General Question

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

How dangerous is radioactive gold?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (24451points) 2 months ago
6 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

To wear as jewelry?

I found out recently that a small portion of the world’s supply of gold is radioactive.

Is this a concern?

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Zaku's avatar

I’m not willing to do any actual research on this, but IIRC, the gold you “found out” about is generally not health-significantly radioactive.

But many things could become dangerously radioactive, if zapped enough.

Some rocks are red hot and will burn you. “How dangerous are heated rocks?” Same kind of answer: Depends on how heated the rock is, and how much contact you have with it.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Radioactive gold is used for prostate cancer treatments.

seawulf575's avatar

You are asking two questions: Is radioactive gold dangerous and Should I worry about my gold jewelry causing me problems from being radioactive. The danger comes from the amount of the element you have, if the radioisotopes are naturally occurring or not, the half-life, the daughter products of decay, and the method of decay. All of these things play into the “danger” of the element.

Yes, radioactive gold can be dangerous, just like every radioactive element out there. However, it appears that most of the radioactive isotopes (I say “most” because I’m not ruling out random ones occurring naturally) are synthetic. Man makes them for whatever use. So if you are worried about your gold ring causing your skin to burn off, don’t. No one is going to create a radioactive gold ring just to sell it. Besides, most of the radioactive half-lives are so short that it would stop being gold before you could complete the transaction to buy it.

RocketGuy's avatar

Half lives seem rather short so if you order it online it will be half gone by the time you receive it:

However, short half life means a lot of particles come out every second (high rate) the first few days. That’s bad if you are nearby when it happens.

gorillapaws's avatar

According to Auric Goldfinger it’s the perfect way to get rich quick.

seawulf575's avatar

@RocketGuy “short half life means a lot of particles come out every second (high rate) the first few days.” Partially true. Not every release from a radioactive decay has the same damage capacity. And it also depends on how much you have in the beginning. If you have very little gold, the amount of radiation coming off it quickly falls to near zero.

But there is another piece of the puzzle that needs to be looked at. I have neither the appropriate tool handy nor the patience to explain decay chains. You’d need a Chart of the Nuclides to properly trace the chains. When radioactive isotopes decay, they give up energy in the form or wave (x-ray, gamma) or particle (Alpha, Beta, Neutron) to get to a stable state. When this happens, the isotope actually changes into something completely different. This is called a daughter product. But the daughters might also be radioactive, resulting in more release of energy. This goes on until a stable element is found.

Also, with gold having many isotopes in the nanosecond range for half-life, those isotopes would be gone before the order was processed. Half-life is the amount of time it takes a given isotope to cut the amount of radioactivity in half. First half life is half the original, second half life is a quarter of the original, third is an eighths, etc. Convention says that after 7 half-lives the radiation is effectively gone (stops being able to be measured accurately). Of course this is a thumb rule and really depends on how much you start with.

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