Are electronics from the 60's onwards dangerous

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Robin Mitchell, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. Robin Mitchell

    Thread Starter Distinguished Member

    Oct 25, 2009
    Hi everyone,

    Basically, are electronics from the 1960's onwards dangerous? are they carcogenic or hazzardas????
    I ask because i bough a load of old componets and im just a little worried.

    Thanks :)
  2. jpanhalt


    Jan 18, 2008
    Yes, if improperly used. So are table forks and spoons. Silver and gold is particularly bad, so please send it to me. I will pay shipping.

    More seriously, by "onward" do you mean before or after 1960? The impact of RoHS legislation was considerably later than 1960.

    Finally, you can find hazards in most things. You need to evaluate risk and benefits, which becomes mostly a political football when people set "zero risk" and make other absurd conclusions.

    Take this example:

    The implication one could draw from that research is that rusty iron [Fe(III)] is more carcinogenic than lead oxide of cadmium (II). Yet, even in Europe, cars are still made of steel, but cadmium and lead are restricted.

    I once heard a well-know expert on childhood toxicology justify zero tolerance for lead based on, "Lead has no know biological role." While the latter may be true, I don't see how it is connected to her conclusion. Lots of elements have no known biologic role. I am not proposing that baby formula be fortified with lead, though some may have accused me of that. ;) I am saying that lead has many useful properties and recognized dangers. I would much rather deal with the known dangers than to use a substitute about which much less is known.

    So, if you are asking about the dangers of lead in older electronics, I think reasonable precautions will prevent toxicity to you.

    Edit: It occurred to me that the 1960 dividing line is maybe meant to distinguish tube circuits from solid state devices. Yes, tube radios have higher voltages and point to point wiring, but they also usually had isolation transformers. A lot of solid state devices will not have isolation transformers.

    Last edited: Apr 11, 2011
  3. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
    All components are exposed to aging. And Also components from that period may contain environmental poison. Like mercury and Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). Old electrolytic capacitors are a good source of PCB. And they are also prone to dy out. I never purchase old electrolytic capacitors that have been collecting dust for years. Get fresh and new ones. Resistors may drift. They probably contain PCB and Pb. But not as much as electrolytic capacitors. Then it comes ICs like the famous 741. Well it may still work. But D'oh! The performance is by to day standards very poor.
    The rubber/plastic insulation used in some cables may have become very brittle and will crack for nothing. And this may be a security risk.
  4. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    Me, I'd go for it. I like old stuff. You may even have some germanium diodes and transistors in there. The silicon stuff is better, but still...
  5. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
    Consider vacuum tubes with thorium added to the cathode to enhance emission. Modern IC's and transistors are not radioactive.
  6. R!f@@

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 2, 2009
    HAHAHHAHHA !!! I didn't know john had a sense of humor..:D
  7. BillB3857

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 28, 2009
    Depending upon where you live in this great big world, that may or may not be true. In the US, most table top radios and clock radios were known as the All American Five design. They were a 5 tube superhet radio with a hot chassis. A hot chassis means that one side of the power cord was connected directly to the metal chassis. Since that was also a time before polarized connectors, it was not uncommon (50-50 probability) that when plugged into the wall outlet, the chassis was connected to the hot side of the line. Of course, there were plastic knobs on the volume control and tuning mechanism to isolate the user. One indication of the power cord being "backward" was that reception was better if the wire feeding the chassis was actually tied to power neutral.

    The following is from
    Potential hazards of the design

    Many early examples of the 'All-American Five' posed a shock hazard to their owners. Lacking a mains transformer, the chassis of the AA5 radio was directly connected to one side of the mains electric supply. The hazard was made worse because the on/off switch was often in the wire of the mains supply which was connected to the chassis, meaning that the chassis could be "hot" when the set was either 'on' or 'off' - depending on which way the plug was inserted in the power outlet. The metal chassis securing screws were often accessible from the outside of the Bakelite or wood case, and there were many examples of owners receiving a shock by making contact with these screws while handling a set.