Quality Control Blog

Quality Control

The Quality Control Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about product inspection technology, quality control methods & software, quality standards and compliance testing, defect prevention analysis. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Bugs in Hardware and Software — They're in There   Next in Blog: Space Technology Inspires Better Fitting Lenses
Close
Close
Close
8 comments

Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

Posted December 10, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

The goal of the research was to determine if hair, fingernail clippings, and toenail clippings could be used to detect any radiation exposure in the past year. The standard protocol to detect uranium exposure is through a urine sample; however, this only works for recent exposure and cannot determine specific isotopes.


Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Quality, Test, & Measurement eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
2
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Not a New Member Hobbies - Musician - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: Reading, Berkshire, UK. Going under cover.
Posts: 9684
Good Answers: 467
#1

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/10/2016 9:45 AM

"The standard protocol to detect uranium exposure is through a urine sample; however, this .... cannot determine specific isotopes." - that sounds like nonsense!

Such samples are subject to gamma spectrometry, which is readily able to distinguish the isotopes present. Following up on suspect samples with mass spectroscopy can also be performed.

__________________
"Love justice, you who rule the world" - Dante Alighieri
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/10/2016 2:20 PM

Yep. GA

I worked a contract years ago working on a new type of ion detector for my client's mass spectrometer (a JEOL HX-110). With the new detector we routinely analysed sample sizes down to 20 femtomoles (I was told by one of their people that this amount is roughly equivalent to whatever that sticks to the outside of a mozzies's snout after she pulls it out) and with it we could detect literally 'attoscopic' traces of whatever it was they were looking for in that. Now if we could do this in the late 80s, imagine the quantities they could detect today given an entire fingernail clipping?

"Got your results back ... hmm ... seems the 7s2 shell in one of the three 238U atoms we found in your sample is missing an electron (it was a bit off to the side). Been out in the sun have we?"

Reply
2
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - Been there, done that. Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15253
Good Answers: 939
#3

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/10/2016 9:20 PM

Urine and other body excretions will identify contamination exposure but not radiation exposure. If the author cannot get this basic difference correct...

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/10/2016 10:23 PM

The author of the linked-to article makes no mention of 'radiation exposure' anywhere in the text; only here is it mentioned by the OP. The linked-to piece speaks strictly of detecting nuclear materials.

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - Been there, done that. Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15253
Good Answers: 939
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/11/2016 10:18 AM

OK, so the leadin is misleading. How ironic.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - Been there, done that. Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15253
Good Answers: 939
#6

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/11/2016 10:38 AM

Outside of making some convoluted detective story plausible, I'm not seeing any value in this test technique. While fingernail, hair and urine sample analyses are not invasive medical tests, they are still medical tests. To perform a medical test on an individual one must acquire an individual for testing and then gain these samples for testing.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#7
In reply to #6

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/11/2016 4:09 PM

Let's also hope they're looking at isotope ratios and not merely for the presence of 235U because even DU contains 0.2-0.3% 235U (natural uranium contains around 0.7% 235U). DU is widely used by industry and of course we have its military applications. Thousands of soldiers and civilians on all sides were exposed to it in the Gulf Wars. US stockpiles of DU (mainly in the form of uranium hexafluoride) exceed 600,000 tons.

Ordinary citizens are exposed to uranium; for instance in western Colorado people were once encouraged to take tailings from the local uranium mines to use for landfill, concrete filler, building construction, etc. My FiL had barrels of the stuff in his barn for construction projects around the farm. Years later when the DOE poked around those barrels, their Geiger counters sang like effing canaries. His front steps where he'd mixed tailings in with the concrete were also notably radioactive as were the concrete foundations and structural components of a number of public schools and other buildings in the area.

Given the sheer number of people exposed to uranium by other routes I really wonder how effective this approach will be in terms of identifying actual suspects. They'd better be looking hard at isotope ratios and even that is no guarantee.

What's troubling to me is that they seem more interested in using this technique for law enforcement instead of for reasons of public health generally. Radiological properties aside, uranium and many of its compounds are highly chemically toxic.

Reply
Guru
Safety - Hazmat - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - New Member Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - Old Hand

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Posts: 14331
Good Answers: 161
#8
In reply to #7

Re: Detecting Exposure to Nuclear Materials

12/13/2016 4:18 PM

Toxic yes, especially the isotope that leads to Polonium 210.

I hate to disillusion the author of that paper, but all coal also contains in the United States, approximately 1 ppm Uranium (mixed isotopes).

If they want something for the purposes of radiation exposure, perhaps they need to look for some similarities to nuclear track detection that utilizes CR-39 polycarbonate, and dilute caustic etchant.

Maybe hair, and nail clippings, could reveal something if a suitable etchant were known.

__________________
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just build a better one.
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 8 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Andrew Westman (3); James Stewart (1); JohnDG (1); redfred (3)

Previous in Blog: Bugs in Hardware and Software — They're in There   Next in Blog: Space Technology Inspires Better Fitting Lenses

Advertisement