French Authorities Recall Radioactive Watches

PARIS, France, December 22, 2000 (ENS) - Watches sold in France under the brand name "Trophy" are contaminated with radioactivity, according to a French government agency.

The contaminating radionuclide is cobalt-60 and it is located in the hinges of the adjustment links on the watch bracelet. The watches, which are made in Hong Kong, bear the serial number T65007.3.

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The chain store Carrefour is the biggest distribution group in Europe. (Photo courtesy Carrefour)
A person wearing the watch for one year would receive a contact skin dose of about 300 millisieverts, compared with the safe dose limit of 50 millisieverts for members of the public.

The French radiation protection agency - the Office de Protection contre les Rayonnements Ionisants (OPRI) - said the amount of radioactivity in each watch does not pose an immediate danger.

But it has recalled the watches, marketed through the Carrefour store chain. The chain is based in France and has more than 9,000 stores in 27 countries.

The radioactive contamination was discovered at the beginning of November when equipment used to measure radiation levels at a nuclear center in France gave an unexpected reading.

Following an investigation, the source of the radiation was found to be the metallic bracelet of a watch worn by one of the workers at the center. The watch had been purchased in a Carrefour outlet.

OPRI analyzed watches of the same model in other Carrefour shops. Measurements carried out on more than 3,000 watches indicate that nearly 50 percent of those sold with the serial number T65007.3 are contaminated.

No other country has yet reported finding similar contaminated watches, but some have issued warnings. This week, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland advised anyone who has purchased a Trophy watch since the beginning of September to contact it with a view to having the watch tested for radioactivity.

"Although the calculated dose does exceed the relevant dose limit, the wearing of the watch does not pose an immediate danger to the person wearing it," said the Institute.

"It is important, however, that all watches are withdrawn from circulation as the presence of artificial radioisotopes in consumer goods will lead to unnecessary exposure and is not generally permitted."

Chinese authorities have initiated their own inquiry into the source of the contamination, added the Institute.