At the beginning of the 20th century, Radium was thought to have beneficial health properties and was often added to consumer products such as toothpaste, hair creams, and even food. Radium was also used until the early 1970s in ”glow-in-the-dark” paints, e.g., for dials on clocks, and in other industrial applications such as instrument calibration. Radium was even used in medical applications during the 20th century.
Everyone is exposed to low levels of Radium because it occurs naturally in the environment. It is present in soil, water, rocks, coal, plants, and even food. High levels of Radium are typically found in waste from former Radium processing and manufacturing facilities, or at former manufacturing facilities that used Radium and have been improperly cleaned. You may be exposed to higher levels of Radium if you work in a specific job using these materials.
It is important to note that radon, a byproduct of Radium, can be present in buildings, particularly in basements. The majority of radon exposures in buildings are from radon coming up from the ground.
The presence of Radium does not mean that adverse health effects are occurring or could occur. Low levels of exposure to Radium are normal, and there is no evidence that exposure to low levels is harmful. The potential for health effects depends on several factors including the amount of Radium present, amount of time spent near contamination, proximity to the source of radiation, and whether any shielding (e.g., concrete or lead that blocks radiation) is in place.