# Is my used Geiger counter radioactive?

artis
@justamom you should really stop being concerned, I can understand the fear it is natural for humans to fear the unknown but in all honesty this fear is baseless.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guarapari

There are beaches and other geographical spots on Earth that have a natural average dose twice or three times as high as the one you measured. Some older houses that are built from rocks that contain naturally radioactive elements also have elevated levels.
There are two ways a geiger counter or anything else can become radioactive , either it has dust or particles from a radioactive source on it physically or it has been exposed to neutron radiation which is a specific sort of radiation normally only found in working nuclear reactor cores and other nuclear reactions. We can definitely rule out the second, as for the first the chances the detector has been contaminated with radioactive dust are low.
Now if this makes you feel safer although not really needed but you can put some rubber gloves on take some electronics cleaning alcohol and clean the detector with it somewhere outside. then put the detector to dry, wash your gloves with normal water and soap and your done. If you feel like you can open the case and the reassemble it you can try to do that and clean the inside too with the same alcohol.
Although as I said , this is a rather pointless exercise and most likely the detector is simply reading off by a little and you have just a boring regular normal background level as most of us do.

It is hard to tell what would the reading be if it was contaminated because that would depend on what substance and how much.
But really you should stop worrying. The stress from that is causing more harm than the actual radiation even if there was some.
I have worked around liquid mercury and I still have some in a bottle. The same thing could be said here. There are many things that are contaminated with some levels of mercury in our world. As long as the levels are not high enough we are fine.

artis
@fresh_42 Well not just to radon you are then also more exposed to Po 210 and Pb210 both of which are in tobacco along countless other nasty stuff.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14557035/
By the way Po210 also the poison the KGB/FSB used to assassinate their former agent turned "traitor" Litvinenko.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko

I am not judging you by no means I used to smoke too, before I kind of came to realize it's rather useless , especially with the crap tobacco they use in cigarettes nowadays. Also I have had problems when for example having a morning coffee and then smoking a cigarette ,since I have vegetative dystonia , the few times i tried to mix these things my heart went into arrhythmia one time almost to the point I felt like having convulsions and thought I was about to die. Caffeine and nicotine mixed can be a real killer for some no need for heroin.
After that I put a stop to any such activities.
Kinda of ironical people afraid of radiation meanwhile there are atleast 10 substances we use as humans daily that can kill easily if done the wrong way, starting from alcohol to caffeine and tobacco etc.

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Staff Emeritus
@justamom , nobody here can tell you the history of the device. Doubly so because we cannot even take a look at this. If you told us "I have a spoon, where has it been?" we couldn't answer it either.

What we can say is that the meter's reading does not indicate any danger. It shows the normal, natural level of radiation in the environment, and if anything, is on the low side of average. In this regard, it's better than a spoon - it still can't tell us its history, but it can say that right now there is no elevated risk.

The caveat is that this device is a toy. It is not intended for any serious health physics use. It isn't calibrated and isn't calibratable. It's probably not too far off, but I wouldn't expect two different devices to give the exact same readings anyway.

Finally, the most important source of radiation is radon, and this device doesn't measure it.

berkeman and fresh_42
Well, it's pretty much a toy

Actually, this can be considered a serious instrument capable of providing the information for which it is capable. What it is not capable of is determining your biological dose which the Sievert is supposed to represent. This device detects ionizing events due to radiation that can penetrate the detector's wall. From there on the significance of the reading must be interpreted based on the type of radiation and concentration of the radioactive material assumed. Typically the GM counter is used to indicate or find problems in areas where the radiation material environment is known. Just walking into some arbitrary and especially high radiation environment with a GM counter can be very dangerous. "Caveat Usor"

Staff Emeritus
I disagree. This device is intended for "Hey look! Fiestaware is slightly radioactive!" If I wanted to "indicate or find problems in areas where the radiation material environment is known" I would want something intended for that: an honest-to-goodness survey meter. These cost 20-30x what this one costs.

All GM counter do the same thing the only difference is the quality of the materials from which they are constructed and perhaps some characteristics like stability and robustness. The most expensive GM counter will tell you no more.

justamom
@justamom you should really stop being concerned, I can understand the fear it is natural for humans to fear the unknown but in all honesty this fear is baseless.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guarapari

There are beaches and other geographical spots on Earth that have a natural average dose twice or three times as high as the one you measured. Some older houses that are built from rocks that contain naturally radioactive elements also have elevated levels.
There are two ways a geiger counter or anything else can become radioactive , either it has dust or particles from a radioactive source on it physically or it has been exposed to neutron radiation which is a specific sort of radiation normally only found in working nuclear reactor cores and other nuclear reactions. We can definitely rule out the second, as for the first the chances the detector has been contaminated with radioactive dust are low.
Now if this makes you feel safer although not really needed but you can put some rubber gloves on take some electronics cleaning alcohol and clean the detector with it somewhere outside. then put the detector to dry, wash your gloves with normal water and soap and your done. If you feel like you can open the case and the reassemble it you can try to do that and clean the inside too with the same alcohol.
Although as I said , this is a rather pointless exercise and most likely the detector is simply reading off by a little and you have just a boring regular normal background level as most of us do.

It is hard to tell what would the reading be if it was contaminated because that would depend on what substance and how much.
But really you should stop worrying. The stress from that is causing more harm than the actual radiation even if there was some.
I have worked around liquid mercury and I still have some in a bottle. The same thing could be said here. There are many things that are contaminated with some levels of mercury in our world. As long as the levels are not high enough we are fine.

How do you know it wasn’t exposed to neutron radiation?

What if someone took it on a tour to Chernobyl or Fukushima or some nuclear power plant?

Also if there is radioactive dust on it, then the readings would’ve been how much hypothetically?

Keith_McClary
There are many things that are contaminated with some levels of mercury in our world.
Someone in another forum had broken a compact fluorescent bulb in a child's room and were so concerned about the mercury that they moved the kid out and taped the door shut.

Staff Emeritus
2022 Award
What would the reading be if the Geiger counter was contaminated with radioactive materials?

More than what the counter was reading. Seriously, you're worried over nothing.
There's no indication that your counter is contaminated.

Staff Emeritus
2022 Award
How do you know it wasn’t exposed to neutron radiation?

What if someone took it on a tour to Chernobyl or Fukushima or some nuclear power plant?

Also if there is radioactive dust on it, then the readings would’ve been how much hypothetically?

Listen to me. There is no reason to believe your counter is contaminated. The sell and transport of radioactive/contaminated materials is a SERIOUS crime and no one in their right mind would do so. Even over ebay or through other online retailers.

Staff Emeritus
What if someone took it on a tour to Chernobyl or Fukushima or some nuclear power plant?

We have no evidence of that, but we know it's not very radioactive. It tells us this when it's turned on.

How do we know that your spoons weren't on a tour of Chernobyl or Fukushima or some nuclear power plant?

artis
Just to be clear Chernobyl as well as Fukushima are not working power plants , they have been closed for a rather long time now. Particle contamination tends to settle over time into soil and elsewhere , winds carry it away etc. So unless you go to Chernobyl then find a "hotspot" and then dig it together with all the dirt and put it into a jar , otherwise no need to worry.

@justamom don't be afraid.
What I find more interesting is in your first post you said

I’m a mom and was worried about radiation in the new house we moved into

Now what made you think that there could be radiation (beyond safe levels since background is everywhere) in that new house? Was it some random thought or was there legitimate concern/information ?

PS. Although I am in no position to teach you what to do with your money or life, I would advise now that you have already spent the money and have the device , don't be afraid of it, instead keep it and don't throw it away, if you have kids (especially a son) and you happen to travel somewhere , like in those old mines or on other tourist locations, you can take that dosimeter with you and teach your kids something about physics. Like for example how certain rocks have higher concentrations of naturally radioactive elements.
Just a thought.

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justamom
Just to be clear Chernobyl as well as Fukushima are not working power plants , they have been closed for a rather long time now. Particle contamination tends to settle over time into soil and elsewhere , winds carry it away etc. So unless you go to Chernobyl then find a "hotspot" and then dig it together with all the dirt and put it into a jar , otherwise no need to worry.

@justamom don't be afraid.
What I find more interesting is in your first post you said

Now what made you think that there could be radiation (beyond safe levels since background is everywhere) in that new house? Was it some random thought or was there legitimate concern/information ?

PS. Although I am in no position to teach you what to do with your money or life, I would advise now that you have already spent the money and have the device , don't be afraid of it, instead keep it and don't throw it away, if you have kids (especially a son) and you happen to travel somewhere , like in those old mines or on other tourist locations, you can take that dosimeter with you and teach your kids something about physics. Like for example how certain rocks have higher concentrations of naturally radioactive elements.
Just a thought.

They poured mortar all over the original floor to raise the subfloor and to plug up all the expansion gaps in the original floor, then they covered it with a vinyl floor that has a limestone composite, and there’s also granite countertops. Mortar, limestone and granite all emit radiation so I wanted to check them. Also has pink tiles in the bathroom that I wanted to make sure weren’t radioactive

justamom
We have no evidence of that, but we know it's not very radioactive. It tells us this when it's turned on.

How do we know that your spoons weren't on a tour of Chernobyl or Fukushima or some nuclear power plant?

The spoons I use are all brand new, I always buy new spoons.

justamom
Listen to me. There is no reason to believe your counter is contaminated. The sell and transport of radioactive/contaminated materials is a SERIOUS crime and no one in their right mind would do so. Even over ebay or through other online retailers.

I only worry because Amazon sometimes will get returned products and repackage and sell them off as new. This has happened many times with other things like clothing, hats, toys I bought... sometimes they’ve been opened before but Amazon still sells them to me.

If u look up the reviews online for the GQ GMC500 plus or look on YouTube, u can see people using it on a tour in chernobyl, they put it right on the ground in the dirt, or they put it on top of uranium ore or cesium 137 or other radioactive things etc.

Mentor
2022 Award
I only worry because Amazon sometimes will get returned products and repackage and sell them off as new.
I have heard the story the other way around: they throw away brand new returns because repackage and restore them would be too expensive.

justamom
I have heard the story the other way around: they throw away brand new returns because repackage and restore them would be too expensive.

Also yesterday my 2 year old found a big rock in the backyard, she was holding it and I took it from her to see it had green on it too, does this mean it is radioactive and has uranium in it? Do I need to throw away the clothes she wore when she was playing with it? Can the uranium from the rock contaminate her hands her clothes etc?

Mentor
2022 Award
Also yesterday my 2 year old found a big rock in the backyard, she was holding it and I took it from her to see it had green on it too, does this mean it is radioactive and has uranium in it? Do I need to throw away the clothes she wore when she was playing with it? Can the uranium from the rock contaminate her hands her clothes etc?
The green on the rock is most likely of biological origin, algae or moss. If you are lucky, then it is olivine. Neither of them is radioactive. The chances that there is uranium in or on the rock are basically zero.

justamom
The green on the rock is most likely of biological origin, algae or moss. If you are lucky, then it is olivine. Neither of them is radioactive. The chances that there is uranium in or on the rock are basically zero.

it didn’t look like algae or moss,I hope it was just olivine...

btw but how do u know so much about radiation? What kind of background or profession do u have?

Mentor
2022 Award
What kind of background or profession do u have?
None which is related to it. But nuclear energy and its dangers are other than in France or the US a topic here since the 80's - even before Chernobyl. The next plant is just a few miles away, and in case of a nuclear war, I would be hit as one of the first (10 miles away from a #1 target).

It is not necessary to have specific knowledge to assess your situation. School physics, and endless discussions about the danger of nuclear energy are sufficient. It is probably far more dangerous (in terms of radiation) to fly from New York to Hawaii than it is to be in your home.

If you had said that there is a nuclear power plant or other nuclear facility in your neighborhood, then I would have spoken otherwise. Those who support the use of nuclear energy say it's harmless, but truth is that e.g. leukemia casualties around the British Sellafield have been significantly higher than elsewhere (in the 80's, not sure about the current situation). Those nuclear industry complexes might be a danger, and I am personally not really happy, that so many of them are old and placed along the American pacific coast, a seismic hot spot, but this is not the subject here. As mentioned by others, smoke from tobacco is far more radioactive than what usually can be found in a household. If it was so easy to find radioactive material anywhere, then some bad guys would already had used it.

justamom
None which is related to it. But nuclear energy and its dangers are other than in France or the US a topic here since the 80's - even before Chernobyl. The next plant is just a few miles away, and in case of a nuclear war, I would be hit as one of the first (10 miles away from a #1 target).

It is not necessary to have specific knowledge to assess your situation. School physics, and endless discussions about the danger of nuclear energy are sufficient. It is probably far more dangerous (in terms of radiation) to fly from New York to Hawaii than it is to be in your home.

If you had said that there is a nuclear power plant or other nuclear facility in your neighborhood, then I would have spoken otherwise. Those who support the use of nuclear energy say it's harmless, but truth is that e.g. leukemia casualties around the British Sellafield have been significantly higher than elsewhere (in the 80's, not sure about the current situation). Those nuclear industry complexes might be a danger, and I am personally not really happy, that so many of them are old and placed along the American pacific coast, a seismic hot spot, but this is not the subject here. As mentioned by others, smoke from tobacco is far more radioactive than what usually can be found in a household. If it was so easy to find radioactive material anywhere, then some bad guys would already had used it.
Actually we live 30 miles from a nuclear power plant as well as a few miles from former marines base

Mentor
but truth is that e.g. leukemia casualties around the British Sellafield have been significantly higher than elsewhere
Leukemia cases around planned but never constructed nuclear power plants are higher as well.
Cherry-picking and mixing correlation with causality isn't evidence of anything.
If you account for the demographics the effect disappears.
https://www.nature.com/news/2011/110506/full/news.2011.275.html

@justamom: There are just a few hundred people who have access to the dangerous parts of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and they don't use $100 Geiger counters from Amazon. And if they would then your Geiger counter would detect it. There is really nothing to worry about. I work with particle accelerators and have worked with irradiated materials. PeterDonis justamom Leukemia cases around planned but never constructed nuclear power plants are higher as well. Cherry-picking and mixing correlation with causality isn't evidence of anything. If you account for the demographics the effect disappears. https://www.nature.com/news/2011/110506/full/news.2011.275.html @justamom: There are just a few hundred people who have access to the dangerous parts of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and they don't use$100 Geiger counters from Amazon. And if they would then your Geiger counter would detect it.
There is really nothing to worry about.

I work with particle accelerators and have worked with irradiated materials.
Thank you, but what if someone put it directly on top of cesium 137? I saw some guy on YouTube who bought the same Geiger counter as me and he placed it directly on top of a piece of cesium 137

weirdoguy
Staff Emeritus
Oh, for heavens sake. You got your answer, several times. It's clear you don't want to believe it (I don't understand why), so don't. Throw the doggone thing out and be done with it then.

weirdoguy, Wrichik Basu and fresh_42
justamom
Oh, for heavens sake. You got your answer, several times. It's clear you don't want to believe it (I don't understand why), so don't. Throw the doggone thing out and be done with it then.
I have really bad contamination OCD, it’s so hard for me to be logical because my brain keeps telling me I harmed my kids and baby somehow by contaminating them...

Gold Member
I have really bad contamination OCD, it’s so hard for me to be logical because my brain keeps telling me I harmed my kids and baby somehow by contaminating them...
Yup. I just drew attention to that (sorry @Vanadium 50 I was too quick on-the-draw), for readers just tuning in.

You know your condition, and I'll bet you know that knowing it doesn't make it go way, yes?

I think it's important to point out that there's very little we can do to mollify your concerns beyond what has already been said. If you are still concerned at this point, you will have to decide for yourself what more direct and more conclusive measures you need to take.

justamom
Yup. I just drew attention to that (sorry @Vanadium 50 I was too quick on-the-draw), for readers just tuning in.

You know your condition, and I'll bet you know that knowing it doesn't make it go way, yes?

I think it's important to point out that there's very little we can do to mollify your concerns beyond what has already been said. If you are still concerned at this point, you will have to decide for yourself what more direct and more conclusive measures you need to take.

i know. The only reason I even bought a Geiger counter is because I had worried about radiation in the new house we were moving into, worried about the mortar inside the house, the limestone floors, the granite, the previous owners or people who entered the house after who could have contaminated it. Then after I got the Geiger counters, I kept worrying their used because they had scratches on them or stains on the manual... it is all OCD, because nothing can bring me peace of mind... I’m so sorry for bothering all of u. I really appreciate all of ur answers and help.

artis
@justamom I have vegetative dystonia it doesn't make me afraid of anything but it causes other setbacks. The only thing I can suggest to you is to just care less , yes sometimes it is better to care less for the things around us than to care more because if caring more about any minor thing causes you to be stressed then trust me it will only lead to poorer health and less happiness long term.
I don't want to be judgemental but the way I see it , too many parents these days torture their kids with all kinds of made up dangers and they scare them. Kids even though they don't understand the language they feel the parents emotional state even better than we adults feel one another. In the long term I believe and actual studies have also concluded that our children are affected by the emotional background that their parents raised them up in. So I would suggest to you to not worry and actually work with your OCD because that will do you more harm long term than anything radiation related ever. This is a fact.

Remember what Roosevelt once said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". I knew a woman who had to learn this literally, her nerve problems prevented her from doing many simple things as she was afraid of them, like taking a train or a bus if it crossed a bridge anywhere etc. Irrational fear severely affects a person even to the point of premature illness and death.

Speaking about cancer and radiation. A human body has trillions of cells , cells constantly die off and new ones are created, statistically speaking this is a nightmare , hard to make any long term predictions out of a process that involves so many unknown variables. What I want to say with this?
The truth is that linking cancer to a specific cause , unless the cause is extremely obvious , like working in a asbestos mine, is very hard if not impossible. Cancer can be caused by lots of factors and not all people are equally susceptible to it. By the way, not enough sleep, stress and bad diet can also lead to it. By far I think this is a much bigger cause than anything radiation related. Tobacco is surely another proven danger.
Your tiny little dosimeter and your granite tops and mortar play no real role in all of this, you can be sure of that.
And in case you are afraid of green rocks, well you now have a dosimeter I suggest you use it , but not out of fear but for learning purposes and curiosity. Take a reading of the rock, if nothing changes you know it's not Uranium...

One other thing you should know. Naturally radioactive ore or elements are not really dangerous, unless you eat them or try to use them as table salts, elements only really become dangerous once they have been irradiated/underwent a nuclear reaction. Stuff like spent fuel, reactor core parts etc.
Trust me you will not come across them in your entire life even if you wanted to.

Gold Member
Throw the doggone thing out and be done with it then.
NO! I'll take it. I like radiation.

Staff Emeritus