Accidental contamination from uranium compounds through contact with ceramic dinnerware


Examination of orange-colored dinnerware samples purchased in antique stores and flea markets has revealed the occasional presence of surface uranium compounds that are readily transferred to the hands and clothing. We have further been able to produce soluble uranium compounds on the surfaces of clean dishes by exposing them to household vinegar or bleach. We estimate that handling of a contaminated dish can transfer up to 1-2 becquerels or more of uranium compounds to the hands. Uranium contamination is of concern because the element is not only an alpha emitter but also a chemical nephrotoxin. Although the amount of uranium likely to be ingested as a result of casual handling may be small, it could still exceed by several times the amount occurring in the average diet (about 40 mBq/day). Furthermore, since fresh surface compounds are readily formed, it is possible that a person who regularly handles or eats from uranium-glazed dinnerware can accidentally ingest significant amounts of uranium.


Chemistry and Biochemistry

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The Science of the Total Environment