Instrument radiation?

Profile picture for user DCK

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A contact of mine donated a quite expensive item to a museum. They have a Spitfire, so he asked if he could sit in it. I told him that shouldn't be a problem since he just donated a bit of a gem to them. Not so. They denied the request due to radiation from the instrument panel. That was their excuse. Any truth to this? First time I heard this ever. Wasn't my "scene" to speak, so I didn't start a discussion about the subject.
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Profile picture for user XF940

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Radiation 'hazard'? - strictly speaking YES. Health risk for sitting in it for 5 minutes? - highly unlikely and probably unmeasurable even with a very sensitive dose rate meter. Jobsworth? - Definitely! And actually quite insulting.

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There was thread here on this subject a while ago discussing in depth.
Profile picture for user XF940

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Probably best not to go there. It seems to stir up all sorts of emotions in some people for some reason (probably 'cos they have a stash of WWII era instruments in their collection/for sale) :highly_amused:
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Thought it was pretty insulting, but I wasn't the one in the center of attention so kept quiet.
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I would imagine the health and safety rules weighed in on their decision..
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No, their own rules will have informed the decision, using the oft misquoted, and frequently misunderstood 'Elf 'n Safety' as an excuse. Bruce

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Or more likely a jobsworth who said no purely because they could.

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I wonder if the museum's response would have been different if, before handing over the instrument, the donor had said; "I'll give you an xxx if you let me sit in your Spitfire."
Profile picture for user JDK

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Interesting topic. Not as surprising as some might think, and maybe neither the person or the active museum staff's fault. When researching my book on the subject, I was refused access to the RAF Museum's Supermarine Seagull V specifically for that reason, and limited to 15 minutes inside the Supermarine Stranraer. The Stranny had its instrument panel 'lifted' sometime before the museum acquired it, so (then) over 30 years without anything to originate Geiger clicks... I would add that in every other way the museum were extremely accommodating and helpful, and we also got our cockpit pics of the Seagull through the open side window, with permission and a supplied ladder. I know of other major national museums that have aircraft plackared with 'no entry radiation hazard' for cockpits. Over-reaction? If the instruments are secure, complete and the glass intact, probably. However a bit of searching on this forum and discussions here and elsewhere (not to mention the fun of reading up 'the Radioactive Boy Scout' - go on, you want to) will probably encourage a degree greater of caution than was common up to the 1990s. Humans are pretty good at acute threads, remarkably poor at chronic. Regards,
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This gross stupidity about the dangers of radiation from instruments demonstrates the disengagement between regulators and imperially proven science, (not consensuses science which is not science at all). When regulations were drawn up to regulate the nuclear power industry they used a graph call the "linear no-threshold graph" as the basis of setting levels of safe radiation. This was not a scientific graph of safe know levels but just a strait line graph from zero to high levels. It was never intended for anything other than as an aid to regulation of the nuclear power industry. This got leaked to the environmental lobby who immediately seized on it as proof that all radiation no matter what the level was bad. That's the background. Wind forward to today, everyone who lives in the south west of England, or flies in a modern passenger aircraft or lives above a few thousand feet in altitude (and many many other situations) regularly gets more radiation than if they spent the rest of their lives siting in a spitfire cockpit. And the delicious irony is those who regularly receive higher doses of low level radiation generally have a higher life expectancy. So it is scientifically proven that low dose radiation is necessary for a healthy life. Getting the message out though is an altogether different matter when we are blessed with politian's with little life education and agenda's to keep us all ignorant.

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This is (or can be) an emotive subject, and needs input from those involved in the aircraft industry. Nearly nine years ago, I retired from working on aircraft instruments, and the company operated (and still operates) a strict policy of not touching any instrument to which their Geiger counter reacted above a certain level. The danger does not come from "radiation," but from the paint itself; over years it deteriorates, and partially crumbles into a fine dust, and this shows up as apparently brown paint, often with black specks in it. If the glass is cracked, or chipped, or the case is cracked (and that's very common, since many are made of Bakelite, which cracks in a heartbeat when screws are over-tightened,) or the rubber seal, under the glass, has perished (and rubber has only a 5-year CAA "life,") there is the (albeit possibly slim) chance of you breathing in the dust, thereby getting non-degradable radioactive material into your lungs, with all that entails. If museums buy a Geiger counter, and supply visitors with dust-proof sprayers' masks and over-suits, which can be destroyed after use, maybe 100% access might be regained, but don't hold your breath.
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Whether individuals like it or not in the UK the topic of radiation is covered by law and people have to adhere to the rules or risk prosecution. Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999 (IRR99) Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93). IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material (TS-R-1) The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 Also on this forum we’ve been ‘here’ before – many times; a few links follow (there are no doubt many more): http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=97355&highlight=health http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=96695&highlight=health&page=2 http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?97884-Confiscated-WW2-Aircraft-Instruments From a museum perspective prosecutions have been made so I suspect many are cautious about how they deal with the topic. Two such prosecutions were detailed 14 years ago, this was at the time of the change from IRR85 to IRR99; http://www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/rpnews/rpa18.htm details a prosecution of the Science Museum; whilst this link http://www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/rpnews/rpa19.htm details a prosecution of the Natural History Museum.
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Indeed, being pragmatic, one has to operate within the strictures of the appropriate regulations. Those regulations are not wholly prescriptive; it could be possible for museums to develop a policy to allow visitors to sit in cockpits which have radioactive instruments, but it would be necessary to develop a whole range of procedures and policies to do so, in order to ensure that if the visit came, that the rules had been correctly followed. If you consider the amount of time and energy this might take, then it is clearly much easier just to have a policy that says 'Non' when asked. It may well be the case that this is classic nanny state politics, and that the danger, realistically, is low. However, unless and until the rules are reviewed, museums have little choice but to follow them. My point above was flippant, but was making the point that very often, it is easy to cry 'Health and Safety', using it as an excuse not to do work which would allow something to happen. What people tend to mean in such situations is 'I cant be bothered to do the risk assessments and write the policies that would allow 'x' to go ahead'. A modern day malaise. Its worth noting that some private organisations have been offering a sit in a Spitfire for a fee - warts and all. Bruce
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Its worth noting that some private organisations have been offering a sit in a Spitfire for a fee - warts and all. Bruce
I told them this specific fact. They just shrugged and said "they have taken it to a business level". Even so, they even started with arguments against this rule which leads me to belive someone, somewhere have told the museum to follow the rule. I remember back in 1986 someone sitting in the very same Spitfire. I guess he's dead now. By radiation :P
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Hmmmm Are any WWII Spitfire pilots still about having sat for the best part of a number of years in these radiated cockpits?
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Watch the 'cigarettes don't give you cancer because uncle Charlie smoked until he was 100' arguments... The (mis-)application of health and safety as Bruce's said can be an issue. On the other hand (nice to have two, all complete, isn't it?) you don't seem to see the cripples around that you used to. Bear in mind also that the radiation management issue isn't a UK only one. There are comparable approaches and issues - I'm sure touched on in some of the thread's TwinOtter's posted - in other countries such as the US and Canada to my certain knowledge. Meanwhile in other radiation exposure opportunities: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/europe/travel-tips-and-articles/76503 Regards,

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Quick question..................The same appllys to instrument panel projects?

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Hmmmm Are any WWII Spitfire pilots still about having sat for the best part of a number of years in these radiated cockpits?
And were they faced with instruments with damaged glasses, cases and seals, with 70-year-old deteriorating paint?
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And were they faced with instruments with damaged glasses, cases and seals, with 70-year-old deteriorating paint?
I would guess that it is was the least of their problems with the incoming cannon shells coming through their cockpits and fuselage.

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The danger does not come from "radiation," but from the paint itself; over years it deteriorates, and partially crumbles into a fine dust, and this shows up as apparently brown paint, often with black specks in it. If the glass is cracked, or chipped, or the case is cracked (and that's very common, since many are made of Bakelite, which cracks in a heartbeat when screws are over-tightened,) or the rubber seal, under the glass, has perished (and rubber has only a 5-year CAA "life,") there is the (albeit possibly slim) chance of you breathing in the dust, thereby getting non-degradable radioactive material into your lungs, with all that entails. .
Very sound advice but please also remember Radium (a solid) decays to Radon (a gas) which will leak out from even a well-sealed instrument. The Radon gas, which is bad for you, will then decay and turn into solid Polonium which is really, really nasty (used in tiny quantities to assassinate people!), before it decays into safe lead. With a collection of instruments in a poorly ventilated space, the Polonium deposited outside the instruements can build, and because it’s so nasty, it may become a hazard. The moral of the story is keep collections of luminous stuff in well-ventilated spaces to allow any radon to disperse;- maybe museum A/C should be stored canopies open?