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tel jetson
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a friend of mine who works with a lot of metal mentioned something about stainless steel recently.  he said that sometime in the last ten years or so, standards were relaxed concerning limits on radioactive constituents of stainless steel.  he said he's been to scrap yards and seen truckloads of stainless steel rejected after inspection with a Geiger counter.

anybody else know anything about this?  sounds a little unlikely and I haven't found any information about it elsewhere, but the guy works with metal professionally and he really isn't a nutty conspiracy theory type.  if it's true, stainless steel cookware would sort of lose it's appeal, as would all manner of other uses for it.
 
Jami McBride
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Wow, where can I rent a geiger counter 

It is so hard to stay clean and safe in this modern world.

I've also found out that most crock pots have lead in their stoneware, which gets into the cooked foods.  Seems there are only a couple brands that are certified not to have it.  I'll look around and see if I can find that info again, but it's kind of the same story as your friend gave you.  Manufactures just slip things by us - very sad.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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That's interesting. I hadn't heard of that.

When I read your post, my first thought was "cobalt 60."

That seems to be it, based on a little googling:

http://agmetalminer.com/2009/02/17/radioactive-stainless-steel-found-in-germany/

It seems someone in India melted down some scrap metal from a spice sterilizer. There are uses for cobalt in steelmaking, but a typical stainless alloy shouldn't contain much, if any (less than 1/5 of 1%, according to the article).

Fortunately, this seems to have been an isolated incident. I guess this is another reason to assay shipping containers for radioactivity, but I don't think it's any reason to panic over what's already in your house.

Jami McBride wrote:Wow, where can I rent a geiger counter   


Geiger counters require some training, and the use of a calibration standard (i.e., a standardized radioactive substance kept with the machine). You can use a Geiger counter to find, among other things, bananas (due to potassium content) and cigarettes (due to polonium) in the dark; without some education in health physics (i.e., how various types and doses of radiation correspond to various health risks), it's easy to drive yourself crazy with one.

A film dosimeter might be more suitable for home use; it would definitely be enough to catch the material mentioned in the article linked to above.

Another instrument, much easier to use (if more complicated in theory) which can catch this sort of contamination now that it's a known entity, is the alpha-particle x-ray spectrometer. In practice, it's an instrument slightly smaller than a toaster, which can be placed on an item and, after a short time, displays its composition (all elements heavier than about aluminum). Since most stainless shouldn't contain cobalt, it's a dead giveaway (no pun intended). I believe most US recyclers use an APXS device to identify chunks of scrap. There is also a (high-precision, miniaturized) APXS on each Mars rover, which made the technology slightly more famous.

Stainless steel doesn't dissolve into food the way cast iron might. I could be wrong on this, but I think that the stainless in question would be more of a health risk to from the radiation shining out of it as it sits on the shelf, than from radionuclides finding their way into food.

Jami McBride wrote:It is so hard to stay clean and safe in this modern world.


"Clean and safe" are both very relative and qualitative terms. You and I have likely had much less contact with other people's excrement, and seen far fewer of our relatives die of childhood disease or of violence, than most of our ancestors. But you're right, we're both much more likely to encounter PCBs and plutonium than almost any of our ancestors were.
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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I sure hope it's an isolated incident because a well-crafted set of stainless steel cookware will last multiple lifetimes, if taken care of properly.  I know I love mine, worth the investment.

I, also, wonder if location of manufacture plays a large part in what is being added to the foundry process?  I know China, as an example, has trouble controlling their manufacturing inputs due to uneducated workers (lead paint in childrens toys) and people cheating the system (as in the case of malamine in milk). 

Either way, I do hope people manufacturing cookware would check their source materials.  Even if for nothing more than to avoid a scandal and a heafty lawsuit.

 
Jami McBride
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Thanks for info Joel, especially the 'relative' part.     

You know all things are relative 
 
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