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

Setif orphaned source, 1978

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 26 October 2008

Date: 5 May 1978

Location: Setif, Algeria

Type of event: lost radiography source


A 25-curie iridium-192 source for industrial radiography was lost when it fell off a truck during transport. Two children, ages 3 and 7, found it and kept it for several days before giving it to their grandmother. She kept it in the kitchen of her house, additionally exposing four other family members. Radiation exposure was only identified by medical personnel 38 days after initial exposure. The grandmother died of radiation injuries including radiation burns and aplasia 53 days later. The two children received whole body doses of 100-140 rem, and localized doses required amputation of fingers and skin grafts. The four women, ages 14-20, developed radiation injuries; one woman suffered a miscarriage, and one developed thyroid cancer in 1994 and later breast cancer. All six survivors were alive in 2000.

Consequences: 1 fatality, 6 injuries (plus 1 fetal death).


© 2004-2007, 2008 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 26 October 2008.
Return to Home. Return to Nuclear Weapons Resources. Return to Database of radiological incidents and related events.