[ RadSafe ] Am-241 and INCINERATORS

Geo>K0FF GEOelectronics at netscape.com
Wed Dec 5 13:59:14 CST 2007

NOTE: This is a technical discussion, having nothing to do with what is 
"good" or "bad' for humans or the environment or the discussion of the 
merits of using or not using smoke detectors.

Sandy, I wonder if you can quote such a request. My information (this is in 
the USA) is that the manufacturers Will take them back, but do not *request* 
that you send them back. They tell the user ( call customer service at BRK 
or Universal)) to throw them in the trash.

I asked the service center person at BRK what would they do with them if I 
were to send them in, he said they would throw them in the trash.

If there is a particular state-level rule against this, I am not aware of 
it. There is certainly no Federal rule against it.The US Environmental 
Protection Agency seems to be as concerned about battery and plastic 
disposal as it is about the Am-241:

In the US, under the NRC, there is no exempt quantity of Am-241, so it is 
all under general or specific license only. Removing a pellet, even for
disposal, is illegal in the US unless by a licensed entity. The device must 
remain intact to the dump and beyond.

By the way, don't bother looking for "Smoke Detectors" in the NRC regs, look 
for "gas and aerosol detectors " instead.
Following is a list of major manufacturers of smoke detectors in the U.S.:

First Alert/BRK brands

American Sensors

Code One/Firex/Maple Chase
22820 Thatcher Road Downers
Grove, IL 60515

Safety's Sake/Funtech
388 N. Elliot Creek Road
Amherst, NJ 14228

3334 Main Street
Skokie, IL 60076

Life Saver/Frynetics, Inc.
1055 Stevenson Court Suite 102
W. Roselle, IL 60172

Manufacturers seem to be required to accept used detectors for disposal, 
none of the ones I have personally contacted charge a fee.

Neither do any *require* them to be turned in, nor do they mention turning 
them in in their literature. If there is any mention of disposal, the

instruction is to throw it in the trash ( naturally, I have only inspected a 
few dozen instruction sheets, not by any means all of the different ones).

AmO2 Foil manufacturing:

a.. "1 The process begins with the compound AmO2, an oxide of Am-241. This 
substance is thoroughly mixed with gold, shaped into a briquette, and fused 
by pressure and heat at over 1470°F (800°C). A backing of silver and a front 
covering of gold or gold alloy are applied to the briquette and sealed by 
hot forging. The briquette is then processed through several stages of cold 
rolling to achieve the desired thickness and levels of radiation emission. 
The final thickness is about 0.008 inches (0.2 mm), with the gold cover 
representing about one percent of the thickness. The resulting foil strip, 
which is about 0.8 inches (20 mm) wide, is cut into sections 39 inches (1 
meter) long. "

At this time, none of the device makers can tell me the melting point of 
AmO2, nor can they say what would be the outcome of a run through an 
I do have some calls in to chemists and metallurgists, but nothing back so 
far. Will report any details to the group.

Summary, there are estimated to be 100 million Smoke Detectors in the USA, 
with a stated life cycle of 10 years, there are 10 million per year being 
disposed of.
That results is 10 Curies per year going somewhere. Wherever it winds up, 
over time, there will be measurable quantities of it.

A metrologist* (person who measures things) such as myself would be quite 

* see:

George Dowell
New London Nucleonics Lab

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Sandy Perle" <sandyfl at cox.net>
To: <radsafe at radlab.nl>
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 10:12 AM
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] Am-241 and INCINERATORS

Typically smoke detectors are not disposed of in the trash, but are
requested to be sent back to the manufacturer for safe disposal, recognizing
that there is little risk or hazard from the small amount of Am-241
contained within the detector.

Sander C. Perle

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