Truth Patrol: Radioactive HDTVs?

HDTV Truth Patrol

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t pick on the Nigerian press, especially after all that country has done to help make sure that everyone gets plenty of email. But when I received this item from Vanguard Online, I couldn’t believe that someone would actually publish this:

General Manager of [LG]’s Nigerian operation, Mr. Tae-Joon Park also noted that … “Plasma displays were also said to have short life spans because of the radioactive half-life of the gases they use.”

Excuse me!?! Radioactive half-life? So that’s why plasma screens glow!

Okay, before you all start running for your lead aprons and Geiger counters, there are no radioactive gases in a plasma display. The gases used in these panels are mixtures of inert gases such as argon and neon. They are not radioactive.

Someone got a bit sideways along the track here, but whether it’s the reporter or someone else is anybody’s guess. The early plasma panels did have short life spans. The display industry measures useful life as the time it takes until the amount of light produced by the display drops to half its original value. (For a variety of reasons, it will still look brighter than half as bright as the original level, but that’s another topic.) So somebody took “half-life” and must have assumed that they were talking about radioactive material, which also has a half-life.

The fact is that there is no radioactive gas in a plasma display, and any new panel that you buy will last at least as long as a traditional CRT picture tube television.

Thanks to Jamie for sending in this one. You can win a coveted “Truth Patrol” t-shirt if your submitted HDTV weirdness gets picked for debunking in the HDTV Almanac.