Buyer Beware!

Published November 30, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1

radiation clock

It’s pretty isn’t it? Does it keep time? Yes, it does. It’s made of copper. It runs on a mainspring and has to be wound up. This particular clock was made in West Germany. Year unknown. So why should the buyer beware? Is there some knock-off alarm clock at Target that has more bells and whistles? Nope.

Look at the hands of the clock. Notice that nice-looking green paint on them. And what about it? The green paint is called luminal. During the Edwardian era and clear into the Twenties, this paint was notorious for one overt bad element that wasn’t understood back then: it’s radioactive and can expose a person to a small dose of radiation. Luminal paint was applied because of its ‘glow-in-the-dark’ effect it produces. Over time, however, this paint loses its glow and the chemical structures break down. The small inset glass won’t protect from its radioactive properties, either.

Would you want this on your nightstand? I sure wouldn’t. I was keen to the painted hands after watching two very informative documentaries about Hidden Killers of the Victorian home and Hidden Killers of the Edwardian home.

Was luminal restricted to just clocks? Nope. Way back during the 19th and turn of the 20th centuries luminal was used in clothing, toys, and people even hosted luminal balls never realizing they were exposing themselves to radiation.

Both documentaries intrigued me immensely simply because I love both eras. I love how they dressed back then. But I don’t agree with their strict morals or domineering attitudes. It got me thinking so I reviewed all of my antiques, and thankfully, never collected anything with luminal paint on it. I do have books with gold-painted pages, gold-painted shaving mugs and some uranium glass known as carnival glass and depression (era) glass and the risk of heavy metal toxicity exposure still remains, perhaps.

I always strongly advise to wash and dry your hands before and after handling such antiques. Never touch your eyes, nose or mouth either, and don’t make a regular habit of drinking or eating off of the antique dinnerware. I will get more into the Transferware and Ironstone dishes in another post. However, the Vaseline glass does emit a glow when placed under a black light, so although not related to the luminal paint specifically, can fall into this category of glowing antiques. If you ever get the chance read about the Radiation girls its very creepy what they were subjected to being purposely mislead to believe that radium was safe.

The radiation girls were U.S. factory workers who all came down with radiation poisoning from ingesting the luminous paint used on the clock dials. They would lick their brushes to a fine point thus ingesting small levels of radiation.

So does this clock from West Germany contain radiation since the dials are painted? Who knows. But its better to be safe than sorry. Thanks for liking, commenting, re-blogging, sharing. I truly appreciate it. 🙂






9 comments on “Buyer Beware!

  • OMG! No way …..! This has totally freaked me out. I had lots of ‘glow in the dark’ things such as alarm clocks. I always used to pull things like this apart to see how they worked! 😦

    • Sorry to scare the pants off you, 😦 I believe this radiation paint isn’t being used anymore (at least I would hope not). But it does leave me to wonder about all those ‘non-toxic’glow in the dark products we have nowadays like glow sticks, glow in the dark fangs, etc. I was made aware of this particular paint after watching those documentaries since I do have various antiques and it made me take notice. The story about the Radiation Girls prompted me to blog about the luminous paints used in antiques and how to identify it and steer clear of it, if at all possible. I’d say you might be safe if the alarm clocks were made during or after the 1970’s. Around 1977 changes, at least here in the U.S., where being made especially the awareness of lead-based paints used in homes and buildings built before this time and the connection to kids eating lead paint and getting sick off of it as well. I don’t know the exact year they stopped using this radiation paint (if they ever did), but I’ll keep researching it and update my post. Thank you so much for your comment. I used to take apart talking machines in my younger days just to a.) see how they worked and so I could get over their ‘creepy’ supernatural vibe since the early Victrolas, including all Edison phonographs, don’t use electricity, and b.) to clean the gears thoroughly so mechanically they would run quietly and last three more lifetimes. I don’t advise taking apart a talking machine phonograph since the mainsprings are huge and under tension. I always sent the mainsprings to a professional to have them overhauled and repaired if it was needed. Like you I’m fascinated by how things work too.

      • Whew … my owl alarm clock I did that to was surely made in the 70’s! Not only did I want to look at the glowing bits, I wanted to see how his eyes moved from side to side with each tick. It does make me wonder when you see a spike in certain age groups with such things as cancer as to what they were exposed to when they were younger. I too explored anything that made noises. I pulled them all apart to see how they worked. Radios … telephones …. I did sort of get in a bit of trouble with the phones. LOL! 🙂

      • Yep, I did that to a Chatty Cathy doll from the 1950s to get her to talk. And my brother worked on that and I got in his way because I was curious, but we couldn’t make out what the doll was supposed to have said when you pulled the string. That doll didn’t make it into adulthood (be glad I won’t post a pic)… Lol. But I was always fascinated to learn how things worked and would find ways to take them apart. And yes, I agree with you about the cancer and certain age groups links. I’ve researched some of what they were exposed to way, way back then, and boy howdy, it was some scary (then untested, unknown and dangerous) stuff. In one hundred years from now I wonder if they’ll link the cell phones we have to something horrible. Same goes for those LED lights, Lithuim batteries, etc.

      • Yes! I hear you. Both my Mum and Aunty (Mum’s sister) had cancer (so did their Mum and Dad). I can remember them talking about a chemical that was sprayed on them down at the public pools. The pools were actually part of a river. It was to keep mozzies and flies away. I remember them questioning what it actually was. They were all big swimmers.

      • I’m sorry to hear your family had cancer. 😦 My dad’s mother died from an extremely rare form of Leukemia (so we were told this) and we can only assume it was due to the industrial chemical de-greaser they made my grandmother use in the bakery department to clean off the grills every morning and night. Yep, I’d be questioning what was in those sprays they used at the public pools.

  • Growing up in the 1950s, I definitely recall glow-in-the-dark watches as well as clocks — and weren’t there toys coated with it as well? It’s a wonder any of us Baby Boomers survived, what with the DDT and chlordane regularly sprayed by homeowners, the mosquito-fogging trucks that kids used to run after as they came down the streets, and the paregoric (aka opium) that doctors told our mothers to give us for “tummy aches” and “colic”! :-O

    • Yeah, toys were coated with that stuff. I had a few glow worms (plastic glow in the dark toys from the 80s). Even though it stated “Non-Toxic” I never believed the claim. I’d also avoid most glow in the dark stuff years later though. I remember they removed some chemical out of the mosquito repellents awhile back and now it doesn’t work like it once did. But if the chemical was dangerous then I see why they did it. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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