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Radon is generally regarded as a naturally occurring radiological hazard but we report here measurements of significant, hazardous radon concentrations that arise from man-made sources: for example, radium-dial watches. This study is an examination and assessment of health risks from radium and uranium found in historical artefacts, and the radon that emanates from them. This includes radium-dial watches, the main focus, plus clocks, aircraft instruments, and ornaments and artefacts made of uranium glass/uranium-glazed. Such objects were very popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and are still readily available today.

A collection of 30 radium-dial pocket and wrist watches was measured and shown to be capable of giving rise to radon concentrations two orders of magnitude greater than the UK Domestic Action Level of 200 Bq m−3 in unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms. Furthermore, individual watches are capable of giving rise to radon concentrations in excess of the UK Domestic Action Level. We also highlight a gap in remediation protocols, which are focused on preventing radon entering buildings from outside, with regard to internally generated radon hazards. Radon as arising from man-made objects, such as radium-dial watches, should be considered appropriately in radon protocols and guidelines.

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