Fear and Personal Radiation Detectors

23:58 Thu 14 Dec 2006
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Niall sent me a large number of messages today about accidents resulting in radiation poisoning. Reading about completely unsafe practices and the escape of radioactive materials into the commercial scrap metal business made me feel rather unsafe.

Unsafe enough to consider buying a NukAlert keychain radiation detector…

A list of accidents causing radiation casualties might make you feel unsafe, too. The tremendous lethality of the substances involved, coupled with carelessness and/or the lack of any natural warnings (smell, heat, etc.) make the prospect particularly scary in my opinion.

Of course, what are the odds of being injured by something like that? More importantly, what are the odds of being injured by radiation poisoning in a situation where you could do something significant about it if warned by a detector? The odds of the former are certainly low, and the odds of the latter would be lower yet, although by how much it’s difficult to say. Nevertheless, this feels like the kind of thing where if you’re going to buy a radiation detector, you should also buy a gas mask and various detectors for poison gases, plus antidotes for all kinds of other poisons, and you should prepare all your own food with an intimate knowledge of where it came from and where it’s been… and you should probably wear a helmet all the time to protect against random head injuries.

On the other hand, there is something geekily appealing about a keychain radiation detector.

Is this a classic consumerist trope? Person reads article about scary thing unlikely to befall them (especially in any way that would be preventable by them), person gets scared of scary thing, person finds commercial device/bauble marketed at assuaging that fear, person associates something other than fear with bauble (perhaps that’s the real key to marketing… helping the target rationalize their fear-driven decision), person purchases bauble, person feels “safer”?

2 Responses to “Fear and Personal Radiation Detectors”

  1. Helen Says:

    Heh. Maybe one to ask my father about?

  2. tadhg.com » Leading Causes of Death Says:

    [...] My friend Brian, after reading Fear and Personal Radiation Detectors, read up on leading causes of death in the US and concluded that wasn’t really worth it to worry about radiation poisoning. He has a point. The leading cause of death is heart disease, followed by cancer (and I don’t think that one can really claim that any significant amount of this cancer is caused by radiation detectable by NukAlert, or by radiation due to the kinds of accidents under discussion on Thursday). Accidents of all kinds place a distant fifth, with 108,694 deaths in the US in 2004. 46,933 of these were transport accidents, and the vast majority of these were accidents involving motor vehicles. “Accidental poisoning and exposure to noxious substances” would seem to cover radiation poisoning (and a lot of other things) and accounts for 19,250 of the deaths is 2004. Not that many, in other words. One in almost 16,000 people. As opposed to around in 460 for heart disease. [...]

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