A Reddit post added to the “Legal Advice” forum is catching attention for describing an incredible and potentially extremely dangerous situation previously limited to the people who had to clean up nuclear meltdowns.

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Someone’s roommate was apparently building a collection of items from both the U.S. and Soviet armies and, allegedly vials and glass jars of unprotected radium paint and shavings that pushed the radon detector off the charts.

The OP decided to test her home after she got a free radon detector from a friend who discovered high levels of this radioactive element in his own house, reading about 5 pCi/l. And if that’s high, then imagine how she must have felt when the detector in her apartment read 224 pCi/l in the “main room” and maxed out the device when she entered her bedroom.

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“I turn it on, and after the warm up period, see that it’s reading 224 pCi/l (not 2.24) in the main room,” she wrote. “I move it to my bedroom (close to his) and it’s maxing out at over 500 pCi/l in my bedroom.”

Prior to this, her roommate had only admitted to having a collection of old electronics and clocks. However, when confronted with the extremely high levels of radon detected in their home, he confessed to the rest.

“I question him when he gets back from work, and he panics a bit, and tells me that he has around 13.5 millicuries of radium,” she continued. “He shows me the cabinet, and there’s a vial of radium paint, a lot of shavings in glass jars, lots and lots of clocks and gauges, what he calls ‘Soviet radium scales’, old US Army radium disks, and other items with radium.”

Radium, similar to radon, is highly radioactive, which most people assume due to, if nothing else, the similarities in the words “radium” and “radioactive.” Radium produces radon gas, which can enter the bloodstream and accumulate in the bones, increasing one’s risk of developing cancer and other medical disorders.

In the U.S., the maximum tolerance level for workers who have to handle radium is 0.1 micrograms. Curies are a unit of measurement applied to radioactivity, named after Marie and Pierre Curie. When you reach the level of millicuries, judging by some of the comments from experts on this post, something has gone very, very wrong.

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“He said millicuries, and not microcuries?” wrote one user. “Are you sure? If it was millicuries, you need to stay far away from that cabinet if it’s not lined with lead. Including whatever is the opposite side of the wall.”

Many commenters have recommended that the OP focus on the legal issues later and focus on getting the heck out of that apartment and seeking medical attention. The poster is concerned that she might be held liable for damage to the apartment and the costs for decontamination because of the actions of her roommate, as well as whether she could sue if she develops cancer.

“He’s been here and had his collection for over a year. Levels this high are basically unheard of and can cause cancer with ease, so I’m worried I might lose my life over this. Obviously this isn’t my landlords fault, it’s the roommate, so what do I even do here? Does something like this break the lease and get my roommate and all his radium kicked out?”

We’ve never seen a mention of radioactive elements in a lease agreement, but it’s safe to say that everyone should evacuate that apartment immediately if she’s reading the radon levels correctly, lease or no lease. Some were less urgent in their advice, suggesting that radon detectors aren’t always reliable and that some forms of radium in some amounts are legal to own, though we can’t verify these claims and personally would not mess around with this stuff.

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*First Published: September 2, 2022, 3:06 pm