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Subject: Radon levels in paper

Radon levels in paper

From: Judith Fortson <fortson>
Date: Friday, April 24, 1992
A repost from Library

    Date: 23 Apr 92
    From: Glee Willis <willis [at] UNSSUN__SCS__UNR__EDU>
    Subject: Measuring shelf afterlife
    Sender: Libraries & Librarians <LIBRARY [at] INDYCMS__BITNET>

    I am posting this to THIS LIST ONLY (due to the general nature of
    this list, and due to the (perhaps) generic appeal of this topic to
    all librarians.  Readers of this list may feel free to cross-post it
    to other lists, as they see fit.   -- GW

    [A bit of background explanation:] I have been participating in a
    year-long pilot project to test the radon levels of dwellings in my
    state.  The house from which I recently moved (not because of its
    alarmingly-high radon levels, but because home ownership beckoned)
    was a local "hot spot".  My new house has tested at a comfortingly
    low radon level (even though it is only 6 1/2 blocks from my old
    house), so the coordinator of the test, who is a geologist, recently
    sent me this (summarized) note:

        ... So, that's the good news!  Now for the not-so-good!  It
        looks as if your job could be hazardous to your health (see
        attached clipping from _Nature_)....  Never thought that a
        library could be hazardous to one's health!  Guess I'm going to
        have to stop spending so much time in them in the future!

    Perhaps what the letter to the editor of Nature, entitled "Measuring
    shelf afterlife", (p. 293) in the March 26, 1992 issue, notes is
    "old news"? However, I had not previously heard of it, and would
    like to bring this information to the attention of those of you who
    might have to deal with patrons who might be prone to hysteria upon
    learning of it?  My apologies, in advance, if it has already been
    discussed on the EXLIBRIS or CONSERVATION lists (neither of which
    seem to have easily-searchable archives?).  I checked the ARCHIVES
    archives, and it had, apparently, not yet been mentioned there.


    To excerpt from what the authors B. Singh, of McMaster University,
    and H.W. Taylor, of the University of Toronto, wrote:

    "SIR -- The radioactivity of substances in daily use has been well
    documented.  But it is not common knowledge even to nuclear and
    health physicists that the fine papers used in high-quality
    printing, photocopying and writing are indeed radioactive.

    Using standard gamma-ray spectroscopic methods with a shielded
    large-volume HpGe detector, we have measured the gamma-rays emitted
    by various paper samples, mostly in the form of unbound scientific
    journals, magazines and newsprint....

    These data establish the presence of easily detected radionuclides
    in fine papers.  Although we have chosen mainly scientific journals,
    the activities are expected to be comparable for any publications
    that use this type of paper.  We believe that large differences in
    absolute activities and in thorium/radium ratios are caused by
    varying amounts and qualities of the fine clays that are added (a
    practice started about 50 years ago) to basic paper pulp to produce
    durable and high-gloss surfaces used for many colour-illustrated
    magazines and professional journals....

    Our data can provide an estimate of radiation exposure to a person
    using a library.  A seven-shelf bookcase of a typical journal, for
    example, _Nuclear_Physics_....  The dose at the centre of the body
    of the person standing about 0.4m in front of the bookcase is about
    0.4 m-rad h-1. This dose, although small, is comparable to that
    received by a person living or working in a brick or masonry
    building (in addition to the normal average background).  It is
    interesting to note that the dose from paper can be reduced by the
    use of fine papers of low radioactivity, as is the case for the
    journals _Arcit_ and the _Journal_of_Environmental_ Radiation_.
    Whether such adjustments to our lifestyles are justified by the dose
    rates involved is open to question.  [end of excerpt]

    Glee Willis
    Engineering Librarian
    Internet:  willis [at] unssun__scs__unr__edu
    Bitnet:   willis@equinox
    FAX:       (702) 784-1751
    Telephone: (702) 784-6827
    USnail:    Engineering Library (262)
               University of Nevada
               Reno, NV 89557-0044

                  Conservation DistList Instance 5:53
                 Distributed: Saturday, April 25, 1992
                        Message Id: cdl-5-53-006
Received on Friday, 24 April, 1992

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