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

Henan orphaned source, 1999

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 10 July 2022

Date: 26-28 April 1999

Location: Henan, P. R. China

Type of event: lost source


On 26 April 1999 a disused radiotherapy unit with a 577-curie cobalt-60 source was sold as scrap metal to a waste disposal company where the source was removed from its shielding. The source was sold to a scrap metal dealer at 5:00 PM on 27 April, who took it home and placed it in a bedroom shared by his wife and son. The wife (age 38) and son (age 8) began vomiting overnight, prompting the dealer (age 37) to stay in the room until he began vomiting too. They sought treatment the morning of 28 April and were initially diagnosed with food poisoning. Another doctor recognized possible radiation sickness symptoms and referred them to a hospital for evaluation. The source was reclaimed at 5:00 PM on 28 April.

The woman sustained a dose of 610 rem and developed severe radiation sickness. The man and child sustained doses of 340 rem and 240 rem, respectively, and both developed moderate radiation sickness. All three suffered began recovery after 32-35 days. Another individual suffered a 90 rad dose and exhibited mild bone marrow radiation sickness. Three other individuals were assessed and/or treated for lesser exposures.

Consequences: 4 injuries.


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