Spot killer dating radium This
But radium has a half‐life of 1,622 years, and chunks of the material, left in the rubble when the plant was razed, have continued to emit radiation up through the floors of the new buildings, which house an electronics’ company, an auto‐body shop, a restaurant and a gas station.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the. Federal
Environmental Protection Agency made a complete survey of the T & E Electronics Company, Gary's Auto Body Shop, the Orange Bowl Luncheonette and the C & T Exxon Station last month after preliminary surveys for gamma radiation in March found them to be slightly above normal for the area.
The site's potential as a radiation hazard emerged during a check in a Las Vegas, Nev. library of old records of companies in the radium‐extraction business, investigators said.
The results of the complete survey are not in yet, but the preliminary sur‐. vey found levels 10 to 20 times higher than that of normal background radiation in gamma rays inside the electronics shop, and higher ones next to the railroad tracks behind it, which suggested that ore had been spilled as it was carried into the processing building.
The agencies, in an attempt to pinpoint the whereabouts of the radiation sources, set up Reuter‐Stokes gammaray monitors and radon‐gas monitors in a grid pattern around the buildings and dug soil samples to see if any solid sources of radioactivity‐ old ore or extracted metal under the floor or ore dust in the walls — were near workers, and whether the radioactive gas was drifting around the buildings.
An investigator said that a couple of pieces of radioactive material, “obviously molded into some shape, but I don't know what,” were found in a box in a little‐used storeroom.
Radioactive material gives off gamma rays that can travel long distances, but do little damage; larger alpha particles, which can tear up cell nuclei, but can travel only a few inches, and radon gas, which drifts like any other gas, but decays, in turn, like radium, giving off its own gamma rays and alpha particles. The longevity of a radioactive substance is measured in its half‐life — the amount of time it takes for half the atoms to disintegrate. The second survey by the environmental agencies tested for overall doses of gamma rays and for the site of any alpha emitters that might get into the lungs of workers, such as radon gas or radioactive dust particles.
Maximum Allowable Exposure
“If the numbers are what I expect after our preliminary survey, they'll need some remedial action at the site,” said Paul Giardina, head of the radiation branch of the E.P.A.
Under Federal regulations, 500 millirems a year is the maximum allowable dose that a site may expose the general public to, but that figure is considered to be well belovi safe levels. Workers in uranium mines, nuclear‐poWer plants and other industry. jobs may be exposed to 5,000 millirems a year before they must be moved to another job.
In the preliminary survey, the Radium Corporation site had isolated spots of 400 to 600 microrems an hour behind the plant and spots up to about 200 inside, according to state officials.
For a worker to stay below 500 millirems a year, he would have to make sure his expoture on the job would stay bplow roughly 200 microrems an hour, Mr•Giardina said. He added that because no one stood directly over the hot spots, keeping exposures low should not be difficult.
“Depending on what we find, T & E might be able to get away with just putting hi better air‐conditioning to blow out the radon gas,” Mr. Giardina said.. Stronger remedies might include washing radioactive dust out of the walls, or tearing up the floor where old radium ore had contaminated the foundations.
Union Leader's View
“One of the really unfair things is that these, companies had nothing to do with it, it Mr. Giardina said.
Leonard Box, president of T & E, which makes semiconductors and other electronics parts, refused to speak with a reporter or let him into the plant, a two‐story cinder‐block building covered in flaking white paint.
Arnold H. Ross, president of Teamsters Local 97, which represents the employees of ‘T & E, said: “There's no question that we're concerned for them, but the state has told us that there's no immediate problem. The employees haven't complained. We complained about it. We found out from Mi. Box when he called to tell us about it. He was afraid he might have to go out of business — just extending us a courtesy.
“We've got a good relationship with him. He spends as much time inside that building as his employees do. It's a marginal operation, not General Motors, you know.”
Behind the plant, where the rusting tracks of the old Erie Lackawanna run along Wigwam Creek to the Alden Coal Company, an employee sat before a box that looked like a pizza oven and is called a plating stove.
“Nobody knows too much about it,” he said. “They said it was O.K. Lenny Box talked to some of the employees, I think. I don't know. Is it dangerous?”
The New York Times/Larry C. Morris
Children playing on railroad tracks at the site of the old United States Radium Corporation plant in Orange, N.J. Radium residues left there date from the 1920's.Continue reading the main story