You are here:

Physics/Vaseline glass and radioactivity


Hi Mr. Nelson, you have indulged me in the past with radiation questions, I have one more if you would be so kind.

I was at a garage sale last night with my son, showing him a small clear glass bowl that was fluorescing green under a black light (which I assumed to be uranium glass), when the lid fell, bounced once and broke into about a dozen pieces. He picked up the pieces and discarded, but with my radiation paranoia I was worried he would ingest or inhale some tiny shard with potential long term effects. Am I obsessing over a non-issue?

It's not like he ground up the glass and snorted it, but I am compelled to ask the question. I know millions of this type of glass and plates were made, probably with countless being broken, it's just my nature to be overly "cautious" I guess - sorry if my hyper-paranoia is showing again. Thanks in advance for the response.

Regards, Scott

Uranium dioxide is tightly bound in the glass.  It's up to about 2% of the glass (tiny amounts), and highly insoluble.  You could grind up and eat an entire glass, I would doubt you would be able to measure the absorbed tiny fraction of uranium.  And unenriched uranium is not radioactive enough to worry about, its simple chemical toxicity is far more damaging than its very weak radioactivity. VERY weak.  If you want to worry about something, look under your sink and around your life at cleaners, car exhaust, etc.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

©2016 All rights reserved.