The Radiological Incident in Ciudad Juárez

One of the worst radiation accident in North America took place in the city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in 1984. Although the incident is relatively unknown, it has been called “a hundred times more intense” than the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

It began in 1983 when Vicente Sotelo, a technician working at a city hospital, went into a general warehouse to pick up some supplies. The hospital rented space at the warehouse and used it to keep unused equipment and other stuff. Among the things Sotelo picked up that day was a cylinder containing highly radioactive cobalt-60 in the form of small pellets. The cylinder was part of a radiotherapy unit the hospital had purchased six years earlier but it wasn’t put to use. The hospital failed to notify the regulatory authority about the purchase which was required by law. It also did not monitor the status of the unit. Sotelo, unaware of the nature of the metal cylinder, loaded the radiotherapy unit into a pick-up truck and drove to a scrapyard intending to sell it. However, before arriving at the scrapyard, he attempted to pick apart the cylinder causing the radioactive pellets to spill onto the bed of the vehicle.

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Credit: freestockcenter


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