Wartime watches could cause cancer, according to scientific study

1940s Radiomir

The current explosion in demand for vintage watches could be storing up health risks for collectors of Second World War timepieces.

A study by scientists from British institutions the University of Northampton and Kingston University has concluded that the radioluminescent, radon-based, paint used to make watches glow in the dark poses a “serious risk” of cancer.

The treatment was commonly used by watchmakers between the 1920s and 1960s.

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The study looked at 30 antique watches with radium dials and found they emitted radon levels 134 times greater than the UK’s recommended safe level.

Dr Robin Crockett, one of the report’s authors, says: “These results show that the radon emitted from individual watches can potentially pose a serious cancer risk.; This is of concern because in addition to military watches being prized by collectors, many individual radium-dial watches are kept as mementos by ex-servicemen and their descendants. They have the potential to pose a significant health hazard to themselves and their families.”

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder