Alameda Point Environmental Report: Cleaning up radium paint contamination at Building 5, December 3, 2012


The middle of Building 5, in the mezzanine area, is where radium-226 luminescent paint was applied to aircraft dials and other devices from 1941 to the mid 1950s. The Navy plans to begin removing the radium contamination from the mezzanine area in December of 2012 or January of 2013.

The harmful health effects of radium were not understood in the mid-20th century. In fact, just the opposite was the case. Hundreds of products were marketed that touted the health benefits of radium, including skin creams, bath salts, and even “growth-inducing” plant fertilizers.

It’s no wonder that paint waste was dumped down storm drains in those days. That’s what happened in Building 5. It ended up in storm drains leading to the Seaplane Lagoon and the lagoon itself. By 2010 the Navy had either removed or cleaned the drains leading to the lagoon. By spring of 2012, the dredging of the Seaplane Lagoon was completed.