c.1915 "Glow-in-the-Dark" Postcard-Hazard?

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    • #131944

      Hi All,

      I’m new to the community, and enjoy reading the “Daily Digest”…thanks in advance for your advice!

      I recently encountered a c. 1915 postcard that has “glow in the dark” properties. My initial reaction was that there may be a concern with radium, as radium was often used in luminous paint in the early 20th century. I’ve heard of radium being used in paint for watch dials, doorknobs, and other 3D objects, but I’ve yet to find a postcard example. Is this something I should be concerned about?

      I found a duplicate postcard listed here on eBay:

      As you will see, the reverse (in French) reads:

      “Expose the picture to the light, it will appear luminous in darkness.

      IMP. RAD-Brevete S.G.D.G.”

      (The “RAD” obviously stood out to me here, but I’m not sure if it’s an abbreviated reference to the printer?)

      Thanks again,


    • #131951

      Indeed, “hard soils” like rhodium where used in photo lenses elements as a coating and that and similar compounds where used in watches and stuff.
      In principe, they’re not dangerous since the kind of radiation they have is mostly alpha-waves, that will not event get through the skin.

      Anyways I found very interesting and useful if you get to ID the kind of “ink” used in that postal card since documentation from the point of view of conservation seems rare or inexistent. Who know, maybe a lab will even accept to perform tests in it!

    • #131950

      I was able to find snippets of some french articles that suggest that Zinc sulfide may have been used.

      I think RAD stands for Radiana, which was either a company or the trade name of the paint/process. I believe it to be different from the Radiana trademark used in the US for “radium gowns” described here http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F30811F83F5D1A7A93C7A9178DD85F468285F9

      and here

      see also this french article, illustrated with photo postcards that also glow


    • #131949

      Further reading indicates that the zinc sulfides may have been used as a base to which other things were added. It may be possible that radium was used in the manufacture of the card.
      Perhaps it might be good to contact your states Radiation Control program
      http://www.health.ri.gov/programs/radiologicalhealth/index.php (for Rhode Island)

      or your regional EPA radiation office.
      Region 1 Boston, Massachusetts
      Anthony Honnellio
      Office of Administration and Resources Management
      Ph: 617-918-1456

      They would be able to tell you how to have it tested. If it does have radium or other radioactive materials, they would also be able to tell you what the safety risks are and describe the appropriate handling and storage techniques.

    • #131948
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      This would be a great question for Monona Rossol of ACTS: http://www.artscraftstheatersafety.org/bio.html

    • #131947

      Thanks for the advice, everyone! I did contact Monona Rossol per your suggestion, Elizabeth, and she advised that the paint/ink used on the postcard is most likely not hazardous. Because the phrase “expose the picture to light” is found on the reverse, this suggests that it is a phosphor-based material rather than radium. Radium would glow on its own without exposure to light.

      I’m still trying to figure out the company that may have printed the card – thanks also for your leads, Abigail!

    • #131946
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      That’s great to hear! Thank you for the clarification. You are certainly right to be concerned about any health hazards in the collection. ACT is such a great resource.

    • #131945
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      That’s great to hear! Thank you for the clarification. You are certainly right to be concerned about any health hazards in the collection. ACTS is such a great resource.

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