Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Mayapuri orphaned source, 2010

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 22 September 2012

Date: 12 March-April 2010

Location: Mayapuri, New Delhi, India

Type of event: lost source


A cobalt-60 source at a scrap metal shop in Mayapuri caused radiation injuries to several individuals. The University of Delhi ordered a campus-wide "spring cleaning", during which a Gammacell 220 research irradiator unused since 1985 was identified for disposal. A campus committee of chemists concluded that the Gammacell's cobalt-60 source was "manageable", and the unit was auctioned on 26 February 2010 to a scrap metal dealer. The unit arrived at a scrap metal dealer in Mayapuri on or before 12 March. Sometime in March the owner cut off a piece of the source and gave it to another dealer who put it in his wallet. By late March the shop owner developed diarrhea followed by skin legions; on 4 April the shop's owner was hospitalized with radiation sickness. Authorities found the source on 5 April. The dealer who had the sample developed local radiation injury on his buttock and later collapsed. By 14 April a total of seven individuals had been hospitalized with radiation injuries, with one more hospitalized and released. One individual, a 35-year-old male scrap marker worker, was transfered to another hospital on 13 April where he died on 26 April from multiple organ failure from a 310 rad exposure. Six individuals, including the owner of the first scrap dealer shop, remained hospitalized on 28 April at three hospitals; two individuals were in critical condition. Exposures to four surviving patients ranged from 60 to 280 rad.

Authorities recovered eight sources at the original shop, two at a nearby shop, and one from the dealer's wallet. Many of these were fragments of the original cobalt-60 source. Authorities also removed some contaminated soil. India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board announced on 28 April having traced the origin of the source to the University of Delhi and additionally ordered the University to suspend use of radioactive sources, and by early May had launched an audit of Gammacell units in use at Indian universities. On 5 May the AERB stated that all material from the Gammacell unit was accounted for. Further cleanup of the scrap metal site in Mayapuri was conducted 15-16 May; several other hotspots at nearby sites are reportedly not hazardous.

Consequences: 1 fatality, 7 injuries


© 2010, 2012 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 22 September 2012.
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