Tritium is an ‘isotope’ or a radioactive form of hydrogen. And as hydrogen doesn’t have any neutrons, tritium has two, making it unstable and therefore radioactive. It produced naturally when cosmic rays and gases in the upper atmosphere interacts or come together. The substance is also a by-product of nuclear reactors. Now, like all the other radioactive isotopes, tritium decays, where it emits beta radiation.

what is tritium


Uses of tritium

One of the main uses of tritium is where it is used in signs and lightings, given that it glows in the dark. When you combine tritium with phosphor, you create luminescence light. This light doesn’t require electricity or electrical wiring, which makes it ideal for emergency lighting in airplanes and commercial buildings, exit signs as well as for airport runway lights. The other use of tritium is the one where it is used as a tracer in academic and biomedical research. In some countries, tritium is used as fuel for thermonuclear weapons. As we head into the future, tritium may also be used to generate electricity in fusion reactors whose development is underway.

Tritium in drinking water

In water, the most common form of tritium is tritiated water (HTO). This is a tritium atom that replaces the hydrogen atom in water to HTO instead of H2O. tritiated water has the same chemical properties as water and is also colorless and odorless.

Tritium in the body

There is tritium in our environment, that’s for a fact. This tritium is naturally incorporated into nutrients such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates. This is what is referred to as organically bound tritium (OBT). This OBT enters directly into the body when we eat tritiated foods. As it is an organic material, it poses greater health risk, especially given the fact the body is expected to hold it longer than tritiated water. What this means is that the tritium atom will most likely decay while inside the body, thereby causing damage.

Health effects

If taken directly, and in large quantities, tritium can pose an enormous health risk. Tritium molecules also enter the body when breath in air containing tritium, or by ingesting water or food with tritium atoms. Majority of the tritium in your body leaves the body through urine, perspiration and breath moisture. And when tritaited hydrogen is inhaled, it is exhaled almost immediately.

So, that’s pretty much it on tritium.

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