The Japanese Education, Science and Technology Ministry have issued a recall notice for 5,500 cell phone straps that contain the radioactive substance tritium.

The straps, not surprisingly marketed as “glow in the dark cell phone straps” had been on sale since the beginning of the year, although not with widespread distribution. The Hiroshima couple making the straps was arrested primarily for selling the straps without a license, ….

I will refrain from all the obvious things that could be said at this point….



  1. #1 Ritchie Annand
    December 10, 2008


    That never struck me as a commonly-available element for manufacture, though now that I look, I see such odd products as Tritium Vials.

    At least it doesn’t emit slow neutrons or gamma rays, just electrons as it turns into 3He.

  2. #2 clinteas
    December 10, 2008

    At least it doesn’t emit slow neutrons or gamma rays

    So whats the big deal??

  3. #3 CRM-114
    December 10, 2008

    Did you know they used to put radium on the dials of wristwatches?

  4. #4 rpenner
    December 10, 2008

    I thought tritium was available for a whole lot of consumer glow-in-the-dark applications outside the US.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    December 10, 2008

    The main uses of tritium are for boosting fission reaction bombs and making things glow green like watch bands and such.

    I don’t know what the exact problem is with this situation, which is why I posted it. There are interesting ironies and open questions.

  6. #6 Ritchie Annand
    December 10, 2008

    It does emit electrons, i.e. “beta radiation”, and that can still cause tissue damage. It’s not amazingly strong, but from the outside, it is enough to penetrate to the growing layer in your skin, and that’s more than deep enough to cause some havoc if enough of it gets into your body. Chronic exposure like that is the bigger worry.

    However, I don’t otherwise know what the issue here would be. Electrons aren’t hard to block, so unless they were being particularly negligent…

  7. #7 Mr.
    December 10, 2008

    I’ve had tritium keychains before. Used in handgun sights in the states all the time. No threat to you, and totally neat. I’d buy one if I could, especially if it’s a good deal. Glows in the dark, and never needs a recharge (for 10-20 years).
    Probably shouldn’t sleep with it against your eye every night for five years, though.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    December 10, 2008

    Actually, the main thing is you should not ingest it. But yea, sticking it in your eye all day would be bad. Even sticking something benign like a watermelon in your eye all day would be bad.