HL Deb 29 March 1962 vol 238 cc1065-6

3.5 p.m


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make about the following, which appeared in the New York Times on March 17: It was recently discovered in Switzerland that some watch-dial painters were bringing home pots of Strontium 90 for use by the family of an evening. The material furnished a cheaper luminous paint than that based on radium. It was reported to have been bought from a commercial agent, who obtained the Strontium 90 as a by-product of the British Atomic Energy programme.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government cannot accept responsibility for statements in the American Press. Radioactive materials are supplied by the Atomic Energy Authority only to firms or institutions on the Authority's list of approved users, whose bona fides has been investigated. Anyone ordering radioisotopes is required first to have accepted conditions, which, among other things, reserve to the Authority the right to require the prospective purchaser to inform them of the uses to be made of the material. In the case of Switzerland, orders for Strontium 90 are now referred by the Authority to the Swiss Federal Office of Industry for approval. Since the beginning of 1958, Strontium 90 has been supplied to Switzerland for medical and research purposes only. Prior to 1958 a quantity of Strontium 90 supplied by the Authority to a firm in Switzerland was understood to have been used for luminising watches, and supplies to this firm were discontinued. At one time, it is fair to add, Strontium 90 may reasonably have been thought by a section of the watch industry to be safer than radium, because it does not give off gamma radiation or radon. It was also thought to be superior as a luminising agent.


My Lords, may one take it, then, that this probably refers to an old story that is now cleared up?


My Lords, I do not know what it refers to for certain, because, as I say, I cannot accept responsibility for the American Press. But I think the Answer gives a fairly comprehensive account of our policy in the matter.

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