Is My Yard Lamp Radioactive

One of the last questions southerners think to answer has to be: Is my yard lamp radioactive?

Whether you enjoy the glow of a camping lantern or the bright light of a natural gas lamp post, both share a similar component; compostable fuel and a cloth mantle. But did you know the mantles could actually be radioactive?

What is Thorium

Thorium is a weakly radioactive metallic chemical element with atomic number 90.

Thorium is an electropositive radioactive element. Due to its reactive nature, it can easily ignite.

Gaslamp mantles are woven bits of cloth designed to hang on a gas burner. In some cases, the mantles are treated with thorium. The radioactive mantle is what gives off the functional white light we’ve come to know. Unfortunately, the coated mantles can be unhealthy.

When buying new mantles, use due diligence and read the package/product labeling. Amazon and Walmart carry “Thorium Free” mantles. They may not burn as bright or last as long, but you most likely won’t get bone cancer.

The danger radioactive mantles pose while sitting around a campfire once or twice a year is not substantial, and the yard lamps are typically installed outdoors, so you’re good to go. Most mantle manufacturers are moving away from using Thorium.

My Recommendation

The gas mantle remained an important part of street and area lighting until the widespread introduction of electric lighting in the early 1900s. I still love the soft light produced by natural gas mantle lamps.

I still find a few gas mantle lamps in the field, but natural flame lamps seem to be the choice for today’s homeowner.

At the time of the inspection, the gas lamp burner wasn’t operating. The lamps require minor maintenance that a professional service person best perform. This lamp requires an inverted incandescent mantle. BEWARE, it’s best to use Thorium Free mantles. Read Why Here. I recommend a plumber install a new mantle and, afterward, light the gas lamp and test for proper function, leaks, and safe installation.

Gary Smith – SafeHome Inspections

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Home Inspector – Home Builder and Building Consultant/Coach

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