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Consumer products

Some consumer products contain small amounts of radioactive material necessary to ensure the product’s correct operation. This material constitutes a low risk level. Such consumer products can be sold or made available to the public without special surveillance or regulatory control after their sale.

Typical consumer products available to the general public that contain small amounts of radioactive material include for example ionization chamber smoke detectors for use in private homes. These contain small amounts of americium-241. Other examples are high-intensity lamps that are used as xenon car lighting and high wattage lighting used outdoors, such as in sports stadiums, which may contain small amounts of thorium-232, krypton-85 or tritium. Thorium is also added to electrodes used in the welding industry for improving performance and increasing electrode life.

The colour of gemstones may be intensified or altered by radiation. While this process can happen naturally over a long period of time, high doses of radiation applied intentionally can be used to enhance the colour of gemstones, thereby increasing their commercial value. Irradiated (artificial) gemstones may contain trace amounts of radioactivity as a result of this manufacturing process.

The manufacture of such consumer products needs to be authorized by a country’s regulatory body. Once these items are purchased by the public, it is not realistic to control either how they are used or how they are disposed of. Therefore, when deciding whether or not to allow these items to be manufactured, the regulatory body considers all situations in which the public might be exposed to radiation and ensures that, in all circumstances, the risks to the public are extremely low and the benefits of their use outweigh those risks.   

The IAEA has developed a safety guide on Radiation Safety for Consumer Products. This safety guide assists regulatory authorities and manufacturers to apply best practices in line with international safety standards.

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