Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The hottest artifacts in our collection

As promised last week, I return with something "hot."  Recently I asked Al Castellane, Research Radiation Safety Officer, to drop by the medical museum storage area to check out some potentially radioactive materials.  We visited the storage area and he ran a Geiger counter and a dose meter over the materials we have which include the following:
The Revigator - great for parties!

Radium - For drinking!
Sure enough, these items are hot as in, they emit low levels of radiation.  The actual readout for each material is as follows:
-The Revigator was the hottest with an emission 0.5 millirems per hour
-The Radium water emits 0.2 millirem per hour
The maximum dose allowed (not sustained) is 100 millirems per year and suffer no ill effects. Essentially, Archives Staff would need to work in close proximity (a few feet) of the object all day, every day for a year to potentially absorb enough radiation to be harmful.  Additionally, Al let me know that your average dental bitewing x-ray is ~0.4 millirems.  For additional perspective, Al said "the annual radiation exposure from natural sources (i.e. radon, cosmic, terrestrial and internal) is about ~310 millirems/year.

I took some detail shots of the objects to give you a better idea of the full "aboutness" of these materials.
What evil lurks within the hearts of jars?
The first image provides instructions for the use of the Revigator.  My personal favorite is that one should "drink freely when thirsty."  Solid advice.  The second image is of the inside of the jar.  Al mentioned that it could be interesting and sure enough we found it caked in radium salt (not for seasoning).
View of separated material in the water (2 micrograms of radium)
Cool symbol on the stopper.
The Medical Museum Collection contains a wide variety of materials, however these are the only radioactive ones.  According to Al, he has not seen a Revigator in such pristine condition before, which makes this one of our more rare medical-related groups of objects.  They are available for viewing and research, just make an appointment with us and bring the lead apron!*

Until next time,

*No lead apron required.

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