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How can I test for radioactivity in tissues?


eriksen
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Are there any simple ways to test the amount of radioactive traces in tissues from dead animals? For some years ago I bought some Rhino horns from an auction company which they claimed were from the interwar period. I´ve been told that I could find out this by testing for radioactivity in the tissue because animals which were alive after ww2 had a larger amount of radioactivity in the body because of all the nuclear test explosions after that time.

 

Anybody here who know how I can do this?

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Any test you do requires a baseline or calibration of some sort. Using a geiger counter, exposing photographic film or an electroscope are three methods of testing for ionizing radiation.

Which of these will be the simplest and most affordable?

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For the amount of radioactive material that you would expect to find in rhino horn you need expensive sophisticated equipment that will tell you exactly what radioisotopes you have. Just a Geiger counter or whatever won't do the job because you need to distinguish radiation from, for example, plutonium, from radiation from natural uranium etc.

 

It's barely possible for an individual (unless he has very deep pockets) and the first step would be to dissolve the horn in hot acid..

 

These people might be able to help you.

http://www.cites.org/

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For the amount of radioactive material that you would expect to find in rhino horn you need expensive sophisticated equipment that will tell you exactly what radioisotopes you have. Just a Geiger counter or whatever won't do the job because you need to distinguish radiation from, for example, plutonium, from radiation from natural uranium etc.

 

It depends on what you want to find out. If you want the composition you are correct, but if it's merely the presence of radiation, or a difference from some baseline, then a simpler test will suffice.

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To determine is something is pre war or post war by looking at radiation means looking at whether it's got evidence of the atom bombs and tests.

There's bound to be radioactive material present in the horn.

But if there is plutonium you can be pretty sure it wasn't there in 1939. Ditto elevated tritium levels or 129 Iodine.

The gross radioactivity will depend on the rhino's diet etc. so it would be very difficult or impossible to judge its age by any simple measurement of Bq/g

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The cites link is the crucial one - the worry is that it is a vendor trying to "clean up" illegally sourced horn. I would check your jurisdiction's law and those of the vendor and any intermediary country before parting with any cash

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Another question is "who cares?" Rhino horn is only useful if you are a rhino.

It's fraudulent to sell it on the basis of any medicinal claims, even if it's otherwise legal.

On that point I wish (amongst a flood of regulations that we don't really need) the government would properly regulate the sale of "natural", "herbal", "other spiritual claptrap" remedies. If consumers are buying an item to effect a medical outcome of some sort then the item's purveyors should have to jump through the same sort of hurdles that the manufacturers of mainstream pharmaceuticals have to. Unfortunately I am not sure that you could sue or prosecute for fraud - the claims are so nebulous and rely on word of mouth rather than documented claims; but I would love to see someone sue and set a precedent that these snakeoil merchants have to be able to back up their claims

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Good point.

Where would you start?

would you start with the homoeopaths, since they have the least plausibility or perhaps with those selling rhino horn on the grounds that they are not only committing fraud but are driving innocent animals to extinction?

 

At least the homoeopaths have inspired a few good jokes.

My two favourites are "have you heard about the homoeopath who forgot to take his remedy and died of an overdose ?" and this cartoon

http://xkcd.com/765/

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As there is the vaguest possibility the rhino horn, tiger bone, herbal medicine brigade have chanced onto something that does work once in a blue moon I would go for the homoeopaths. Although for many years (prior to sulphonamides) the Royal Homoeopathic Hospital did have an enviable record in the treatment of disease - ie they did nothing as opposed to all the experimental treatments that did more harm than good! But on those terms we would still be dying of TB in our droves - so put the homoeopaths on the road to regulation and proper testing.

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I believe there are hysterical americans that have already invented radioactivity kits for granite kitchens.

But when you say tissues...you think one of your body fluids is radioactive? Or do you mean the Kleenex itself? That is cotton, which is not radioactive on itself.

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