[Editorial] The Presence of Radioactive Substances in Wearables

the presence of radioactive substances in wearables

What the editorial is about?

Presence of radioactive substances in wearable products exceeding safe radiation levels and associated concerns.


Recently the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), Netherlands issued a statement identifying various wearable products such as (Magnetix Magnetic necklace, Magnetix Sport boost bracelet, Smiley Kids bracelet, Athletic necklace among others) containing more radioactivity than legally permitted.

Most probable and repeated topics of upsc prelims

A Word of Caution

  • The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), Netherlands warned the public against using “Quantum Pendant,” “anti-5G pendant” or “negative ion” jewellery items or sleep masks.
  • An air purifier (negative ionizer) is a device that emits two million healthy negative ions per sec from the black brush on its top. These ions may act on pollutants, make them negatively charged and get them collected on surfaces.
  • The ANVS suggested that the “negative ion products” may contain radioactive substances.
  • The ANVS clarified that their warning does not apply to ionic air purifiers, “as they are known not to contain radioactive materials.”

Why such a statement by the ANVS, Netherlands?

  • The ANVS found that the level of radiation in these products is low and the risk of health problems is also low.
  • The agency informed all known vendors of these products in the Netherlands that it has prohibited their sale and that they must stop trading in these products immediately.
  • Wearing such products for a long period (a year, 24 hours a day) could expose the wearer to a dose of radiation that exceeds the limit for skin exposure prescribed in the Netherlands.

So, what are the prescribed limits?

  • The prescribed dose from the radioactive pendant is 1 mSv/year.
  • Researchers found that eight out of the 20 pendants were capable of exposing the wearers to an annual effective dose above the dose limit of one mSv for the public. The dose from the most radioactive pendant was 8 mSv/year.

What is an mSv Unit?

  • Sievert (Sv), is the unit of radiation absorption in the International System of Units (SI).
  • The sievert takes into account the relative biological effectiveness of ionizing radiation.
  • When the physical energy absorbed by tissues from x-rays, gamma rays or electrons is one Joule/kg, the biologically effective dose is considered to be one Sv.
  • Since Sv is a huge unit, specialists use milliSv or “mSv” (one-thousandth of an Sv) as a unit.
  • For e.g., the Skin dose in a chest x-ray exam is about 1 mSv.

What are IAEA Guidelines in this regard?

  • In “Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards” (2014), the IAEA considers the frivolous use of radiation or radioactive substances in toys and personal jewellery or adornments, which result in an increase in activity, is unjustified.
  • The IAEA also published a specific safety guide titled “Radiation Safety for Consumer Products (2016).” The Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules, 2004 contains provisions consistent with those of the IAEA.

Associated Concerns

Radiation exposure to the wearer

  • The products tested contained radioactive materials and therefore continuously emit ionizing radiation, thereby exposing the wearer.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation can cause adverse health effects and wearing the products for extended periods could pose health risks that include tissue and DNA damage.

Harmful effects of radiations

  • Reduction in resistance to infection.
  • Possible chromosomal damage.
  • Temporary reduction in white blood cells.
  • Acute radiation sickness that causes cancer and hair fall.
  • Skin burns.

Is this something limited only to the Netherlands?

  • In another IAEA supported the project, researchers found that the undergarment industry in Malaysia and elsewhere advertised that their “negative ion undergarments” contain tourmaline, monazite and zircon, all known to contain uranium and thorium.
  • Among the 13 samples of undergarments they assessed, three were capable of exposing their wearers to annual effective doses above one mSv.

Way Ahead

  • Adding radioactive substances in wearables is unjustified.
  • There is a need for policy intervention to prohibit their usage through law considering the adverse health effects and the potential health risk they pose.
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