identification. "It didn't look radioactive" is not a very good argument.
     
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