Radium Facts: Is The Metal Safe And What Can You Use It For? | Kidadl


Radium Facts: Is The Metal Safe And What Can You Use It For?

Arts & Crafts
Learn more
Reading & Writing
Learn more
Math & Logic
Learn more
Sports & Active
Learn more
Music & Dance
Learn more
Social & Community
Learn more
Mindful & Reflective
Learn more
Outdoor & Nature
Learn more
Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Radium was once used in many products, including toothpaste and wristwatches.

Radium is a radioactive chemical element, the heaviest among all the alkaline earth metals in Group Two of the periodic table. For a long time, people thought that radium had curative properties. 

Marie and Pierre Curie, a couple from Poland and France, discovered radium in 1898. They discovered it while they were studying pitchblende, which is a type of uranium ore. Once they removed uranium from the ore, the couple found that the remains were still radioactive. This was in fact, radium. By 1902, they could get 0.003 oz (0.1 g) of pure radium chloride by refining several tons of pitchblende residues.

Marie Curie and Andre-Louis were able to isolate the metal itself by 1910. Radium was the first synthetically made radioactive element. It is a by-product of uranium mining. The traces of radium are found in uranium ore. It took close to 12 years for Marie Curie to finally isolate metallic radium in 1910. Being a very rare element on Earth, radium is found in uranium ores.

Classification Of Radium As An Element

With the help of decaying of the uranium atom, radium has been created, and due to the rapid decay rates of the isotopes, there is uncertainty about the radium isotopes.

On the periodic table, the radium symbol is Ra, and its atomic number is 88. It has an atomic weight of 226, and at room temperature, it remains solid. Its melting point is 1292 F (700 C), and its boiling point is 2084 (1140). Radium has 33 natural isotopes.

The most well-known radium isotope is Ra-226. All of these isotopes are radioactive. It forms continuously as uranium-238 decays. Four of the isotopes occur in nature as the product of the decay of other elements.

Characteristics Of Radium 

Radium displays a faint bluish glow in the dark. This is due to the intense radioactivity, its most characteristic property.

After its discovery, it took another 12 years to isolate metallic radium in 1910-1911. Marie Curie and Andre Debierne carried out electrolysis of radium chloride and used a mercury cathode to isolate the metal.

The alpha particles emit and excite electrons in other elements in the compound, and the electrons release their energy as this bluish light. Radium is a radioactive chemical element and the heaviest of all the alkaline-earth metals in Group Two of the periodic table. Radium is a hazardous element, and proper ventilation is necessary for storing radium to prevent the build-up of radon gas.

Ra is known as the symbol for radium.

Uses Of Radium

All uses of radium stem from its radioactivity. Most importantly, radium was used earlier for the treatment of cancer.

The use of this chemical element continued for decades before it was finally declared unsafe in 1976. Now, it is used in rare cases under strict monitoring. Radium exposure in the human body is similar to calcium, which is deposited in teeth, bones, and marrow. Initially, radium was used in the luminous dials of watches, clocks, and compasses. 

Chemical Properties Of Radium

Pure radium is a chemical element, silvery-white in color. However, it quickly combines with nitrogen when exposed to air and forms a black layer of radium nitride.

It is highly radioactive and hazardous. When ingested, 80% of the radium leaves the body through feces, while the other 20% accumulates in bones. Because radium emits alpha and gamma rays upon decay, radium exposure can cause cancer and other disorders.

Some important facts about radium are that on the periodic table, its chemical symbol is Ra, atomic number is 88, atomic weight is 226, melting point at 1292 F (700 C), and the boiling point at 2084 F (1140 C).


What are three interesting facts about radium?

(1) Radium belongs to the same group as calcium and sometimes targets bone cancer. (2) The unit measuring radioactivity is called the ‘curie’ after the scientist couple Marie and Pierre Curie. (3) Radium is part of a radioactive decay chain where it slowly decays into radon, then polonium, and finally lead.

Why is radium dangerous?

Higher doses and longer exposure to radium have been shown to cause harmful effects on blood, eyes, teeth, and bones.

How did radium get its name?

Radium as a name was derived from the Latin ‘radius’ or ‘ray.’ It was named after rays emitted from the element.

What is radium commonly used for?

Radium is still used in certain industrial applications and radiography. Radium-223 is sometimes used for treating prostate cancer if it has spread to the bones. 

Are radium toys safe?

Radium toys are toxic and dangerous. As late as 1942, toys were being sold, which showed radium in action. Nowadays, there are no radioactive materials in toys.

What is a radium jaw?

Radium jaw or radium necrosis is a historical disease brought about by the ingestion and absorption of radium. It harmfully affected the lower and upper jawbones of people affected.

Are radium stickers harmful?

Yes, radium stickers are harmful, but modern stickers don’t have radium for the glow. The glow comes with a chemical reaction known as chemiluminescence.

When was radium banned?

It was in 1924 that a New York doctor found signs of jaw cancer (as well as a disease called radium jaw) in many young women who had worked in the luminous paint industry. Then in 1938, with a swift act called the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, the government outlawed any packaging that made radium-branded products marketable.

How long was radium used in watches?

It may be surprising, but many radium watches are still around and even prized as collectibles. Tritium started replacing radium in the early '60s, and by the '70s, radium was no longer being used on watch dials.

Written By
Divya Raghav

Divya Raghav dons many hats, that of a writer, a community manager, and a strategist. She was born and raised in Bangalore. After completing her Bachelor’s in Commerce from Christ University, she is pursuing her MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore. With diverse experience in finance, administration, and operations, Divya is a diligent worker known for her attention to detail. She loves to bake, dance, and write content and is an avid animal lover.

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?