Just pour and peel! Also slices and dices.
Put away that Swiffer—when you’ve got a real mess to clean up, turn to this blue goo.
Japanese officials looking to clean up radioactive contamination are applying a product called DeconGel to the problem. The usual method is distressingly Stone Age: soap and water applied by human beings. As you can imagine, there are a number of problems with this, like what to do with all that radioactive water, which has a tendency to leak all over the place, and what to do about radiation exposure of said human beings.
Should we be strapping these to our torsos?
We’re all a little bit radioactive now. Thanks to atom bomb tests in the mid-20th century, it’s possible to use radioactive (but harmless) carbon-14 to date not only bristlecone pines and putative Noah’s Arks but also, in a recent Karolinska Institutet study, Grandma and Grandpa’s artery fat.
The technique used in this study—radiocarbon dating—is widely employed by archaeologists and geologists to determine when organisms like fossilized trees or plants lived. All organisms absorb carbon-14 along with normal carbon-12 in a ratio that mirrors how much of each type is present in the atmosphere. (Carbon-14 is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere by cosmic rays, and then mixes throughout the atmosphere and into the oceans.) When an organism dies, the carbon-14 starts to decay at a known rate—half the atoms become nitrogen-14 in about 5,700 years—and the amount left in the tissue when it’s dug up can be used to back-calculate its age.
Think your cheese grater consists solely of pure, unadulterated metal? Don’t be so sure. An investigation by Scripps Howard News Service revealed that thousands of common items, from shovels to elevator buttons, contain radioactive metals, thanks to a system that does not require potentially radioactive recycled metals to be tested or reported.
A few items that might set off your Geiger counter:
• Women’s handbags
• Fencing wire and fence posts
• Shovel blades
• Airline parts
• Reclining chairs
• Steel used in construction
But don’t encase yourself in lead just yet: Experts remain divided over whether continuous exposure to low levels of radioactivity poses a significant health risk. And don’t forget that plenty of other seemingly innocent objects are naturally slightly radioactive. That includes bananas, which contain a low level of a radioactive potassium isotope, and ceramic pots, because the clay they’re made out of is radioactive.