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Naturally-Occurring Radiation: 

TENORM in Consumer Products

Some TENORM may be found in certain consumer products. For example, zircon contains minute quantities of uranium and thorium, and is widely used as a glaze for ceramics and metal molds.


Uranium or "vaseline" glass contains small amounts of uranium, which imparts a yellow-green coloring and causes the glass to glow bright green under black lights, as shown in this photo.

Among the furniture, clothing, jewelry, books, dolls, dishes, and many other objects sold at flea markets and antique shops, you will likely find items that contain radioactive compounds. These items were generally made and originally sold before the health effects of radiation were well- understood and long before radiation protection regulations were put in place. Read more about this radioactive materials in antiques

Building Products

Common building products such as brick, cement blocks, granite counter tops, and glazed tiles may contain radioactive materials due to their presence in the natural materials from which they are made. Nearly all rocks, minerals, and soil may contain small amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials. Typically found radionuclides include radium, thorium and uranium. For example, soils of the U.S. contain on average about one picocurie (a unit measure of radiation) of radium per gram weight, though they sometimes can contain more. When these soils or rocks are incorporated into building materials,these naturally occurring radioactive materials are included as well.

Phosphate Fertilizer

The yearly consumption of phosphate based fertilizers in the U.S. averaged close to 5.8 million metric tons (MT) between 1960 and 2007 and had increased to over 8.5 million MT by 2007. While phosphate fertilizers are not assumed to be waste, they do contain some of the naturally-occurring radium (Ra-226) found in phosphate ores. Read more about phosphate fertilizer

Tobacco Products

By far, the largest radiation dose received by the public comes from smoking cigarettes. While cigarette smoke is not an obvious source of radiation exposure, it contains small amounts of radioactive materials which smokers bring into their lungs as they inhale. The radioactive particles lodge in lung tissue and over time contribute a huge radiation dose. Radioactivity may be one of the key factors in lung cancer among smokers. Read more about radionuclides in tobacco smoke.

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