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“ I am really worried as I touched the outside of the ionisation chamber in my smoke detector and then never washed my hands and I read if americium enters the body it is really dangerous . Could this happen in a 0.9 microcurie , 27 years old smoke detector which I have at home ? I am concerned as it said " the alpha recoil reaction can destroy the thin coating over the source and allow source material to recoil out of the source ".
Smoke detectors sold in the UK will conform to appropriate national and international safety and performance standards . The risks they pose are extremely small in relation to the benefit they give in terms of detecting fires . Many include a tiny radioactive source ( usually americium-241 ). These sources are permanently attached to a substrate and sealed within a foil sandwich .
It is extremely unlikely you would be able to detach any of the source material , and the external radiation hazard through the enclosed foil is extremely low . There are no health threats from ionisation smoke detectors provided the detector is not damaged and , in particular , that the foil holding the americium source is not broken . In the extremely unlikely event that you ingested a small quantity of the source , it is still very unlikely to have a health effect .
Therefore , while many ( including SRP ) would advise against touching or tampering with the device , the risk is more likely to be damage to the function of the device rather than any health consequence . Please ensure you test it regularly .
We note that the smoke detector is nearly 30 years old . In general , the recommended lifespan for these devices is 10 years , so it may be prudent to replace it . Please consult your local waste collection authority about safe and environmentally friendly disposal .
Latest from Legs and Regs
International Standards – What ' s happening ?
Now we have left the EU , what happens in IAEA will have more influence on radiological protection standards in the UK , specifically what is said in their Requirements documents and the associated Safety Guides . So how does the UK influence these ? The good news is that we do – through our attendance at the five Safety Standards meetings – most importantly in relation to SRP :
• RASSC on radiation safety
• WASSC on waste and environment safety
• TRANSSC on transport safety
• EPReSC on emergency arrangements
• NUSSC on nuclear safety
Radiation Protection Today Summer 2022
UK representatives to these Committees are formally nominated via BEIS ( Department for Business , Energy & Industrial Strategy ) and the Foreign , Commonwealth & Development Office ( FCDO ); most are ONR senior specialists . They are supported by Advisory Groups with experts from the Environment Agencies , Health and Safety Executive ( HSE ), Care Quality Commission ( CQC ) and UK Health Security Agency ( UKHSA ). All work is coordinated through the Government ' s Radiological Safety Group , chaired by senior officials in BEIS .
The IAEA works on the basis of consensus , so even a single member state can delay or modify a standard before issue . This means the UK can and does exert significant influence if necessary .