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Safety of GLOCK Tritium Sights?

Discussion in 'General Glocking' started by ElevatedThreat, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. ElevatedThreat

    ElevatedThreat NRA Member

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    A poster recently asked if carrying the Tritium night-sights on his GLOCK close to his body would give him a tumor.

    Lots of posters responded to give him a big ration of crap for asking the question, but none of them gave him a very good scientific explanation for why it is not dangerous to carry night sights on your person.

    So, in the interest of raising the general intellectual level of the discussion around here, here goes:

    If you recall your basic high school chemistry and physics, all matter is composed of atoms. In turn, atoms are composed of a nucleus, made up of at least one proton (positively charged) and usually one or more neutrons (neutral charged). The nucleous is surrounded by electrons (negatively charged) that are arranged in quantum-maechanical probability clouds, called "shells."

    Tritium (3H) is unstable because in addition to its one proton (like ordinary Hydrogen), a tritium atom has two extra neutrons in its nucleus. These extra neutrons give tritium an excess amount of potential nuclear energy.

    Because of the extra energy in its nucleous, tritium will undergo radioactive decay at a random but statistically predicatable rate.

    In its radioactive decay process, the tritium atom emits a beta particle (ß-). In so doing, it conveniently dacays to normal Helium:

    3H ---> 3He + ß-

    The decay process reduces the energy in the nucleus to the normal amount for a regular Helium atom, which is stable with respect to further decay. In a night-sight, the beta-particle hits a phosphorescent liquid that it is suspended in, and makes that substance emit a photon, which we see as a glowing light.

    Actually, current nuclear theory holds that the decay process also produces an additional theoretical particle as a by-product of its decay. That perticle is called an "anti-neutrino." But, this is of no biological significance, because the psuedo-particle can't actually interact with regular matter in any meaningful way. So, for our purposes, unless you are debating the origin of the universe with that electronic-talking wheelchair guy, Steven Hawking, the anti-neutrino can be completely ignored.

    (For that matter, pun intended, recent work in tritium decay theory has produced an hypothesis of Tachyonic Neutrinos. Numerous recent measurements indicate an excess of unexplained counts near the endpoint of the electron energy spectrum produced by experimental tritium decay. This effect would be expected if the anti-neutrino emitted were actuall a theoretical tachyon particle, as predicted by certain kinds of string-theory. In results of calculations based on a unitary (causal) theory of tachyons, the hypothesis of tachyonic neutrinos also offers a natural explanation of the V-A structure of the weak leptonic current measured experimentally in neutrino interactions. But I digress....)

    The beta particle, for its part, is also not all that dangerous to humans, because it is of such low energy as to be essentially non-penetrating of clothing or even skin. It has a maximum energy of 18.5 keV and an average energy of 5.6 keV. This is very low energy compared to most radioactive beta-emitters. As such, even a few inches of air, your holster (or your underwear, either clean or dirty), or even just the outer layer of dead skin that is present on all human tissue (eeewwww! I just heard some girl out there say) will stop the beta particle from entering, and interacting with, your body.

    Only if tritium is taken internally by eating, drinking, or getting it in an open cut, can it enter the body to produce a biologically significant radiation dose. But even then, tritium is really not all that dangerous, even if it is swallowed, because since tritium has a single electron, it will react chemically to form compounds just like regular hydrogen. Namely that is, it just forms water (well, technically it forms "heavy water," or 3H2O, which for all practical purposes behaves in the body just like normal water).

    That means that within a very few hours after it is swallowed, all the tritium in the GLOCK front night-sight that you just snacked on will be evenly distributed throughout all the regular water in your body. So, no one part of your precious body will get much of a dose of radiation from the tritium decay, even when it is happening INSIDE your body.

    Plus, we all know where the water in your body very quickly ends up -- especially if you drink a lot of beer!

    The amount of time it takes for half of the tritium you eat or drink to wind up in the toilet depends on a lot of individual biological factors, but it is typically figured by doctors to be about 10 days.

    Given that the half-life of tritium (the time it takes for 50% of it to decay and release beta radiation) is 12.3 years, you can see that not very damn much of it is going to decay while it is still inside your body.

    What's the bottom line of all of this prattle? Well, if the night-sights on a GLOCK contain about 18 mCi of tritium (which they do), and if you eat the whole thing (which you ought not to do), the resulting Committed Effective Dose Equivalent (CEDE, a term that doctors use to measure biologically significant radiation exposure) would be less than about 1000 mrem, or about double to triple what a person normally gets in a year, just from drinking the trace amounts of tritium that are naturally found as a small percentage of all regular water.

    So, carry those night-sights in your inside-the-pants holster, right up front, with the front sight right over top of the ole' family jewels, and relax!

    (Just keep your finger off the trigger until the gun is out of your pants!)

    -ET
     
  2. DonD

    DonD

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    About the only way tritium effectively enters the body is as tritiated water vapor through the lungs. So, you'd have to be in a humid environment, break the night sight capsules and ensure you inhaled right above it to even get the dose that Elevatedthreat mentioned. Don
     

  3. win231

    win231

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    Thanks for the info. I've always thought that stuff we clean guns with is probably more harmful than tritium.
    I'd be more concerned about X-rays than night sights.
     
  4. ejw-g19

    ejw-g19

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    Well, that's exactly what I was about to post. I am sure others were too but did not have the tenacity to get it all out!

    Well written..;)
     
  5. shoottokill

    shoottokill great ******

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    ap chemistry all over again. that was well said and interesting to read thanks!!!!! now whats the effects on beer on the human body??? please elaborate. lol jk :laughabove: :laughabove:
     
  6. Quail Fat

    Quail Fat Member

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    While driving in my car, I stuff my G30 under my nuts. It has mepro sights. Heck all my guns have night sights, so when my wife got pregnant with my son Clayton, when he was born, his right hand looked like a lobster claw and he didn't have any toes. He has no nipples and his mouth is really large. His ears don't have any cartlidge and his nostils are flared out really wide. He's ugly as hell, but I wouldn't trade him for the world.:alien: Then I woke up and it was all a bad dream.
     
  7. glocker2006

    glocker2006

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    In response to Elevated Threat. What?:laughabove:
     
  8. spober

    spober

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    rahhhhobster craw roadrunner master san cheeeez!