The Endless Refrigerator/Freezer Deodorizer (ca. 1983)

The Endless Refrigerator/Freezer Deodorizer (ca. 1983)

Manufactured in Japan, the Endless Refrigerator/Freezer deodorizer is a green plastic device formed in the shape of a honeycomb. The shape permits air to flow through the device as well as create a large surface-to-volume ratio. The radiation emitted by the monazite sand incorporated into the plastic is said to destroy odors by some unspecified mechanism. Since the source is Th-232, which has a 10-billion-year half-life, the manufacturer can indeed claim the product to be endless.

Approximately 20,000 of these deodorizers were sold or given away before Region IV of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission notified the distributor in Kansas that the device was in violation of 10 CFR 40.13, which limits source material to 0.05% by weight.

Size: 4" x 6" x 3/16"

Exposure rate: ca. 2 uR/hr above background at one foot

Some years ago, I was having lunch at a "Time Out Deli" in Oak Ridge and I struck up a conversation with a fellow at the adjacent table. It turned out that he was a health physicist (like me) who worked for Bechtel—their offices were in a nearby building. Since he happened to be from India, the conversation turned in the direction of things Indian, and when I mentioned that I liked Kingfisher beer, which came from the State of Kerala, he commented that he was from there. He went on to say that the previous year he had gone home for a visit and seen a Japanese company performing remedial action on the beaches. The monazite sands in Kerala are well known for their high levels of thorium. Apparently, the Japanese were loading the sand on a freighter and shipping it off somewhere, presumably for disposal. What a revelation! They were being paid by the Indian Government to clean up the beaches. They shipped the radioactive monazite to Japan where they incorporated it into consumer products (e.g., the Deoderizers), and then they proceeded to sell the radioactive consumer products to Americans!  And people say we don't know how to dispose of radioactive waste. In retrospect, I'm sure that this must have been understood by Japan and India to be a mining operation for the purpose of extracting monazite. Still, it's amusing to think that the Japanese were pretending to remediate the beaches.