FAQs @ Radiation Alert

Customers can search our database of Frequently Asked Questions or submit their own. Many answers to common questions about our radiation detectors can be found here. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for in the FAQs, then submit one and we’ll find an answer for you if we can! You can also ask questions about each FAQ at the bottom of the FAQ page if you need some elaboration on the answer. Also, check out our Radiation Basics page for general information about ionizing radiation.

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None of the instruments listed in this website detect neutron, and don’t detect non-ionizing radiation, like microwave, RF (radio frequency), laser, infrared, or ultraviolet radiation. All of the instruments are most accurate for Cesium 137 and isotopes of similar energies. Some isotopes detected relatively well are Cobalt 60, Technetium 99M, Phosphorus 32, Strontium 90, and many forms of Radium, Plutonium, Uranium, and Thorium.

Some forms of radiation are very difficult or impossible for a Geiger tube to detect. Tritium is a byproduct of a nuclear reactor and is used in research. The beta emissions from Tritium are so weak that there are very few instruments that are capable of detecting it. More sophisticated equipment is needed for the measurement of environmental samples, such as radioactivity in milk, produce, soil, etc., unless you are looking for gross contamination.

The radiation from some isotopes can cause a Geiger tube to overexcite and indicate a higher level of radiation than is actually present. Americium 241 is an example of this phenomenon. Americium 241 is used in some smoke detectors and many different types of industrial density and flow meters.

Unless you know exactly what you are measuring and understand the limitations of detection instruments, it is possible to draw misleading conclusions from your readings. We design our instruments to detect the broadest range of ionizing radiation possible and still be affordable. The full spectrum of ionizing radiation cannot be measured by one single instrument. Everyone agrees that radioactive materials can be dangerous. We encourage you to seek out other sources of information.

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    The chirping sound is a notification that your battery is now.

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    Smoke Detectors: Some smoke detectors contain a sealed radioactive isotope as part of the smoke sensing mechanism. There is no danger to the individual if the container in sealed. They are labeled.

    Camping Lantern Mantles: In recent years this has changed but some lantern mantles are made with radioactive Thorium. Be especially careful not to inhale or ingest the fine ash that is left when they are burned out.

    Clocks, Watches, and Timers: Many old timepieces have dials painted with radium to make them glow in the dark. Tritium is now commonly used to obtain the same effect. Tritium is also radioactive but emits low energy radiation which cannot penetrate the lens of the timepiece.

    Jewelry: Some gold used to encapsulate radium and radon for medical purposes was improperly reprocessed and entered the market as radioactive rings and other types of gold jewelry. Some imported cloisonné being glazed with uranium oxide exceeds U.S. limits. Some gems are irradiated by an electron beam or in an accelerator to enhance their color. Irradiated gems typically are held until there is no residual activity remaining.

    Rock Collections: Many natural formations contain radioactive materials. Hobbyists who collect such things should vent the rooms in which these items are stored and be careful to avoid inhaling the fine dust particles from these samples.

    Pottery: Some types of pottery are glazed with uranium oxide, such as Fiesta ware. To the best of our knowledge, this process has been discontinued, although some of these pieces are still in circulation.

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    Yes. The Radiation Alert Ranger detects down to 1 microR.

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    Converting CPM to mR/hr

    Sensitivity is expressed in cpm per mR/h. Mathematically the cpm units cancel leaving mR/h.


    For example, if you have collected 200CPM with the Radiation Alert Ranger, which has a typical gamma sensitivity of 3500 cpm per mR/hr, you would divide the 200 cpm by the 3500cpm per mR/hr sensitivity. The cpm cancels out and you are left with 200/3500 mR/hr = 0.057 mR/hr


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  • Dear Sir,

    What would be the X-Ray sensitivity factor in cpm/mR/hr? Is it similar to the gamma sensitivity of 3,500 cpm per mR/hr? Thanks.


    • Hi Cliff,

      X-rays and Gamma are treated the same by the detector. The difference comes in with the pulse width of the X-ray itself. If the pulse width is smaller than the dead time of the tube (15 microseconds for the SentryEC), then you might miss some of the counts. Otherwise, you can use the Gamma Energy Response graph on the SentryEC page to find your answer for specific energies.


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