And the big story this afternoon on the news channels is...
DIRTY BOMB! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
That's how it's been played all afternoon on Faux and Faux Lite (CNN). Apparently, some evil doers were caught with some smoke detectors in their possession in Great Britain, and were planning on making a "dirty bomb".
Now, let's be clear about something. The radioactive source used in smoke detectors, americium-241, is about as harmless as a radioactive isotope gets, particularly in the miniscule quantity used in smoke detectors. In fact, mantles for Coleman lanterns, which until a few years ago were coated in Thorium oxide (and which you can still buy, but not from Coleman), give off more radioactivity.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not discounting anyone's concerns about the topic of radioactive isotopes. What I'm bothered by is the hysteria makers trading on the fear that the mere mention of the word "radioactivity" induces. The hysteria makers know full well that you couldn't buy Home Depot's annual inventory of smoke detectors and gather enough nasty stuff to harm a squirrel.
The bottom line: this story is a bunch of DHS / scare the peeps ca-ca. Nothing more.
In fact, it's so much ca-ca that my biggest concern is that some yokel will see these news reports, and think "OH MY GOD, THERE'S RADIOACTIVITY IN MY SMOKE DETECTOR" and throw out their smoke detectors. Then some little kid will die in a fire due to mommy and daddy tossing the smoke detectors, all because the government and their megaphone media whores speciously claim that a dirty bomb can be made by using a source from a smoke detector.
It makes for a good scare, and I know it's getting close to halloween, but someone has to reign in the media dipsticks looking for a sensational story. I thought that's what editors were for. Silly me.