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No control over radiation-contaminated products

radiation-warningThe potential danger comes, however, from the cumulative effect of proximity to radiation, particularly over time and in relation to other contaminants. The precise degree of that danger has not yet been definitively determined for low-level radiation, such as that contained in commonplace goods and materials…..
Because the amount of tainted metals in circulation is unknown, the cumulative overall health effect — now and over time — is impossible to calculate. Whatever it is, there is little debate that unnecessary exposure to radiation is best avoided.
“There is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,”

highly-recommendedRecycled radioactive metal contaminates consumer products: “It’s your worst nightmare, Engineering Evil, October 20, 2012
2009 report posted for filing  Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com I don’t believe a single thing has been done about this crisis since this report. Not even a simple mention in the nightly news.

Thousands of everyday products and materials containing radioactive metals are surfacing across the United States and around the world.
Common kitchen cheese graters, reclining chairs, women’s handbags and tableware manufactured with contaminated metals have been identified, some after having been in circulation for as long as a decade. So have fencing wire and fence posts, shovel blades, elevator buttons, airline parts and steel used in construction.

A Scripps Howard News Service investigation has found that — because of haphazard screening, an absence of oversight and substantial disincentives for businesses to report contamination — no one knows how many tainted goods are in circulation in the United States.
But thousands of consumer goods and millions of pounds of unfinished metal and its byproducts have been found to contain low levels of radiation, and experts think the true amount could be much higher, perhaps by a factor of 10.
Government records of cases of contamination, obtained through state and federal Freedom of Information Act requests, illustrate the problem. In 2006 in Texas, for example, a recycling facility inadvertently created 500,000 pounds of radioactive steel byproducts after melting metal contaminated with Cesium-137, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records. In Florida in 2001, another recycler unintentionally did the same, and wound up with 1.4 million pounds of radioactive material. And in 1998, 430,000 pounds of steel laced with Cobalt-60 made it to the U.S. heartland from Brazil.
But an accounting of the magnitude of the problem is unknown because U.S. and state governments do not require scrap yards, recyclers and other businesses — a primary line of defense against rogue radiation — to screen metal goods and materials for radiation or report it when found. And no federal agency is responsible for oversight.
“Nobody’s going to know — nobody — how much has been melted into consumer goods,” said Ray Turner, an international expert on radiation with Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based River Metals Recycling. He has helped decontaminate seven metal-recycling facilities that unwittingly melted scrap containing radioactive isotopes.
“It’s your worst nightmare,” Turner said.
It is also one that has only barely begun to register as a potential threat to health and safety.
What is known now is that — despite the shared belief of officials in six state and federal agencies that tainted metal is potentially dangerous, should be prevented from coming in unnecessary contact with people and the environment, and should be barred from entering the United States — there is no one in charge of making sure that happens.
In fact, the Scripps investigation found:
– Reports are mounting that manufacturers and dealers from China, India, former Soviet bloc nations and some African countries are exporting contaminated material and goods, taking advantage of the fact that the United States has no regulations specifying what level of radioactive contamination is too much in raw materials and finished goods.Compounding the problem is the inability of U.S. agents to fully screen every one of the 24 million cargo containers arriving in the United States each year.
– U.S. metal recyclers and scrap yards are not required by any state or federal law to check for radiation in the castoff material they collect or report it when they find some.
– No federal agency is responsible for determining how much tainted material exists in how many consumer and other goods. No one is in charge of reporting, tracking or analyzing cases once they occur. In fact, the recent discovery of a radioactive cheese grater triggered a bureaucratic game of hot potato, with no agency taking responsibility.
– It can be far cheaper and easier for a facility stuck with “hot” items to sell them to an unwitting manufacturer or dump them surreptitiously than to pay for proper disposal and cleaning, which can cost a plant as much as $50 million.
– For facilities in 36 states that want to do the right thing, there is nowhere they can legally dump the contaminated stuff since the shutdown last year of a site in South Carolina, the only U.S. facility available to them for the disposal.
– A U.S. government program to collect the worst of the castoff radioactive items has a two-year waiting list and a 9,000-item backlog — and is fielding requests to collect an additional 2,000 newly detected items a year.
Experts say you needn’t empty your home of metal implements for fear of radiation. The peril from most individual items is generally not considered great, although some could be hazardous on their own.
In fact, everyone is exposed every day to the “background” radiation found in nature. For instance, some ceramic pots emanate low levels of radiation that occurs in clay. Granite countertops often contain measurable, but individually insignificant, amounts of naturally occurring uranium.
Other exposures come from small and contained amounts of radiation used in smoke detectors and medical devices.
The potential danger comes, however, from the cumulative effect of proximity to radiation, particularly over time and in relation to other contaminants. The precise degree of that danger has not yet been definitively determined for low-level radiation, such as that contained in commonplace goods and materials…..
Because the amount of tainted metals in circulation is unknown, the cumulative overall health effect — now and over time — is impossible to calculate. Whatever it is, there is little debate that unnecessary exposure to radiation is best avoided.
“There is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said Richard Monson, chairman of the Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, at the release of the National Academy report…..
The Scripps investigation used the federal Freedom of Information Act to gain access to a previously un-mined NRC database, the only official assemblage of reports of radiologically contaminated items that have turned up in scrap yards, trash dumps and manufactured goods since 1990.
But because such reporting is neither required nor consistent, neither state nor federal environmental officials — nor many in the scrap-metal industry — consider the NRC accounts an accurate reflection of the problem’s true dimensions. (The only mandatory rule is that anyone knowingly transporting radioactive material must notify the U.S. Department of Transportation.)
“Typically, these go unreported,” said Carolyn Mac Kenzie (cq), a U.S. Department of Energy physicist who is a world expert in radioactive metals. “Whatever number you come up with would not reflect reality.”
One of the most conservative estimates comes from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which put the number of radioactively contaminated metal objects unaccounted for in the United States in 2005 at 500,000. Others suggest the amount is far higher. The most recent NRC estimate — made a decade ago — is 20 million pounds of contaminated waste.
What is known is that the NRC’s national Nuclear Material Events Database has documented 18,740 cases involving radioactive material in consumer products, metal intended for their manufacture and other inadvertent exposures to the public, the vast majority since 1990. State environmental reports — obtained under state freedom of information requests — also reveal dozens of others……http://engineeringevil.com/2012/10/20/recycled-radioactive-metal-contaminates-consumer-products-common-kitchen-cheese-graters-reclining-chairs-womens-handbags-etc/

December 26, 2012 - Posted by | environment, USA

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