Americium in Combo Smoke/CO Detector

Old 03-06-08, 02:38 PM
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Americium in Combo Smoke/CO Detector

Wondering how tightly sealed this radioactive material is inside a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector (BRK was the brand name, I believe) that was hard-wired to my ceiling.

The detector started chirping for no apparent reason so I tried replacing the battery (which, believe it or not, wasn't easy as the side slot was difficult to open). When the chirping continued, I tried to remove the unit by pulling on the small plug on the back that contained the wires. When I couldn't disconnect this plug, I finally turned off the circuit, got a pair of wire cutters and cut the thing down.

At any rate, I had no idea there was radioactive material inside the detector so I wasn't exactly handling it like a piece of fine china. I never opened it up (simply threw it in the trash after I cut it down), but I'm wondering if there was any chance that I could've caused any of this Americium to leak from the unit or become airborne when I was handling it? Thanks
Old 03-06-08, 03:57 PM
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No danger from normal handling BUT throwing it in the trash wasn't very responsible. Most towns have a place to take all sorts of household hazardous waste (paint, cleaners, etc) for free.
Old 03-06-08, 05:15 PM
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The stuff is about as radioactive as an old style radium watch dial (significantly less, so, actually), you would have to stick the sensing chamber in your mouth and suck on it awhile for any risk factor.

Do dispose of properly, though...

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