Scientists Search, Seize Radioactive Material At Delhi MarketApril 27, 2010
The silver colored material spewing gamma radiation that slipped into a scrap dealer’s shops causing at least six persons to fall ill has exposed gaps in India’s mechanisms to preserve radiological safety.
Department of atomic energy official said that the scrap dealer and five workers have fallen ill with symptoms of radiation exposure after they tried to work with scrap that contained a highly radioactive element called cobalt 60.
Cobalt 60 is used as a source of radiation in cancer radiotherapy and in industrial inspection equipment, but scientists investigating the incident said the origin of the material found in the scrap dealer’s shops was still unknown.
An official said that a team of atomic energy scientists and technicians shielded, packed and removed from two of the scrap dealer’s shops eight bunches of junk containing cobalt 60 shaped like wires.
Mr Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra a DAE spokesman told The Telegraph that “The radioactivity varied from bunch to bunch, but even the lowest level was millions of times higher than the background radiation.”
Scientists familiar with operations said the radioactivity levels in the scrap dealer’s two shops were so high that each person involved in extricating the material was allowed to stay inside the shops for only four seconds.
The material has been sent to the Narora Atomic Power Station where it will be analyzed. The radiation in the affected area has returned to normal background levels.
The scrap dealer who has been in the Apollo Indraprastha Hospital here since April 4 with severe bone marrow suppression has told police the material was embedded in a consignment of imported scrap. He had acquired the scrap about two weeks ago and stored it in a drum. A DAE official said it was unclear how many persons were exposed to the radiation during this period.