Company website: http://allsmartlab.com/eng/SensorList.php
On Ebay: My seller at $29.90 +$5 shipping from S. Korea
All Sellers: from $29.95 shipped
We are all living in a potential radiation hotzone of the future. Radiation is silent, invisible, has no smell, and there is a good chance that we all will have to deal with radiation in our lifetimes. It could be, as NWO kingpin George Soros says, an all out nuclear war with China and Russia. It could just be that a few nukes pop a couple hundred miles in the air, using our nationwide electrical grid as a giant antenna to wipe out our power stations (an EMP). That would lead to a meltdown of our nuke plants plants all over the country, which need a power grid to cool themselves. If you think you are “prepping,” but you aren’t prepared to measure both high and low levels of radiation (two distinct issues), it might be time to take a look at your options.
For about a year now in this column, I have been searching for inexpensive radiation measurement devices that actually work. The problem with keeping the costs down is that the electronics to manage a true Geiger-Mueller tube are complex and expensive, and most Geiger devices only solve half the problem. My prior finds are still great options, but I recently found a $30 answer to at least the low level of the radiation measurement equation. The Smart Geiger device is made by a company is South Korea, and it relies on your phone to provide the measurement electronics. The little Smart Geiger bug plugs into your headphone jack, and on low level radiation I tested it and it works fine with a Samsung S3 running Android, though I found it mildly inconsistent. But I think it is good low cost option for testing food, water and living arrangements post disaster. IPhone 5S was a complete fail, but you could contact the manufacturer if you want to try for yourself. The only caveat I have to mention is that most likely, like all low level meters, the Smart Geiger could not be used as a “survey meter” to test for high level radiation right after an accident or explosion occurs. I’ll explain below.
Measuring radiation is a big source of confusion for most people, including me when I first started out. Alpha, Beta, Gamma? How much is harmful? Is air radioactive? Water? Food? Don’t they irradiate food? How are you supposed to measure radiation when you don’t know what it is?
As a little bit of background, when a nuclear bomb goes off, or a nuclear power plant melts down and explodes particles into the air, it creates a whole bunch of different radioactive isotopes. These are called “radionuclides.” You’ve probably heard of some of them, like Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. Those two are particularly dangerous long term because they have long “half-lives,” meaning that they last a long time in the environment as the radioactivity decays. We have heard all our lives that a place stays “radioactive” for 25 years after a nuclear bomb explodes, and it is these two isotopes that seem to pose the long term danger. The forests around Chernobyl for example, which is the nuclear reactor that exploded in 1986, have been on fire lately, and the smoke from the fires is dropping noticeable radioactive particles, tens of miles away. A whopping 29 years later the particles are not causing dangerous levels of radiation to stand next to, but ingested they can do serious harm.
Short term serious danger, right after an explosion, comes from dozens of other isotopes that are blown outward. Many of them have short half-lives, so the first 48 hours after a nuclear event is most critical to stay indoors, or ideally in some kind of shelter that has heavy material between you and the radiation. I have included a chart of various materials 1983 FEMA pamphlet “Radiation Safety In Shelters,” which you can still download for free in PDF format in many places on the web. Radiation attenuation is directly proportional to weight. So 200 lbs. of wood will insulate you just as well as 200 lbs. of lead. The only exception to this is a substance called Barite, commonly used by commercial drillers to weight down the drill site. It has shown unusually high attenuation of the radiation emitted by Cesium-137, and Barite is often mixed with cement for containment walls at nuclear power stations. It is also really really heavy for its size, but I haven’t been able to find a cheap source for it in the Southern US. Just remember that it is all about weight, so bags of cement mix, which will be great trading fodder after the world gets back to normal, are much better than bags of sand, but if the sand is free, it’s just as good as cement. Just make it thicker.
If you can survive in a sheltered location for the first 48 hours after the initial blast, most of the particles have very short half lives, and they weaken considerably as time passes. Remember the 7/10 rule. Every 7 hours, there is 10x less radiation, from all radionuclides, and many of them die off completely. For example, the biggest short term killer, radioactive Iodine-131, has a half life of 8 days, so most serious preppers have Potassium Iodide (KI) pills in their survival kits. If you take the KI for two weeks, it will protect your thyroid from absorbing the radioactive iodine, and you’ll be fine. After Chernobyl, Poland gave all of their citizens KI. Ukraine did not, and while the Poles have been fine, the Ukrainians, Russians, and other surrounding populations have had to deal with terrible thyroid disease, cancer, and lots of fatalities.
“Radiation sickness,” where the body starts to break down immediately and death approaches quickly, is caused by both long and short half-life isotopes in that first initial period. They are extremely intense. For this initial period, you need a high level meter. I recently reviewed a $750 meter that covers low to high, but you don’t have to spend that kind of money for pure survival right after a nuclear event. I personally carry a $145 original NukeAlert keychain detector. Each unit is individually calibrated, and it makes little clicks to let you know that the battery isn’t dead. On the back there is a list of chirp levels to tell you how much radiation is in the air. But believe it or not, you can get basic knowledge that a radiation event has occurred, and basic information as to how much radiation you have absorbed for only $5.50. The same company, KI4U.com, that makes the expensive meters also makes these simple little stickers. We even ran an article not too long ago offering a free rad sticker that has a little bit of shelf time on it. The stickers are dosimeters, showing an accumulated dose, so eventually they get used up by background radiation. Even the free ones will tell you that something is going down if all of a sudden the line is visibly creeping fast.
The particles ejected by the blast will emit “Gamma” radiation, and “Alpha” and “Beta” particles. This is usually about 25 miles initially, but wind and clouds can carry the particles hundreds of miles away, creating “hotzones,” and nowhere is safe, except under some very heavy stuff. In the case of a meltdown, radiation would also of course emanate from the nuke plant site as well, but that range is fairly short. Your high level meter will let you know when your zone is free of serious radiation, and it is safe to go forage, or move to a safer location.
Low level meters like this $30 phone bug are what you call “Geiger Counters,” and they are equally important to long term survival. You need to eat and drink, and while the overall radiation where you locate may be low, there is no guarantee that food and water you are offered will be radiation free. After Chernobyl, the Ukrainian government covered up the effects of the meltdown for over 3 years. Doctors were forbidden to attribute illness to radiation, and there was so much disinformation that radioactive food from Ukraine even made it to US shores.
This is where the opposite is true. The yellow “survey meters” like the CDV-715/717 meters you can find cheap on Ebay (don’t pay more than $50 right now) are high level meters and they won’t tell you if food is radioactive. Neither will the keychain NukAlert, or the RadSticker. Those cardboard tube dosimeters don’t work either, and yes, I’ve tried them. You can buy a Thorium treated gas lantern mantle on Ebay for about $5, and they make great test subjects for low level meters, including the DIY kits I tested, the yellow CDV-700 with the wand (pricey on Ebay don’t waste your money), the SOEKs meters, the American made SBM-20 meters, and this $30 phone Geiger.
The only meter that I know of that will measure both high and low level radiation is that $750 meter. It uses a Geiger-Mueller tube, with a new technology called “time to first count.” The low level meters, and regular Geiger tubes, saturate very quickly in high radiation fields, making them useless in that initial phase. Most low level meters will just crash. But that new $750 meter works great, at a relatively higher cost of course. Please note that if you get a CDV meter for high level radiation measurement, keep in mind that most of these date back to the 1960s, and they need to be calibrated. You can win the Ebay auction and send the meter directly to Shane Connor at KI4U.com and they will do the calibration(he makes that $750 meter too). Don’t wait until nuclear war is imminent. Meters are cheap right now and there is very little wait to get it calibrated.
Now for the $30 Phone Bug Meter
I would be remiss if I didn’t include and re-include the information that I gave you above. But now it is time to get to the subject at hand, this cool little $30 phone Geiger counter.
Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of using the smartphone as a universal electronics platform in a survival situation. I covered a network free GPS map system months ago, and besides a basic compass, flashlight, and easy entertainment for the kids, this Geiger is yet another cool survival use for you Android phone. I am not concerned that they can track me with it. I have seen how much backup fuel to power the cell towers they have in those pens and it ain’t much.
Smart Geiger seems to be the first of several detectors that this South Korean company is adapting to the headphone jack of smartphones. At first I thought that this product was something of a dud, because as you can see from the pictures, I was measuring from the side, because it just kind of looked like the way you do it, and there are no actual instructions in English. Then I sat down to write this review and I said hey, maybe I’ll try it again. This time I just happened to point the bug directly at the Thorium mantles, and the phone meter spiked very quickly, for both bugs that I purchased directly from South Korea.
I think it is really just one seller on Ebay selling from several accounts, and they were very quick to answer and offer a replacement when I complained that one of the bugs didn’t work. Initially, before I figured out that you had to use the flat front of the bug, one of bugs was at least reading up to about .9 uSv, as opposed to the background level of about .1 uSv you see on pretty much all meters here in South Florida. The other bug seemed to be dead. Then I tried them both again, and they both rocked.
So I may be actually getting a free of these bugs, because their English isn’t so good, but to date I have not gotten any reading at all on the IPhone 5S, so I don’t feel too bad. It is supposed to work on IPhone, but though the app does detect the bug, the Thorium mantle shows no reading.
The term uSv means micro-Sieverts, which is a relatively new term in measuring radiation. The Roentgen, or Rad, Rem (R), is mostly interchangeable in a non-scientific context, and 1 Sievert equals 100 Roentgens. So, to simplify the math, to convert from uSv/hr to Roentgen per hour, you move the decimal 4 places to the left. 22 uSv, which I eventually measured my Thorium mantles at with the Smart Geiger bug, equals .0022 R/hr, or 2.2 milliroentgens per hour (1000ths/R, which eats 3 of 4 zeroes). There is a simple calculator online you can use if it gets confusing.
For this reason, I still would not say that the Smart Geiger is a definitive meter. My $600 paddle Geiger counter counted the Thorium mantles at about 10 mR/hr, which is almost 5 times what the bug measured. I later returned with the bug again to the mantles, and couldn’t get it to go over 4 uSv, so take that for what is is worth. My DIY meters won’t go over 10 uSv.
But don’t take that as discouragement to not buy this ridiculously cheap product that works. As soon as the bug got within an inch of the mantles it flashed red on the phone, even from the side, on the weaker bug. If your food has radioactive particles in it, this meter is going to pick up something emitting Gamma. For food that is grown in a field that has Strontium 90 contamination, this meter will not pick it up, because according the radionuclides page on Wikipedia, Strontium-90 emits only Beta radiation. This bug is based on PIN diode detection technology and only picks up gamma and x-rays. Geiger tubes do pick up Beta, so if a regular meter is sensitive enough, even a regular SBM-20 tube should pick it up. But asking around to my nuke peeps it looks like our DIY meter is not going to be sensitive enough.
Strontium-90 is a particular concern because it is highly soluble in water, and it doesn’t kill a plant that absorbs it through its roots. The plant grows, and if you eat it, your body will absorb the Sr-90. If you look at the Periodic Chart of Elements, Sr-90 is in the same column as Calcium, which means that it exhibits the same traits, settling in the bones. Cesium is in the same column as Potassium, and therefore Cs-137 is particularly damaging to the glandular system.
For regular readers of this column, I know that I have been harping on the radiation meter thing quite a bit, and hopefully you already got your CDV survey meter and had it calibrated, or you bought the keychain NukAlert (I did both). The low level meters I have found are mostly very inexpensive, and if you use an Android phone already, I would buy one of these bugs as a backup regardless. Your phone is pretty durable. The bugs are pretty durable, and you can charge your phone with small solar folding solar panels available for cheap cheap. Maybe I use the term “nobrainer” a little too much, but if this isn’t a nobrainer I don’t know what is.