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The basic equation of radiometric dating requires that neither the parent nuclide nor the daughter product can enter or leave the material after its formation.

The possible confounding effects of contamination of parent and daughter isotopes have to be considered, as do the effects of any loss or gain of such isotopes since the sample was created.

Another possibility is spontaneous fission into two or more nuclides.Radioactive elements are unstable; they breakdown spontaneously into more stable atoms over time, a process known as radioactive decay.Radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate, specific to each radioactive isotope.When living things die, they stop taking in carbon-14, and the radioactive clock is "set"!Any dead material incorporated with sedimentary deposits is a possible candidate for carbon-14 dating.

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