That Time Ciudad Juárez was Contaminated with Radiation

In 1977, a hospital in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, purchased a cylinder full of pelleted cobalt-60, a highly radioactive element, to be used in radiotherapy, and never registered the purchase with the government as required. The radiotherapy program never got off the ground, and the cylinder remained in storage. That is, until 1983 when a hospital employee took the cylinder to a scrapyard and sold it as scrap metal.

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Do you recall the story about the butterfly who flapped its wings and set off a chain reaction that caused a tornado weeks later? The unregistered cobalt-60 was kind of like that, except it involved nuclear radiation. By January of 1984, a truck passing the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico set off alarms in their radiation detectors, leading to an investigation that turned up an accident that has been called “a hundred times more intense” than the Three Mile Island incident. Authorities identified 17,000 buildings in Mexico and the US that contained contaminated rebar, and 800 buildings had to be demolished. Thousands of people in Mexico were exposed to the radiation, some at dangerously high levels. Read how all that happened at Amusing Planet.

(Unrelated image credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Tucker Yates)

Source: neatorama

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