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»Radioactive Materials in Antiques

This page describes radioactive material found in some antiques.


Among the furniture, clothing, jewelry, books, dolls, dishes, and many other objects sold at flea markets and antique shops, you will likely find items that contain radioactive compounds. These items were generally made and originally sold before the health effects of radiation were well- understood and long before radiation protection regulations were put in place.

Many antiques actively exploit the radioactive properties of radionuclides:

Clocks, watches, and instrument dials that glow in the dark, may contain radium or tritium

Ceramics (specifically old Fiestaware®) get their color from the addition of various radionuclides to their glaze

Vaseline or canary glass contains small amounts of uranium, which provide it's yellow-green coloring and also makes it glow under black lights.

These items emit small amounts of radiation, but enough to register on a hand-held Geiger Counter.