Are Watches With Radium Dials Safe? New Study Offers Warning

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According to a five-year study carried out by research teams at the University of Northampton and Kingston University, and funded by UNESCO, the International Union of Geological Sciences, and the International Geoscience Programme, antique radium-dialed watches could be a legitimate health hazard for their owners.

After testing 30 watches kept in a typical room, researchers discovered that collectively they emitted radon, a radioactive element that is the decay product of radium, in concentrations 134 times greater than the United Kingdom’s recommended safe level. The amount of radon monitored was even greater among those watches kept in poor condition. In a much larger space, the detected levels were still high enough to warrant concern.Professor Gillmore, an environmental hazards expert and the Head of Energy at Kingston University, issued the following warning:

“These watches are often precious heirlooms with sentimental value, or highly prized collectors’ items. To minimize the risk, I would recommend people not wear them—and if stored in a box, to not remove the lid indoors. Instead, it would be better to take the box outside and remove the lid there, which would allow any built-up gas to rapidly dissipate.”

The watches tested were produced from the 1920s through the ‘60s, and are a mix of British, Swiss, and American origin.

US radium dial painting factory. Read more about “Radium Girls” here.

You can read more about the study and its conclusions here. You can also buy a copy of the study through The Geological Society here.

Lead photo by Brandon Cripps.

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.
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