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Fukushima Crisis Updates

Today In Radiation Safety History





On September 13, 1987 in Goiania Brazil two scavengers entered an abandoned clinic that was used for treating cancer patients. Inside the clinic they found a lead cylinder thinking they could sell it at the junk yard they took it and went to their house. The cylinder contained 28 grams of cesium chloride (86.6 Ci/gram for Cs-137) which equals 2000 Curies.

For four nights the two tried to hammer the cylinder open with no success. On September 16th they broke through the aperture window using sharp tools. They noticed a deep blue glow emanating from the punctured window (The blue light was not Cherenkov radiation rather visible light created by gamma absorption of chlorine in the source). The cesium dust could now escape from the container.

On September 17th the two took the container to the nearby junk yard to show the junk dealer. The dealer was impressed with the blue light and on September 21st promised to pay them $25 for the cylinder. The dealer brought it in his house and placed it inside a clothes closet inside his wife’s bedroom.

On September 21st the wife noticed, that she and members of the family had diarrhea, believing it was the soft drinks. She took some of the soft drinks down to the local clinic for testing. The tests came back negative.

On September 23rd two junk yard workers hammered the cylinder apart breaking into several pieces.

On September 24th a brother of the junk yard boss took a screw driver and gouged some of the cesium dust from the cylinder, he then carried to his home. When he got home he rubbed the glowing dust on the floor where his six year old daughter played. The daughter ingested the dust when she ate with her hands. The family dog also ingested some the substance.

Another brother took a piece of the cylinder to his home by means of public bus. When he got home it was dark so he rubbed the glowing substance on his chest by the animal pen. The animals later ingested some of the dust.

On September 24th the wife of the junk dealer suspecting the glowing material was making her family sick took some of it to the Center for Information on Toxic drugs. A doctor there examined her and suspected radiation poisoning. Two Health Physicists were dispatched from the local University to survey the material. They confirmed it was radioactive.

On October 14th one of the scavengers had his right arm amputated at the elbow because of the effects of the radiation.
On October 23rd the wife died at the hospital, she is credited with saving many more lives. The six year old daughter also died on this day. She had to be buried in a lead coffin in the Goiania cemetery because her body was emitting 1 R/hr. It was determined another six people received doses ranging from 400 to 1000 Rem. All the animals that came in contact with the dust were put down and a total of 2000 square meters were decontaminated.