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So how dangerous is Tritium in a compass anyway


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#1 Niner Alpha

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 12:41 PM

The quote is in reference to compasses made by the Union International and Stocker and Yale companies during the sixties and seventies.

"Compass NSN 6605-00-151-5337 is deemed "operationally unserviceable" and compass 6605-00-846-7618 was condemned in 1978 for safety reasons and was not authorized for use thereafter. Both of these should have been replaced in miliary inventory with NSN 6605-01-196-6971."

This is from the site, Olive-Drab and is at http://www.olive-dra...ss_lensatic.php

However, if you look at what looks like a government document I managed to google up.....It looks to me like they weren't actually ultimately condemned nor completely removed from inventory. http://pbadupws.nrc....ML070590603.pdf

If you boil it all down it is unclear exactly what the problem is about tritium in the two compasses that are mentioned, other than the luminous coating is maybe at the limit of the radioactive assumption of what is safe, although even that isn't clear. And if you follow the paper trail you get to nearly the bottom and it looks like since the tritum is beyond its shelf life...around a dozen years it seems from other reading....and since they don't know how to track what few remain in the system, that they just ok'ed it as being something that the military could store or issue to any branch of the service. And they say something to the effect that no special care need be taken by those who may use it since it already has the radioactive disposal notice printed on it.

And another thing ....the product number the website that says the compasses were withdrawn shows a -00- after the first 6605 in the number designation,and the government documents do the same, while the actual compasses I've seen show no such added 00.

Any enlightenment here? Danger from radioactivity? Collectible aspect of value or non value?

Edited by Niner Alpha, 13 May 2011 - 12:41 PM.


#2 Franklin45

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 01:34 PM

I'm not an expert but it is my understanding that the primary risk from Tritium would be direct exposure. Probably not the best idea to disassemble one of these compasses while eating your lunch or rubbing your eyes. However a sealed compass in your pocket or on a shelf should not pose any significant radiation danger.

Tritium is much safer than the Radium used for illumination in WWII and earlier compasses, watch dials, and instruments. Radium is nasty stuff in comparison.

Also I seem to remember that the half-life of Tritium is relatively short (12 years or so maybe?) so a compass from the 60's should be much less radioactive today than it was when new.

#3 hawkdriver

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 01:56 PM

We have had NRC inspections in the past and the question if we had any damaged compasses with the Nuke sign were present. We did have one and they actually had us throw it in the trash to dispose of it. So, not a overly big issue like Franklin stated.

#4 Jack's Son

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 02:03 PM

WOW !
Mercury, lead, acids, even ammonia we have to have special containers for. :think:
But, radioactive stuff.......we just through in the trash!! :fear:

#5 NorwichCadet

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 03:39 AM

This is in my collection. Should I call the EPA disposal people?http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg59/grillagracy/DSCN0340.jpg

#6 lothrop

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 05:41 AM

Its fine. For the last eight years I have carried a gun on my hip with tritium night sights. My leg hasn't fallen off yet and I have evidence I can still reproduce as of three years ago. Like was said, I'm sure if you rubbed your fingers on the broken part and then ate cheez its , it may be an issue.

#7 Niner Alpha

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 05:45 AM

Thanks for the replies. I have about concluded that about the only way you can get cancer is if you try to eat one of them....particularly after the active ingredient has, for the most part, evaporated long ago. And...if the cancer takes twenty years to develope it will have to take a back seat to any number of other problems.....if I'm still alive at 85. :unsure:

#8 PvtTamura

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 05:47 AM

This is in my collection. Should I call the EPA disposal people?http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg59/grillagracy/DSCN0340.jpg



It's fine :thumbsup: , but if you're really uncomfortable, you could send it to me! :lol:

#9 MWalsh

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 06:11 AM

Its fine. For the last eight years I have carried a gun on my hip with tritium night sights. My leg hasn't fallen off yet and I have evidence I can still reproduce as of three years ago. Like was said, I'm sure if you rubbed your fingers on the broken part and then ate cheez its , it may be an issue.


The Trijicon company, as just one example, has been manufacturing and selling Tritium night sights as their standard sights for law enforcement, civilian, and military use, on handguns, for years and years. In addition, their ACOG sights also use it too. While the military may have ceased use of certain amounts of tritium on compases, they sure are not shy about using it now on the ACOG sights being issued by the tens of thousands.

In small amounts and not ingested, I think one is just fine, Lothrop's example is spot on.

MW

#10 Robswashashore

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 06:50 AM

I used to work with Tritium as a medical research biochemist. You guys are right, just don't eat it. But the warnings on the tiny jars the reagents were packed in were really scary looking! One time one of the (empty) jars fell off a garbage truck in the Boston Medical area where I worked. They called out the BFD Haz Mat team who responded in full hoods and suits to pick up the jar (which was about an inch by 1/4 inch) and throw it back into the garbage truck...The television news cameras were there and everything.

While that memory bringing back an indulgent smile, you do have to be careful with all that radioactive stuff... When I was in college I remember reading about some radium down in South America that was in a radiation therapy machine that the hospital had just thrown out with the trash. The neighbors got into it and were painting themselves with it and running around saying, "Hey look, I'm glowing in the dark!" Needless to say, it had a tragic ending.

Bottom line: Better to be safe than sorry.

Jean

PS. I am quite impressed that we are actually discussing the half-life of Tritium on this forum!

Edited by Robswashashore, 14 May 2011 - 06:51 AM.


#11 hawkdriver

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 10:09 AM

During WWI, women used to paint Radium paint on the hands of watches, compasses, and other items with paint brushes. They would lick the brushes to wet them so the brush would stay gathered for fine painting. They would also sneak the paint out and do what Robswashashore said and paint themselves for the night life at the bars. Way before anyone really knew the dangers of Radium. Most died from the jobs they did.
NorwichCadet, I know Pvt. Tamura said you could just send it to him, but you send it to me and I will properly dispose of it for you...... right into my collection ;)

#12 Niner Alpha

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 07:05 AM

And another thing ....the product number the website that says the compasses were withdrawn shows a -00- after the first 6605 in the number designation,and the government documents do the same, while the actual compasses I've seen show no such added 00.



I wrote the above comment in the original post. I have since found one on Ebay with the -00-. This leaves me wondering what the -00- stands for and why some compasses are without it. Also I have noted another maker with the 6605-151-5337 number besides Stocker & Yale. A friend has one made by R A Miller.

Anybody know what the numbers on these military compasses mean? Who assigned them and what if anything they signified? Why do some have the added -00-?

As far as I can get is that the "NSN" is a NATO stock number. Perhaps only the Nato models have the -00- number?

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Edited by Niner Alpha, 15 May 2011 - 07:11 AM.


#13 hawkdriver

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 12:30 PM

In the NSN, the -00- that you refrer to is the country code. 00 and 01 are US. I can't tell you what the other country codes are, I just know the US one.

#14 Niner Alpha

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 12:52 PM

Thanks Hawkdriver. That makes sense.

Found the letters FSN on a compass I bought but haven't actually received yet. Best I can determine that would stand for Federal Stock Number, although I haven't found a direct reference related to military compasses.

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#15 M1garandgunner

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 08:34 PM

I would be more worried about the radioactive fallout from Japan than a compass. One thing, I am a lot less worried about using tritium sights lol.

#16 NorwichCadet

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 09:45 AM

Mine posted earlier doesn't have any such number. It says "U.S. 11-59 Manufactured by Waltham Prec. Inst. Co. Waltham, Mass". When did they start putting the inventory numbers on them?http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg59/grillagracy/DSCN0340.jpg

#17 Niner Alpha

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 10:10 AM

FSN designations were established in 1949 and later changed to NSN numbers with the addition of a two place number to denote country of use in 1975. Looks like from the start there were various organizational changes in the number system. Maybe yours was made before the compass items were assigned a FSN number? Be interesting to find out more.

http://www.olive-dra...explanation.php

Edited by Niner Alpha, 17 May 2011 - 10:11 AM.


#18 NorwichCadet

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 05:33 PM

This all reminds me of a story about me. When I was a young lad of about 6 I had trouble hearing (had other troubles but we won't go into them) and it was attributed to my adenoids. To solve the problem the Army doctors (my father was career USA) sent me to a specialist who stuck radium tipped rods down my both nostrels to do whatever to the adenoids. I only remember that if I was perfectly still it didn't hurt but if I moved my head it hurt like hell. I'm 69 and am fine- I tell ENT doctors this today and they can't believe it.

#19 TRR

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 06:08 PM

Tritium is still in active use with M64 mortar sights as well as the aiming post lamps. Worked great for night-ops. It is labeled radioactive and was only considered dangerous when the glass was broke. I never saw one get broke, so I don't know what kind of chaos that would caused.

#20 rr01

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 06:52 PM

Back in my other life we had illuminated underwater compasses. These were really old, I mean pre~Mike Nelson. Anyhow, the T.O. for these things limited the quantity to be shipped to somewhere around one pallet. I believe the warnings remain because the warnings are required simply because there is SOME amount of raw nuclear element. Yes, better safe than sorry.


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