Radiation & Metals

Hello Orchid-

Have thoroughly enjoyed reading your Q & A’s for years, but now have
a Q of my own.

In the next 2 or 3 days I will be starting “high dose radiation
treatment” for thyroid cancer. I’m supposed to start with one
100-mille curie dose of I-131 radioactive iodine, and then spend
the next 8 days in isolation. I’m to stay at least 6’ away from
people, pets, pots, pans & projects, as everything I come into
contact with will be exposed to radioactivity in doses high enough
to dictate that I’m to use disposable hair/toothbrushes, clothing,
etc. during week one. No holding a phone, Kindle, or laptop.

I am in the middle of an exciting Copper PMC project, and would like
to keep working. I respect the rules of my treatment, but I would
really appreciate more My Doctor is always in such a
rush that he doesn’t even let me finish a question before saying
"let me stop you right there…" as he is apparently so all
knowing he can anticipate what I’m about to ask. When I mentioned
my desire to work during this down time on ‘crafts’ (simplified
for him) he said that if I were to say, knit a cap for example, the
cap would have unsafe levels of radioactivity. He couldn’t even
begin to grasp what PMC was, didn’t want to learn, and seemed
exasperated by anything that slowed his pace for even a moment, as
well as my need to find something to do while essentially locked up
for a week.

So my question to you very intelligent people who understand the way
particles and molecules behave, and the reasons, is this: Just what
WOULD likely happen if I were to work on this copper PMC project?
Would the radioactivity left in the copper clay be a danger to
anyone who might likely wear the item sometime later? It’s still in
it’s green state, the work remaining is mostly sanding and
engraving, and then it will be fired for at least 3 hours at 1750F.
It would be nice to understand the science. In addition, I have the
option of finishing the Viking knit chain for the item, also copper
(wire). All

input appreciated!

Thanks, and Best Wishes,
Sharon Miklos-Thompson
Sanford, Florida

Hi Sharon,

I’m sorry, but I’m the bearer of bad news.

During this period you are toxic, I have a friends daughter going
through something similar, she is not allowed to touch people.

Essentially you have to avoid contact with everything, for the
safety of others.

I truly am sorry.
Regards Charles A.

My Doctor is always in such a rush that he doesn't even let me
finish a question 

Do you have the option of consulting another doctor? This one seems
to be covering his own insecurity.

A radioactive knit cap???

Al Balmer
Pine City, NY


For the next little while you will be emitting radiation (Gamma)
from anywhere the I-131 accumulates (Mostly in the throat area).
Gamma is not a problem for crafting because it does not incite
secondary radiation (at least in doses that would not kill you
outright) in what it hits, unlike neutron emissions.

The reason for the prohibition of touching stuff like a kindle, is
that a certain amount of I-131 will be excreted trough body liquids
(Sweat, Urine, etc.) and anyone handling the object after you could
in theory absorb a miniscule dose (Mind you in the someone was a
baby a minuscule dose for an adult is a major dose for a 1 month old)

If you were willing to put up with wearing a simple face mask and
latex gloves, I don’t see any reason why you could not craft, and
even that I think is overkill.


The reason you have been told to keep away from other people and pets
is not the radiation emitted by the radioisotope (or yourself) but
because when you sweat you will sweat salts that contain the
radioactive iodine. The radiation itself wouldnt penetrate the skin
of a person but a person could pick up your sweat from any of these
sources and the iodine would fix in their thyroid gland causing an
increased radiation damage risk to a healthy person.

Working on any of your metal projects isnt going to cause any
problems as you are going to clean them. Heating wont alter the
isotope-it may evaporate them but this means that it gets into the
atmosphere but that isnt really a hazard compared to background
radiation. What I would do is wear thin latex or neoprene gloves
whilst working, you know the sort-surgical or inspection gloves they
are called. Pretty good for handling clean objects or bits that have
been in the acid bath anyway. Best of luck and carry on with your
projects but dont lick them.

Nick Royall

Hi Sharon,

I did a little digging on wikipedia, (god help us all) and I
discovered a couple of things:

(A) half life of I-131 is 8 days, which is why you’re stuck for 8
days. Translation: after 8 days, half of the particles will have
decayed. 8 days later, half of the remainder, and so on. It never
gets to zero, but it drops pretty fast.

(B) I-131 emits beta and gamma rays. Serious stuff. Capable of
creating secondary radiation in metal objects. So, absolutely,
positively, thou shalt not make jewelry for anybody else to wear
while you’re hot. Sorry. I know you’re bored, but this is for real.
20 20 © The article also says that small exposures are far more
dangerous than large ones, so again, this says NO JEWELRY MAKING.
(reason being that large exposures just flat out kills the cells,
while small ones let them live, but damaged, which causes thyroid
cancer later.)

(D) yeah, it’s wikipedia, but it jibes with what I know about
radionuclides from a seriously misspent childhood, so I’m inclined
to believe it.

My suggestion would be to send somebody to radio shack to get one of
those cheap “universal” remotes for the cable. Use it for two weeks,
then trash it. Saves junking the real one. Besides, I suspect that
lying back and watching the tube is going to be pretty close to all
you’re going to want to do for a week afterwards anyway.

Also, having seen a movie in this series before, if it were me, I’d
pull your doc up short now, while you’ve got the energy. Tell him that
"no, he can’t just stop you now, he’ll bloody well answer your
questions", in short, simple sentences.20 It is not in any way
unreasonable to demand coherent explanations of what these guys are
about to do to you, and why. It’s also not a bad idea to have someone
near and dear to you who gets to be your advocate with the medics
while you’re out of it.20 It’s likely that you will be pretty out of
it, and that having someone who’s firing on all cylinders will be a
very good thing.

Good luck,

Half life is only part of the equation. What you need to know is what
the initial dose will be. Normally for beta gamma it is given in RADs
or REMs. If not RADs or REMs then Curies. In my previous life in the
U.s. Navy I was taught that a human being is allowed a onetime
maximum dose of you age minus 18 times 5 in RADs or REMs. For me it
would be 63 - 18 = 45, then 45 X 5 = 225 RADs or REMs. I doubt if
you will be given more than that, but ask just the same. Then the
biological half life goes into effect, which is many times shorter
that the normal half life. I worked with this stuff for 4 1/2 years
and you don’t have to fear it, just respect it.

Best of luck,
Ken Moore

Dear Brian,

unfortunately you are talking out of your hat. The gamma ray energy
will barely excite the atoms in any jewellery enough to give off
their own radiation. If you had a huge high energy radiation source
you can generate x-rays from the jewellery but they will not emit
anything after you remove the source of the radiation. A bit like
turning off a light switch. Once you no longer have a source of
electrons the light bulb no longer emits any light. QED

Therefore it is perfectly safe to work with your jewellery as long as
you dont get bodily fluids all over it for reasons already explained.

Nick Royall

Essentially you have to avoid contact with everything, for the
safety of others. 

So I think you could work with the bronze or copper clay, but would
have to throw it all away (with proper disposal). It could still be
valuable practice and therapeutic. Perhaps air dry clay would be


Hello Sharon,

First off, I wish you a speedy and full recovery!

At this point I would be concerned with the future of my bed and
other furniture on which one must certainly rest during this week of
quarantine before wondering about the copper. Has the doctor or his
staff given you any more guidance on that front? Have they given you
any contacts to talk to about how to actually go through that week
without killing yourself from the boredom? You are obviously not the
first to be going through this so someone must have data on what to
expect and what will need to be discarded. I am surprised that if it
is that crucial you not touch anything that they allow people to be
at home during this time.

And what happens to those discarded personal items and clothing you
will use during the week? Do they just go to the landfill? Do you
have to discard them through some special haz-mat agency, and if
not, why not? How does anyone know that by putting it in the regular
garbage, someone unknowingly will not be contaminated? We are told
not to put old prescriptions in the toilet to avoid contaminating
the water supply, not to put them in the trash to also avoid
filtration down to the water table, although landfills are supposed
to have liners to prevent this but, here in the Sunshine State where
they don’t give a hoot about the environment that probably would be
met with a snort of incredulity. So if you do the project and it is
too radiated afterwards, where does it go?

I can’t speak to the radiation with your copper PMC project but
wonder if you can go ahead and just do the work for nothing more
than to keep your sanity and then have the pieces tested afterwards
for radiation. But then what about your tools, your bench, the chair
you sit in, the kiln when you open and close it? Still a lot of
questions in my mind.

If I were to not touch anything for a week, it would mean standing
in the middle of the room at all times, not something a person
undergoing medical treatment can or wants to do. So what about the
spot on which I stand? It sounds like the doc is not being very
forthcoming. Perhaps his staff is a little more empathetic. You
might try contacting the American Cancer Society for more
also. Keep in mind you might feel pretty awful for a
couple of days and this conjecturing about the copper might all be

You have my kindest thoughts and best wishes as you go through this
challenge. Best of luck and a speedy recovery!


Laughter is good medicine…Alberic’s suggestion to grasp this
mutton head by the shirt collar & pull him up all gangster style
really cracked me up, and would benefit all his patients who dread
their appointments with him. There is great merit to all that you’ve
written, and some of it explains why I’m doing this today. It seems
that the younger we are when we get exposed to radiation, the more
damage it does to the thyroid first, then digestive systems. When I
was 4-5, my Father worked for General Electric near the ladies
painted the florescent materials on watch / clock hands and numbers,
etc. If we visited him, I would be drawn to them because they were
painting, fun fun, and my good Doctor feels that exposure would be
enough to destroy normal thyroid function in a child, which would
explain a lifetime of thyroid problems. This is my second go with
thyroid cancer; I had half my thyroid removed 20 years ago, the rest
in April, and now that they are destroying the last traces of iodine
seeking tissue with this treatment, hopefully my last. And hopefully
my lymph nodes are not polluted, contaminated, etc.

Thinking back to those nice painting ladies; they used to use their
lips to form the tip of the brush into a fine point to paint these
tiny dials. Their insides must have become charcoal briquettes. It
looked innocent enough, but the general populous was fairly ignorant
to the dangers of this invisible menace. They weren’t children, but
the doses they must have gotten…

Well, I’m off to get my pill. I have Dad’s old 2002 Sony laptop in
reserve; I’m surprised they still let me on the internet driving
that old thing. I’ve decided I will use the week to work on my
website. Last year I purchased “Website Tonight” and still have
nothing to show, largely because I’m too easily distracted by shiny
objects and the work I wish to ultimately promote. Keeping sweat off
the keyboard should be easy, and I can always get the laptop checked
out later to be sure it’s safe to use. Better that than to finish a
pendant that will hang ironically just below the customers thyroid.

Thank you for your replies, and for years of education. I’ve been
making $5 monthly contributions to Ganoksin for about 2.5 years, a
pittance for what I’ve gained. Everyone should help. Because
individually & collectively, this is one bright group!

Thank you, and best wishes!

If you were willing to put up with wearing a simple face mask and
latex gloves, I don’t see any reason why you could not craft, and
even that I think is overkill.

I agree with Kay on this. An alternative would simply be to leave
the piece for a few months before letting anybody else touch it. In
12 weeks, the radiation levels will be 1/1000 of an already low
level. You can also get decontamination solutions that will draw out
the iodine from the surface of the piece.

Best wishes for your treatment,


There has been some vastly contradicting advice on this thread so
far! Given the advice the doctor has given (despite his obvious
arrogance), if it were me going through the same treatment as
Sharon, I would first kit myself out with one of those inflatable
camping mattresses and some cheap bedding. I would also get the
cheapest but most comfortable camping chair I could find. I would
pick up disposable plates, bowls and cutlery. Also I would find some
paperback books to read, which could then be thrown away once read,
and some bin (trash) bags. I would camp out in the middle of the
largest room in the house, with nearest and dearest family members
providing my meals on the paper plates, etc, leaving them just
inside the door to the room, and wearing some sort of protective
clothing when disposing of it afterwards. Ooh, how about a cheap
mobile (cell) phone, so that you can have conversations with loved

Use your Dad’s old laptop certainly, but when you’ve had enough of
that for the day, do some reading, or just rest. The idea of a cheap
remote controller for the TV was a good jdea. Of course I’ve
forgotten about the bathroom facilities!!! I guess all this is the
reason that this treatment has always been carried out in the
hospital itself!

My younger sister had this same treatment when she was just ten
years old (she’s 46 now). She was treated in the hospital and was
isolated in a special room, with nurses and doctors entering only if
wearing special protective clothing and following strict guidelines.
My parents visited once a day, but of course could only see her (and
vice versa) through the glass window into the room. Her biggest
disappointment during the whole thing was not being able to have any
contact with family members. It used to really upset my parents too
when visiting, as they couldn’t cuddle her. Of course any contact
(ie talking to) nurses was kept to an absolute minimum - upsetting
for a young child.

So I would think disposable for just about everything you will come
into contact with. It’s upsetting and no fun whatsoever, but
unfortunately necessary. Not so easy in one’s own home either, but
doable with some forethought. But definitely no bench work, or
making anything that would be sold to a customer, to be for example,
worn around their neck (!); the irony of that occurred to me too. I
would think that anything you do, should be carried out with "tools"
that are disposable, ie cutlery, plates, books, sheets, cell phone,
TV remote, etc. Then after the eight days, I would imagine that the
room itself might be left alone for a few days before being
thoroughly cleaned. But all this is just my take on it, considering
the advice given.

I wish you a full recovery Sharon, and hope the eight days do not go
by too slowly. On the other hand, there are people (like myself) who
occasionally enjoy a little solitude, so you could try to approach
the thing positively, and enjoy your alone time? You sure will love
seeing people properly at the end of it!


Hi Sharon,

Good luck.

Apparently, I was being a bit too paranoid, but then again, nuclear
medicine is not my long suite.

I was going by memories of growing up around chemistry labs that did
radioisotope work, and the level of paranoia therein.

About the women at GE with the radium paint: google “radium girls”.
Some of them used to paint their teeth with it for laughs… Pretty
famous case, and a cause of some of the aforementioned paranoia.

I had a thought re the laptop: wrap it in saran wrap, that’ll still
let you type, but keep it from getting sweat & etc on it.

About the doc: I wasn’t really suggesting jerking him up by the
scruff of the neck, tempting though that may be. Simply insist that
he answer your questions fully, and don’t let him steamroller you.
Polite is great, but this is too important to let a bozo use it to
blow you off.

Might also be useful to find out who his boss is, and document a few
of these interactions, and then have a chat with the boss. Depends
on the hospital, but they might care. (Also, talk to the nurses: if
they all think he’s a bozo too, they may be able to point you to the
person you’d best talk to.) (If he’s being a jerk to the patients, I
can only imagine what he’s like to the nurses.)

Best of luck,

The sure way to check is get the isotope reader or Giger counter and
see if it has "Alpha’s. You are either going to die or suffer burns
and-or die a slow-death. Do not “EVER” play with Alpha, Beta, and
Gammas until you are professionally Highly-Educated in these fields
as a note - If your not educated- you are playing death, either now
or later not to mention who else you may contaminate - such as - an
unborn child or if male - “never” having children for the rest of
his short life.

Did-you-get-it ???

Stephen Wyrick, CMBJ


Alpha particles will not be read by a Geiger Counter. Geiger Counters
are for use with Beta Particles and Gamma Rays. The Alpha particle
will not penetrate the wall of the Geiger Muller Tube to cause the
ionization of the gases in the tube. Alpha particle detectors are a
completely different detector from those used to detect Beta
Particles and Gamma Rays. I don’t believe the physicians would
purposely introduce Alpha particles into a humans body. Check the
radionuclide chart to see what element you are working with and then
check to see what is emitted when it decays. Radioactive elements
need not be feared just respected.

Ken Moore

Sharon, I sent you a private email with the but for
everyone else:

I131 is a radioactive isotope of Iodine. It decays with a half life
of 8 days. In ten half lives, all radioactivity has basically
disappeared for all isotopes. It decays by emitting primarily beta
particles. Radiation of beta and gamma will not make a receiving
object radioactive! Radiation is used in these situations to kill
cells (organic, not metal).

There are radioactive isotopes of copper and silver. These isotopes
have different numbers of neutrons in their nucleus, this is what
makes the nucleus unstable and caused the “radioactive” isotope to
decay. Since beta (electrons) and gamma (electromagnetic like light
and radio waves) can not change the neutron structure in the nucleus
of the metal atom that you are working on, you can not make that
metal radioactive from beta and/or gamma radiation.

Yes, people need to take precautions (and other life forms) as the
beta and gamma radiation can/will have a bad effect on living cells.
When I was working in the radiochemistry lab, I wore an exposure
badge, and was very, very careful when handling and or using the
radioactive isotopes that we were working with. My glass beaker did
not become radioactive, but the radiation sure could harm me.

John Atwell Rasmussen, Ph.D., AJP

hi sharon, this is angela eharis, i took one of your wonderful
classes, so sorry to hear aboout your ca,i am a 30+year hospice
nurse and i have never heard of any of what you just mentioned Re:
your radiation and i have taken care of many people during radiation.
this i use as my rule for doctors advice, listen to it, think about
it and then use your own godd judgement and common sense and by all
means don’t give up anything that makes you feel good and whole on a
daily basis, ie: your artwork sharon, i know you well enough to know
how important your art is to you and sharon that is so important for
your healing. oh yeah, can you imagine if every radiation pt.
followed your md’s advice! it would be a scary world, trust me, so as
always in life sharon, follow your heart and wherever it takes you,
your cancer has such a high remission success rate with the radiation
and most people don’t alter their daily routines during this time too
much, lotsa love to you and good thoughts too, aloha, angi in hana


I have read your original message, and all the subsequent messages.
Let me share this with you. I recently dealt with cancer, and
radiation was “suggested.” I am at a Teaching University facility,
and much research is done here. I selected my three oncologists, by
reading their history, education, and research prior to selecting
each of the three.

When it was radiation time, I was given options. Traditional
radiation was directed from outside the body towards the area of the
tumor, and the time frame was daily treatments for at least 40
consecutive days, not on Sundays. What I did learn was that there
was potential scarring of both the lungs and heart. As mine was on
the left side, probably both. this as well as the usual burning of
the skin, and subsequent discomfort as with a severe sun burn.

My second option was a fairly new therapy called Brakytherapy. This
necessitated a second surgery to implant a device called a SAVI.
SAVI has an umbrella like feature, which by a gear on the outside,
can cause the ribs to balloon out and touch all the interior area of
the cavity left after tumor removal. This left 11 wires extending
outside the incision, and to which radiation was delivered after it
being connected wire for wire to a radiation emitting device. The
degree of radiation was accelerated so only 10 treatments instead of
40 were delivered.

This device does not have the history or success rate of whole body
radiation, less than 5 years, vs. 25 years. I chose this one, and
after being hooked up was left in a lead room, with only a camera
watching me. My radiologist did not give me any of the warnings you
received. She was careful to not influence me one way or the other.
Her description of treatments available, gave me the to
make my own decision.

I am sad that the attitude of your radiologist is such that you are
shut up before you are able to get valid questions answered. I was
not told to isolate myself from friends or family, I went about life
as normally as possible and even took a 3 Sunday Fold Forming
Workshop during that time. Touched, hammered, shared tools, copper,
etc. and those wires were there to be felt and seen. When the device
was removed and given to me, I carried it around ahd showed it to
everyone interested, and these included other doctors who were

The radiation went directly through those wires into this device,
and at no time was I told to stay away or keep it away from anyone.
It was given to me to share as I wished.

I do believe you can query any Radiation Department of any teaching
facility and get more recent data. There is an incredible difference
in the level of knowledge between physicians of the old school and
the newer, younger physicians. I usually find “ego” in the older,
hanging on to their pedestal level physician.

A close friend, and also a jewelry maker just finished extreme
levels of radiation and chemo for throat cancer. At no time was she
told to isolate herself from the outside world or throw away
anything she used or touched. She formed a FaceBook group called
“Comfort Over Cancer,” if interested I would be happy to suggest you
for entry. She will share with you her experiences. She is still on
a feeding tube, and happy to be back amongst people and going to the

If you want any names, I will be happy to share them with you. I
will also share with you privately my phone number. You may need to
exercise some caution, but seems some may be overkill.


Teresa Masters


Am I correct in saying that you have thyroid cancer (a recurrence)
and that you will have implants that are radioactive? My memory is
fuzzy on this.

Kind regards