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I The manufacture of ionization smoke detectors

  1. Dec 9, 2016 #1
    Was reading the ATSDR Public Health Statement for Americium. It mentioned that higher-than-normal levels of americium could be in the soil near plants that manufacture these devices. It also said that if you live near such a facility you should "discourage your children from putting their hands in their mouths and engaging in other hand-to-mouth activities." Good luck with that.

    That said, as these things are built, is there any possibility that trace amounts of americium could get on the outer plastic casing, in the battery slot, or on the packaging material?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Wow. I have serious problems with the way that warning is worded, especially the sentence that I marked red.
    The problem is the red sentence is unconditional. What conditions might be relevant?
    • Your doctor reports significant exposure
    • There is an advisory by local health authorities.
    • Whether the soil on your property has been tested, or if tested even that the results are negative findings for significant traces of americium.
    Any parent realizes that you can't prevent children from putting hands in their mouths. Therefore that sentence just produces anxiety in the minds of parents. It cites only what "is possible" and excludes consideration of any known or unknown facts. I think that is the worst sort of fear mongering..

    My opinion is that the OP should take the effort to find out the facts about his property before becoming unduly alarmed by that sentence. Use your common sense. It is also possible that any place on Earth is contaminated with americium even if it is not located near any known source. When it is possible and practical to ascertain the facts, it is silly to be scared about what "is possible."

    p.s. Apparently someone persuaded this agency to include the sentence, "Nuclear reactors are not expected to discharge measurable amounts of americium." but no such sentence for smoke detector factories or any other sources. That sounds like lobbyist influence to me.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2016
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