Mex­ico is­sues alert over stolen ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY LAU­RENT THOMET

Au­thor­i­ties is­sued an alert for sev­eral Mex­i­can states Wed­nes­day af­ter thieves snatched po­ten­tially deadly ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial used for industrial ra­di­og­ra­phy.

The irid­ium-192 source, marked X-571, was in­side a con­tainer when it was stolen on Mon­day from a truck in Car­de­nas, a town in south­ern Tabasco state, the in­te­rior min­istry said in a state­ment.

“This source is very danger­ous to peo­ple if it is re­moved from its con­tainer,” the state­ment said, in the lat­est theft of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial to hit Mex­ico.

The min­istry launched an alert for civil pro­tec­tion au­thor­i­ties in the states of Tabasco, Cam­peche, Chi­a­pas, Oax­aca and Ver­acruz, as well as the fed­eral po­lice, the navy and the army.

The theft was re­ported by the com­pany Garan­tia Ra­dio­grafica e In­ge­nieria.

The min­istry said that, if not han­dled with proper pro­tec­tion, “this source could cause per­ma­nent in­juries to the per­son who han­dles it or who has been in con­tact with it for a brief time (min­utes or hours).”

“Be­ing close to this quan­tity of un­pro­tected ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial for hours or days could be fa­tal,” the state­ment warned.

Na­tional civil pro­tec­tion co­or­di­na­tor Luis Felipe Puente used his Twit­ter ac­count to urge any­body who lo­cates the source to “not han­dle or stay close to it.”

Of­fi­cials urged the pop­u­la­tion to es­tab­lish a 30-me­ter perime­ter and con­tact au­thor­i­ties if they find the ma­te­rial.

Irid­ium-192 is a man­made ra­dioac­tive el­e­ment that can cause burns, acute ra­di­a­tion sick­ness and even death, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. It is used to treat can­cer or in industrial gauges that in­spect weld­ing seams.

It was only the lat­est case of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial be­ing stolen in Mex­ico.

Crim­i­nals have stolen other ma­te­ri­als in Mex­ico that have en­dan­gered or even harmed pop­u­la­tions and the en­vi­ron­ment.

On Sun­day, thieves punc­tured a pipe­line in Tabasco’s cap­i­tal, Vil­la­her­mosa, caus­ing an oil pipe­line in rivers and forc­ing au­thor­i­ties to shut down wa­ter fil­tra­tion plants, af­fect­ing half a mil­lion peo­ple.

The wa­ter fil­tra­tion sys­tem was be­ing re­stored on Wed­nes­day, but 100,000 peo­ple re­mained with­out fresh wa­ter.

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