A Blue Topaz Christmas

The gem and jewelry industry has little to worry about from irradiated blue topaz, says Dr. Andrew Karam, adjunct professor of radiation safety at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He says a blue topaz bracelet with 6.00 cts. of reactor-irradiated gemstones would produce a radiation dose between 700 and 800 mrem (millirems) if worn continuously for a year after being irradiated but notes that’s less than regulatory limits. “This level of radiation exposure poses no risk to the wearer,” Karam says. “They will not get radiation burns, they will not get cancer, and they don’t have to worry about radiation affecting a pregnancy.”

Karam says the risk to workers in the jewelry industry is even lower. To reach a radiation dose limit, a worker would have to spend 1,000 hours annually in an area with huge quantities of blue topaz and would still be far from a level of exposure that’s likely to cause cancer or any other ill effects.

Karam works with local, state, national, and international organizations to help them prepare for a terrorist radioactive attack and provides consulting services to the International Atomic Energy Agency on radioactive materials security and national radiation safety regulation programs. He’s a frequent member of IAEA site teams investigating nuclear programs around the world.