As a result it is always undergoing natural radioactive decay while the abundances of the other isotopes are unchanged.
Carbon dating process
Furthermore, if a sample has been contaminated, scientists will know about it.
Ironically, given how supposedly useless carbon dating is claimed to be, Creation Ministries International rests part of their "101 Evidences" on carbon dating being a useful method for within several thousand years.
Beyond that timespan, the amount of the original C formed by irradiation of nitrogen by neutrons from the spontaneous fission of uranium, present in trace quantities almost everywhere.
For these samples, other dating methods must be used.
For radiocarbon dating to be possible, the material must once have been part of a living organism.
This means that things like stone, metal and pottery cannot usually be directly dated by this means unless there is some organic material embedded or left as a residue.
However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.
Common materials for radiocarbon dating are: The radiocarbon formed in the upper atmosphere is mostly in the form of carbon dioxide. Because the carbon present in a plant comes from the atmosphere in this way, the radio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the plant is virtually the same as that in the atmosphere.
Plant eating animals (herbivores and omnivores) get their carbon by eating plants.
As explained below, the radiocarbon date tells us when the organism was alive (not when the material was used).