[ RadSafe ] CRT monitor radiation "scare" at Newark airport

Jim Hardeman Jim.Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us
Mon Dec 20 17:10:27 CST 2010

Colleagues --
Looking back, I found an article in the HP Journal from 2004 regarding the presence of uranium, thorium and potassium-40 in CRTs.
The article documents a number of radiation measurements on the glass of (then) modern CRTs such as NEC MultiSync 4- and 5- series, Dell Trinitron, etc. using a handheld GM counter with a pancake probe, with results in the 100-200 cpm net range per probe area. The authors indicate that most of the radioactivity was from K-40. In the words of the authors, "[t]hese levels are sufficiently elevated that new, unused and uncontaminated monitors would not qualify for unconditional release from a Contamination Area under standard survey procedures for release of radioactive material."
Given the propensity of security personnel to carry what I would refer to as "gnat's ass" counters that alarm not at a specific radiation level but rather at a specified number of standard deviations above background (most that I see are set to alarm at 6-sigma) I don't find it at all odd that airport security folks might have gotten a little worked up over this. Depending on the instrument they used, they might have also gotten a "high-energy" alarm (due to the 1460 keV gamma from K-40) and they've been trained that high-energy alarms could be indicators of industrial sources that could be used in constructing an RDD. 
Perhaps my colleagues with the State of New Jersey could enlighten us all as to their interactions with the security folks at the Newark airport.
My $0.02 only ...
Jim Hardeman
Georgia Environmental Protection Division

>>> "Strickert, Rick" <rstrickert at signaturescience.com> 12/20/2010 17:39 >>>
In releasing a statement that "computer monitors normally emit small amounts of radiation," could it be that some FBI or airport agent quickly looked up Wikipedia's section on "Cathode Ray Tube - Ionizing radiation" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathode_ray_tube#Ionizing_radiation) and paraphrased the information to waiting journalists, who may have also checked Wikipedia to confirm what they were told?

In checking the news stories (676 so far) which I read (significantly less than 676) about the FBI statement that the radiation was "normal for this device," none of the new reports raised the question of what that measured radiation level was and in what units.

It's like sheeple nodding in agreement when a politician claims his plan will raise some  education/health/job satisfaction level of everyone to above the average.

Rick Strickert
Austin, TX

You are currently subscribed to the RadSafe mailing list

Before posting a message to RadSafe be sure to have read and understood the RadSafe rules. These can be found at: http://health.phys.iit.edu/radsaferules.html 

For information on how to subscribe or unsubscribe and other settings visit: http://health.phys.iit.edu ( http://health.phys.iit.edu/ )

More information about the RadSafe mailing list