Radioactive Fire Detection
Think of all the radioactive americium freed from thousands of smoke detectors by fire (and tens of thousands of detectors in the huge Thomas Fire in California).
Americium-241 has a half-life of 432.2 years.
It slowly decays into radioactive neptunium-237, with a half-life of 2.14 million years.
The plastic of a smoke detector protects the user from its radioactive content. “Because of the low penetration of alpha radiation, americium-241 only poses a health risk when ingested or inhaled,” according to Wikipedia. Now we have americium-241 in our drinking water and in our gardens (after it precipitates out of our smoky air. :/
Why is americium-241 in our smoke detectors? Money. It sells for about $1,500 American dollars a gram.
“The amount of Am-241 declines slowly as it decays into neptunium-237 a different transuranic element with a much longer half-life (about 2.14 million years),” according to Wikipedia.
Photoelectric smoke detectors are non-Ionizing, non-radioactive, and nuclear-free — and work better than radioactive detectors.
According to Natural Energy Works (and many other sources) …
“Most people assume their homes are free from radioactive materials; however, check the fine print on the back of your smoke detector. If it says: ‘Americium-241 or AM-241,’ it’s radioactive, and according to a growing scientific opinion constitutes a potential bio-hazard.
“This radioactive material, which is contained between thin layers of gold and silver foil, can be released into the environment if the detector is tampered with, damaged due to fire, crushed in disposal or incinerated. While the amount of Americium-241 contained in each detector is considered ‘small’ — in the range of 1 to 5 microcuries — it is more than enough to cause cancer if inhaled or digested.”
Again, according to Natural Energy Works …
“The alternative to this potential health hazard is a non-radioactive, photoelectric smoke detector which uses a tiny beam of light to detect smoke particles. Compared with radioactive detectors that rely on ionized air, photoelectric detectors use no atomic-radioactive materials whatsoever. They are additionally less sensitive to humidity and cooking smoke — which means fewer annoying false alarms, increased sensitivity to larger smoke particles, and faster detection of smoldering fires, the most common and deadly of all household fires. Unfortunately, most of the smoke detectors sold in hardware stores to the public are of the cheaper radioactive variety.”
Peter Kerr (“Smoke Detector Dangers: A False Alarm?,” The New York Times, Feb. 11, 1982) wrote …
“The Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licenses products that contain radioactive materials, several fire safety organizations and Consumer Reports, the nonprofit consumer information magazine, say that the public need not worry about the radiation from ionization detectors.
“But tenant groups and politicians have repeated arguments first raised by a small number of scientists and critics of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: that the distribution and disposal of millions of ionization detectors in the United States is unwise and could create unnecessary radiation risks.”
According to the USDA Forest Service …
“Because of the long half-life of americium-241, the amount of radioactive material in an ionization chamber smoke detector at the end of its useful life will be about the same as when it was purchased. State and local requirements for disposal of ionization smoke alarms vary. Some States conduct an annual roundup of ionization smoke detectors similar to that for hazardous household chemicals. Others allow ionization smoke detectors to be thrown out with ordinary trash but recommend that used smoke alarms be returned to the supplier. Some States require that used smoke detectors be returned to the supplier.”