Radiation hunting
High voltage
Site news
Urban Exploration

AR Logo

Depending on where you live, there will probably be many more easily accessible things that have been made radioactive by humans than naturally occurring radioactive things (such as rocks in the ground) for you to experiment with.

There are basically two categories of artificial ionizing radiation sources :

Ionizing radiation producing devices such as medical X-Ray machines, television sets and particle accelerators.

Naturally occurring elements that have been collected, purified and put into things such as smoke detectors, glow-in-the-dark watches/clocks, cancer therapy machines, nuclear reactors and some pottery glazes.

The second category also includes radioactive material that has been dumped or spilt from places or devices that use such materials. These include : Atomic powered satellites, nuclear submarines, nuclear power stations, research labs, atomic weapons labs and nuclear weapons tests. However, the likelihood of finding radiation from these sources, contrary to popular belief, is small.

Glow-in-the-dark watches/clocks : Watch/clock dials painted in the first half of the 20th century can contain Radium (alpha particle emitter). The radium is mixed with zinc sulfide to produce the characteristic green glow of the dial points/clock hands. Watches manufactured since the mid 60s use radioactive tritium or promethium instead of radium (both are weak beta and gamma emitters).

Radioactive Pottery : Some ceramic items were manufactured with uranium oxides to produce yellow, orange and green tints. In particular, Fiesta red china are strong emitters of gamma and beta. Some fiesta red china is shown below.

Fiesta pottery

The table below shows some items that we have/have not tested which are radioactive and for the most part, readily available. There will be more tested items to soon when we find them. If the item is highlighted as a link then there are pictures to see.

Item Item we tested Radioactive Contents How to access the contents Tested by us Results / Activity


Smoke alarm Industrial ionization type smoke detector. Americium 241. Usually 1 microcurie worth of material. Remove cover from the unit, then remove metal shield. Americium is usually a dot in the center of the area covered by the shield. Yes 310 counts/sec measured with Ivan. Although Americium is an alpha emitter, it is advisable not to try to remove the substance from it's place in the detector as accidental ingestion can be dangerous.
Radioactive pottery A green glass fruit bowl belonging to the mother of one of our scientists. Unknown N/A Yes 10-12 cps measured with Ivan This bowl and other radioactive pottery is perfectly safe in normal usage. The only problem arises if acids such as those in fruit are allowed to be in contact with the item and then consumed. The acids may absorb some of the radioactive element.
Fluorescent tube starters A standard flouro tube starter unit. Krypton-85 Hold tube up to counter. Duh! Yes Hmm, none. None
Radium dial painted watch/clock No test item available Radium-226 Close test with probe. No   Radium paint dangerous if inhaled or ingested.
Thorium oxide coated gas lamp mantle. No test item available. Thorium Close test with probe. No   Thorium is dangerous if inhaled or ingested. After the mantle has been used is will be very fragile. Will crumble to dust easily.

Many other things contain small amounts of radioactive elements but are too weak to measure with a Geiger counter. These include :

Cigarettes (polonium-210), Coffee, some light bulbs/tubes and many of the foods and drinks we consume (in tiny ammounts).