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

Jilin orphaned source, 1992

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 10 July 2022

Date: 19 November - December 1992

Location: Jilin, Xinzhou, PR China

Type of event: lost source


During decommissioning, a 10-curie cobalt-60 source from an industrial irradiation facility was taken to a residence by a construction worker at the site. The source had been stored in water 6 meters deep in a well since 1980. The worker took the source home in his jacket pocket on 19 November, exposing his wife, father, and brother. That afternoon the worker went to the hospital with symptoms including nausea and vomiting; he took the source with him. His father, brother, and wife provided care for him at the hospital and were further exposed to the source there. His wife was 19 weeks pregnant. The worker died 15 days after initial exposure, about the time radiation was identified as the cause of his illness. The father and brother died the following week, and the wife required medical care by mid-December.

Including medical workers, 37 individuals received radiation doses including at least 14 with doses exceeding 25 rad. Doses to the worker, father, and brother each exceeded 800 rad. The wife developed radiation sickness from a dose of 230 rads. Her daughter received a 180 rad dose in utero, was born with very low birth weight, and exhibited severe mental retardation. Four others suffered injury from doses of 30-90 rad, some with larger localized doses. The source was not secured until 76 days after it was taken.

Consequences: 3 fatalities, 6 injuries.


© 2004-2008, 2022 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 10 July 2022.
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