Emergency Warning Issued as Radioactive Capsule Goes Missing in Australia

A major public health warning was issued in Australia on Friday after a radioactive capsule apparently fell off a truck while in transit.

The tiny radioactive gauge—which is smaller than a penny—was being transported from a mining site in the remote Pilbara region in the north of the state of Western Australia to a depot in Perth about 870 miles away.

At an emergency press conference Friday, the state’s chief health officer, Andy Robertson, said authorities believe the capsule fell out of a truck after vibrations on the journey caused a bolt in the vehicle to come loose, allowing the capsule to fall out of the bolt hole.

“Our concern is that someone will pick it up, not knowing what it is,” Robertson said, adding that hazardous material experts are now searching for the missing capsule. “They may think it is something interesting and keep it, or keep it in their room, keep it in their car, or give it to someone. Obviously we feel that it is important that we warn the community that if they do come across this source, they need to take great care.”

While radioactive gauges are commonly used in mining, they can pose serious health risks to people depending on how long someone is exposed to their radiation. Robertson said the capsule emits a “reasonable” amount of radiation roughly equivalent to someone receiving 10 X-rays in one hour if they came within 3 feet of it.

“One of the long-term risks of being exposed to a source like this is cancer,” Robertson said.

“As a source, it emits both beta rays and gamma rays. So if you have contact or have it close to you, you could either end up with skin damage, including skin burns, over a period of time. If you have it long enough near you, it could cause what’s known as acute radiation sickness.”

“We are recommending people not be close to it or hang on to it.”

Emergency services were alerted to the missing capsule on Wednesday, and any drivers who have traveled along Australia’s Great Northern Highway since Jan. 10 have been asked to check their tires to make sure the capsule isn’t lodged in the tread.

With stoic understatement, Department of Fire and Emergency Services Country North chief superintendent David Gill acknowledged that finding such a tiny capsule over such a vast area will present “challenges.”

Source link

Leave a Comment