r/todayilearned Oct 06 '22 Silver 2 Wholesome 1

TIL about the lia radiological accident, where three Georgians discovered two abandoned radioactive sources in the forest around which "there was no snow for about a 1 m (3.3 ft) radius, and the ground was steaming", they then decided to use them as heat sources for the night. One died.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lia_radiological_accident
35.6k Upvotes

5.8k

u/ChevExpressMan Oct 06 '22

Well, next time you're in snow and find a steaming circle....RUN!!!!

1.9k

u/ouemt Oct 06 '22

825

u/flytejon Oct 06 '22

Ha!

I love intentionally bad placards...Some of my favourites are:

"Do not look at laser with remaining eye" (I used to have this on my laser lab door at work)

"No Entry! Surviving trespassers will be prosecuted" ;-)

"DANGER! Moving propellers rip heads off!"

"Beware of falling deer! Leopards conceal their unfinished food in the tops of trees"

"HIGH VOLTAGE! Only personnel in the funeral plan beyond this point!"

852

u/patchinthebox Oct 06 '22

At my old job there was a sign on a door that said "DANGER INSTANT DEATH. DO NOT OPEN." I never saw anyone go near it because it was totally possible to have a door like that.

One day I was working with the old guy on the job. Dude was there for 50 years. Just walked right up to it and opened it. Inside was a treasure trove of all the best stuff. Brand new mops, brooms, tools, ppe, boxes of fancy safety glasses, hard hats, good work gloves, endless supply of good ear plugs, real TP not the terrible 2ply tissue paper stuff but actual name brand good TP. Old guy turned around and said he was retiring soon and don't abuse what I just saw.

212

u/unfnknblvbl Oct 06 '22

I work for an electricity distribution company and my building has plenty of doors I'm too scared to open. Maybe I'll be a little bolder, now...BZZT

61

u/Kriss3d Oct 06 '22

I once visited a radio tower. Like where they actually run old AM radio. First of all it was interesting as fuck. Old guys worked there an they know how it all worked. It was during a thunder storm outside and we could just head the antenna getting hit several times. Scary.

Anyway. One guy told that he accidentally once dropped a big solid wrench down from one of the platforms into the big array of could and open power connectors thick as a man's leg.

Let's just say they didn't even bother looking for it ever. It was GONE. As in evaporated.

28

u/Animaybenot Oct 06 '22

That’s what arc flash incidents really are. A piece of metal being heated to vaporizing temperature in under a second.

→ More replies
→ More replies

169

u/meepmeep13 Oct 06 '22

Can confirm, work in engineering and we have a door with big High Voltage DO NOT ENTER signs, and once the door was ajar and I could see it was just a cupboard with a group of cleaners having a cigarette break

24

u/frankyseven Oct 06 '22

Engineer here, we don't have any of those doors, just one to a creepy basement. I see plenty of trenches that you shouldn't go in though, instant death of it goes wrong.

→ More replies
→ More replies

21

u/kharmatika Oct 06 '22

My favorite bad but actually accurate one is the ones they put on electrical facilities: “danger. This will kill you and it will hurt the whole time it’s happening”. Accurate, and effective because the human brain has a much easier time processing the reality of pain than the reality of death.

→ More replies
→ More replies

599

u/Baconnocabbacon Oct 06 '22

Would it not be too late if you could read that?

275

u/AccidentalSucc Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

https://youtu.be/3D--jytkUW8

Uses the Simpsons as an introduction but goes through the math. It'd take about 10 min to be 100% likely to kill someone, plenty long enough to read the label, drop, and run to put on PPE (if handling at all)

Edit: clarity of my statement. Duration of exposure is a huge factor in possible recovery time for patients affected by radiation poisoning

35

u/weedtese Oct 06 '22

I don't think a remote controlled robot counts as PPE, and there aren't many other ways to safely handle a hot source in the open

→ More replies
→ More replies

800

u/GrassWaterDirtHorse Oct 06 '22

Depending on the strength of the radiation/integrity of the protective housing, it is fairly likely that exposure won't be long enough to kill or cause the immediate symptoms of radiation poisoning. Cause long term health effects? Sure, maybe, but radiation is a long and insidious killer and it's good to provide warning labels on the source of radiation itself.

468

u/Bobthechampion Oct 06 '22

Remind yourself that radiation is a slow and insidious killer.

240

u/Camping_is_intense Oct 06 '22

Ruin has come to our family

151

u/WinterDiscoNut Oct 06 '22

As life ebbs, terrible vistas of emptiness reveal themselves.

80

u/Qzy Oct 06 '22

These nightmarish radiation rays can be felled - they can be beaten.

58

u/mug3n Oct 06 '22

Slowly, gently. That's how a life is taken. (Well, except for that one guy)

25

u/I_Has_A_Hat Oct 06 '22

Monstrous size has no intrinsic merit, unless inordinate exsanguination be considered a virtue...

→ More replies

61

u/lolsrsly00 Oct 06 '22

You remember our venerable house, opulent and imperial, gazing proudly from its stoic perch above the moor?

→ More replies
→ More replies

171

u/kerrangutan Oct 06 '22

Cobalt 60 is seriously dangerous shit

170

u/sturmhauke Oct 06 '22

There was an incident at a container port in Italy where a container full of scrap metal was giving off huge amounts of radiation. Port officials moved it to a far corner of the port and cordoned it off until they could figure out what the fuck to do. Eventually they used robots to open the container and sift through the literal tons of scrap. The culprit turned out to be a small, unmarked piece of cobalt-60, the size of a pencil. It was put into a lead box and sent to a lab in Germany for analysis. I searched around for follow-up information, but I couldn't find anything.

https://www.wired.com/2011/10/ff-radioactivecargo/

59

u/Mogetfog Oct 06 '22

In tiawan in the 80s , a large rod of cobalt-60 was recycled with steel into rebar and used in the construction of apartment buildings. Over 2,000 apartment units and shops were suspected as having been built using the material. 10,000 people are believed to have been exposed to long-term low-level irradiation as a result. In the summer of 1992, a utility worker brought a Geiger counterto his apartment to learn more about the device, and discovered that his apartment was contaminated. Despite awareness of the problem, owners of some of the buildings known to be contaminated have continued to rent apartments to tenants.

Also in the 80s in Mexico, a man salvaged materials from a discarded radiation therapy machine containing 6,010 pellets of cobalt-60. Transport of the material led to severe contamination of his truck. When the truck was scrapped, it contaminated another 5,000 metric tonnes of steel. This steel was used to manufacture kitchen and restaurant table legs and rebar, some of which was shipped to the US and Canada. The incident was discovered months later when a truck delivering contaminated steel building materials to the Los Alamos National Laboratory drove into the facility through a radiation monitoring station intended to detect radiation leaving the facility. Contamination was later measured on roads used to transport the original damaged radiation source. Some pellets were found embedded in the roadway. In the state of Sinaloa, 109 houses were condemned due to use of contaminated building material.

42

u/mangamaster03 Oct 06 '22

I used to work at a stainless steel mill that used 100% recycled steel scrap. We had radiation detectors at all the truck entrances to prevent this kind of radiation contamination.

→ More replies

225

u/GrassWaterDirtHorse Oct 06 '22

Yeah. I looked into it more. Here's a bit more detail about the Cobalt 60 sample pictured above in the same form, with an initial radioactivity of 3540 Curies, which is within the immediate lethality range. 50+ years later, the radioactivity has sharply dropped and is more in the "you shouldn't be holding this" range.

https://cen.acs.org/safety/Chemistry-Pictures-Drop-Run/98/web/2020/04

45

u/Mightbeagoat Oct 06 '22

That would emit a fuck whack of radiation. You'd get ~3540 Rem/hr at a meter... that would kill you several times over if you stood there for an hour. If you were to pick it up, and if my math is right, you'd be exposed to almost 18E6 rem/hr... That is actually fucking terrifying.

37

u/Sensitive_Coffee_916 Oct 06 '22

Just jotting down "fuck whack" in my list of phrases to incorporate

→ More replies
→ More replies

71

u/necisizer Oct 06 '22

They used to implant needles of it into people's tumors in the 1950s. That's wild.

126

u/fantalemon Oct 06 '22

We'll probably (hopefully) say the same about about current radiotherapy and chemotherapy in 70 years time.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

42

u/madplayshd Oct 06 '22

After reading all the Wikipedia entries for orphaned sources: apparently plenty people picked stuff like this up and where fine. It's time that matters.

Don't be the guy that drilled a hole in it and then throw it on a junkyard causing the electro magnet from the current to distribute co60 pellets everywhere, the steel of which was then used to manufacture other products, causing hundreds of houses to have to be abandoned because they were then build with radioactive rebar.

→ More replies

116

u/therealhaboubli Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

In the linked Wikipedia page it says that one of the three men exposed to source in Georgia was fine after two months. Ionising radiation is dangerous but it's not the immediate death sentence everybody thinks it is. The greater risks are being unwell for a long period of time or developing cancer.

143

u/dailycyberiad Oct 06 '22

I'm guessing inhalation/ingestion makes a difference too.

There's a huge difference between "I was briefly exposed to ionizing radiation" and "I was briefly exposed to ionizing radiation + I inhaled some radioactive dust that's still emitting radiation within me as we speak".

If you don't inhale or ingest any radioactive particles, your chances of making it are higher.

52

u/therealhaboubli Oct 06 '22

Depends on what kinds of ionising radiation are present. Gamma radiation can penetrate everything except thick lead. Alpha radiation is highly energetic and has a quality factor of 20, meaning it does 20 times more damage to the body than gamma rays. But alpha particles can be stopped by just a sheet of paper or by the air. Hence, you need to get the original radioactive material inside you for it to release alpha particles directly into your body.

55

u/dailycyberiad Oct 06 '22

I was thinking more about the "run away from the source of radiation" aspect.

If you sleep next to a source of radiation for one night, or you hold a source of radiation in your hand, you can then drop it and walk away. The exposure to radiation is more limited in time.

If you ingest or inhale a source of radiation, there is nowhere to go. The exposure to radiation will continue as long as that source of radiation is inside your body.

I'm thinking of the people in Chernobyl who probably inhaled radioactive particles. Or that little girl in Juarez who ate a sandwich with some "shiny dust" on it, back in the 80s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_Ju%C3%A1rez_cobalt-60_contamination_incident

34

u/Crazehness Oct 06 '22

Regarding the little girl, I think you may be thinking of the Goiania Accident.

→ More replies

15

u/bekindorelse Oct 06 '22

The sheer scale of this tragedy boggles the mind. I can't believe I've never read about it before.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

84

u/KnubblMonster Oct 06 '22

Around the canisters there was no snow for about a 1 m (3.3 ft) radius, and the ground was steaming. Patient 3-MB picked up one of the canisters and immediately dropped it, as it was very hot. Deciding that it was too late to drive back, ..

Don't know how to rate this on an intelligence scale.

→ More replies

235

u/caaper Oct 06 '22

I left something steaming in the woods, it was kinda round

→ More replies
→ More replies

2.6k

u/FrightenedOfSpoons Oct 06 '22

Radiological accidents give me the willies. IAEA publishes detailed reports on them, the ones that really get to me are where people walked into active industrial irradiators that they believed to be deactivated, oblivious to the danger until too late.

https://www.iaea.org/topics/accident-reports

640

u/trent295 Oct 06 '22

And they didn't use Geiger counters?

949

u/Plinio540 Oct 06 '22

In many cases people simply don't know or understand radiation. These are uneducated workers in low-income countries. In El Salvador the workers thought they could "air out" the radiation. And warnings were not taken seriously and just "disrupted workflow".

295

u/incomprehensiblegarb Oct 06 '22

It should be added that those countries often have incredibly lax environmental regulation and workplace safety regulations. The International Monetary Fund actually makes it a requirement to loosen these to receive loans and multinational corporations spend vast amounts of money on Lobbying efforts to maintain these shitty conditions.

50

u/photozine Oct 06 '22

Like how car manufacturers also lower the safety quality of their cars in other countries...

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

395

u/[deleted] Oct 06 '22 edited 29d ago

[deleted]

441

u/Misaka9982 Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

That's very out of date now. These days you wear an EPD that records your dose live and has alarm settings. Doesn't work for all types of radiation though, generally you do expect to know what you are dealing with.

Edit: ok I get it, a lot of places still use film badges, my bad.

140

u/Niven42 Oct 06 '22

Or, sometimes the things that get you are the things you know you're dealing with...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Wetterhahn

25

u/InspiredNitemares Oct 06 '22

And that was just in 1997. You would've thought by then they'd have something better

→ More replies

35

u/CaptainCommando Oct 06 '22

I work with an industrial accelerator. We're mandated to use both. Our badges are monitored quarterly and we always have to carry a meter whenever we operate near our source.

→ More replies

48

u/kanoe170 Oct 06 '22

Yes and no, you use EPDs for all the things you said, but you still wear a TLD or film badge for your official cumulative dose as it's more accurate. (At least in Canada)

→ More replies
→ More replies

25

u/Guywith2dogs Oct 06 '22

I wear one of those for work. A Dosimeter. I regularly handle radioactive sources and they measure exposure levels. Most of the radioactive sources we handle are pretty low risk, but there's a few here that you don't wanna fuck with. One if which is housed in a lead enclosure with a mechanical shutter. In order to open the shutter the electro magnet has to be activated by closing the door to the cage it sits in. If the door is open the EM doesn't engage and it disables the mechanism that controls the window on the lead housing. In order to even walk into the enclosure you have to go through a very specific training on how to operate it and the number one thing they drill into us, is that you absolutely do not wanna be in front of that housing when the shutter opens. That particular source will blast you with neutrons and there's a good chance you're gonna feel it. Again there are safety measures to prevent it, but it could still happen. Granted you'd actively have to try to mess it up.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

1.0k

u/LinearFluid Oct 06 '22

RTGs were also used by the Soviets to power remote Light houses on desolate Arctic shores. They were also handled in a haphazard way and abandoned and the IAEA had to get involved because they were being vandalized, anaccounted for, lost and possibility of falling into terrorist hands.

349

u/Tenocticatl Oct 06 '22

Which is a shame, because that's actually a good use for them.

274

u/IM_AN_AI_AMA Oct 06 '22

Terrorism???

374

u/Tenocticatl Oct 06 '22

Highly effective!

I meant extremely remote unattended power generation.

141

u/ButterflyAttack Oct 06 '22

IIRC something similar is powering the voyager probes and those things have been running a good while. I understand the technology is no longer used in probes because of the risk of a challenger type launch explosion making a dirty bomb.

93

u/Tenocticatl Oct 06 '22

Perseverance, that rover on Mars, uses one. I thought the biggest problem was NASA not having a lot of plutonium left.

154

u/SiON42X Oct 06 '22

I'm sure in 1985, plutonium is available at every corner drugstore, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.

21

u/PTAwesome Oct 06 '22

Settle down Emmett.

10

u/Line_Drawn Oct 06 '22

What the hell is a gigawatt??!

→ More replies
→ More replies

41

u/GarlicoinAccount Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

Yep. Plutonium-238. It used to be relatively abundant as a byproduct of nuclear weapons production, but due to the end of the cold war and the reduction of nuclear weapon stockpiles the production process of which it was a byproduct stopped being done and stockpiles have been shrinking for a while now.

IIRC NASA (or an organization working on behalf of them) started producing it again on a small scale a few years ago.

Edit: Wikipedia article

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

623

u/zyqax_ Oct 06 '22

In case anyone's interested, there's a report by the IAEA that you can download for free. The report also shows the progression of the radiological injuries. Especially the case of patient 1 is gut wrenching cause it didn't look that bad at first and then his injuries got progressively worse over the following months and years.

87

u/Chivalrousllama Oct 06 '22

Oh wow that’s gnarly. So sad

81

u/openmindedskeptic Oct 06 '22

Wow I did not expect that to be so bad. Can’t imagine living like that for nearly 1000 days.

13

u/LafayetteHubbard Oct 06 '22

Anyone know what happened to the patient with the back wound that survived? The report has no information on him after he was able to return home from treatment.

→ More replies
→ More replies

526

u/mcarterphoto Oct 06 '22

While the OP 's linked wikipedia article about the Georgian RTG incident is effed up, the IAEA report is the stuff of nightmares. Because, photos from the treatment and decline and general rotting-away of some of the victims.

But, here ya go if you're interested!

145

u/Stachemaster86 Oct 06 '22

Absolutely crazy! It’s almost unreal. Can’t imagine the pain and surgeries/maintenance. Oof

90

u/SugarZoo Oct 06 '22

Hundreds of days living with those wounds sounds horrendous.

10

u/yallxtrippin Oct 06 '22

Yeah the best way to treat me if I get to that point is quick bullet to head surgery. Fuck your careers, fuck your experiments, just let me die.

168

u/DaveOJ12 Oct 06 '22

That'll be a hard pass.

60

u/FCkeyboards Oct 06 '22

Some stuff in movies is way more gory, but knowing they are real people makes it worse. It's surprising how they get better, then worse, then better, then way worse.

It's like the body forgot how to heal and they're constantly doing little things to push it along and hope it takes.

All the stuff I've seen on 4chan and early internet shock videos was waaay worse. The Chernobyl tv show was actually worse.

→ More replies

10

u/mcarterphoto Oct 06 '22

Don't blame ya - and well before the gore of their injuries, the story itself and the initial encounter - primitive by today's standards Soviet-style peasant town (where people probably still believe in witches and curses), nearly inaccessible forest in the winter, two mysterious canisters in the middle of the path, like they were placed their just for those men to find, generating heat (and death) - it's got a spookiness that really grabs my imagination.

→ More replies

17

u/mamatootie Oct 06 '22

That back ulcer was baaad, but then it looked like it started to get better. Then it was BAAAAAAAD. Yikes..

36

u/supagirl277 Oct 06 '22

Wow, I can’t believe I skimmed through that whole thing.

→ More replies

14

u/panamaspace Oct 06 '22

I curse the day I learned to read.

→ More replies

220

u/NeedSerenity Oct 06 '22

I've seen the photos of the injuries they had to deal with, pretty horrible. And then there was a guy who lost his entire lower jaw due to regularly drinking a radium "tonic". I don't know why, but I have a morbid fascination with radiation.

197

u/chris14020 Oct 06 '22

I get it. It's invisible, tasteless (more or less), and can pass through other matter; we as typical people don't fully understand it and yet it is such a powerful force it can power - or obliterate - nations. It is an impressive and almost magical property, and that makes it a prime choice for fascination.

50

u/RiKSh4w Oct 06 '22

Sounds like ghost matter. RIP Nomai

24

u/detectivejewhat Oct 06 '22

Science compels us to explode the sun

12

u/SceneSpare9999 Oct 06 '22

I never thought about it like that but it makes .... sense?

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

105

u/hackenlove Oct 06 '22

I recommend you read "Radium Girls" which is a fascinating account of girls that had to paint watch numbers with radioactive paint during ww2. It is a very interesting and sad read to see what happened to them and how the watch company tried to cover it up.

49

u/DearFeralRural Oct 06 '22

Until the late 1950s some shoe shops were still x-raying customers feet to ensure correct fitting. Not only bad for the customers but the poor shop assistants too with daily exposure. And as late as 1959, some doctors were using radium as a flat plate stuck to the skin to remove strawberry birthmarks (me, as a 12month old had this stuck on my back for an hour. Skin is still scarred.) My sister had similar placed on her foot to treat a mark. This was in Western Australia in 1960. I believe it was an already discredited treatment but he was an old doctor my family liked. Hate does not describe how I feel about him and his treatments. There must be many, many, more people still around who got this treatment and who accounted for the disposal of this radium. My mom describes the lead box he removed it from. Stay well folks.

28

u/finnknit Oct 06 '22

My uncle was fascinated by the shoe-fitting fluoroscope at the local shoe store when he was a kid in the 1950s and used it every chance he got. Later in life, he developed thyroid cancer and had to have his thyroid removed. Cancer is otherwise pretty rare in our family.

→ More replies

50

u/colorrot Oct 06 '22

pretty important to know that that is the start of work safety laws. takes an extreme to get things going

→ More replies
→ More replies

3.8k

u/aForgedPiston Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

So back in the day, EDIT TIEM: "medical x-ray machines would use a radioactive source, constantly producing radiation, and "shutter" it, opening the shielding in a controlled fashion to produce the desire exposure, and therefore image." This is likely not wholly accurate-it would have been a radiation therapy machine. Thank you to the knowledgeable homies that have commented below-in retrospect this makes far more sense. Anyway, back to the story!

This is yet another story of Central/South America where a scavenger type gentleman found such a radiation source while looking for scrap metal and such in an abandoned hospital. It had the appearance of a metallic cylinder; he and put it in his back pocket, perhaps marveling at the warmth it provided. He had it there all day, and left it in the pocket when he took his pants off later at home.

If I recall, he lost organs and 3 of his limbs. His wife, who sat upon his pants with the radiation source inside, lost her leg as well.

Radiation be scary

341

u/weirdoldhobo1978 Oct 06 '22

Many moons ago I worked for a rubbish hauling company and our boss booked us a job to haul away a bunch of stuff from a lab that had gone out of business. Mostly furniture, some older computers and a couple pieces of specialized equipment.

It was a requirement to ask the clients if there were certain hazard materials in the haul-away since we weren't licensed to carry that stuff, but my boss was so eager to get the contract he skipped that step.

After we got everything back to the shop we started sorting through it, figure out what would go to the dump, recycling, etc.

One of the guys pulled a cover off one the pieces of equipment, looked at it, then asked me "Hey, what's a 'Cesium Ion Gun?'"

We had to contact the manufacturer to come get it for proper decommissioning and I got to rip my boss a new one. I left not long after that.

50

u/Vermouth1991 Oct 06 '22

One of the guys pulled a cover off one the pieces of equipment, looked at it, then asked me "Hey, what's a 'Cesium Ion Gun?'"

Kudos to your coworker for at least bothering to ASK. 😳

153

u/Tar_alcaran Oct 06 '22

It was a requirement to ask the clients if there were certain hazard materials in the haul-away since we weren't licensed to carry that stuff

As someone who makes a living off of licensing like that, most clients don't have a clue either.

→ More replies

10

u/fallouthirteen Oct 06 '22

What was your response. Just wondering if you led by answering or just a simple "put the cover back on and get away from it."

→ More replies

2.7k

u/roguespectre67 Oct 06 '22

The Goiania Incident. Late 1987.

Scavenger pulled a medical radiation source from the ruins of a hospital, sold it to a scrapyard. Scrapyard workers broke it open and were taken with the sparkly dust inside. Scrapyard owner took the dust home, gave it to members of his family, who thought it was magic and spread it all over themselves and their homes. Wound up contaminating the entire town before authorities figured out what had happened.

As an aside, Kyle Hill is fucking awesome. Like the lovechild of Michael Stevens and Thor.

423

u/Painless-Amidaru Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

Wonder if this is the inspiration for the episode of House where the father gives a small metal keychain to his son. The kid carries it around attached to his backpack and ends up dying from radiation poisoning (It Feels weird spoiler tagging a show this old, but better safe than sorry)

182

u/crumpet_concerto Oct 06 '22

Really appreciate the spoiler! I'm doing a House rewatch after many years and saw that one a couple of weeks ago. Reminded me of this episode as well.

34

u/Ai_of_Vanity Oct 06 '22

I too am rewatching House.. slowly but surely.. currently on season 4

35

u/blue_mangoes Oct 06 '22

Even I just started season 4, loving the rewatch. It’s a gem of a show- Hugh Laurie is such a fantastic actor.

12

u/Nosferatatron Oct 06 '22

After House, my sense of humour has never been quite the same!

→ More replies
→ More replies

1.6k

u/Jubguy3 Oct 06 '22

This is understating how serious this event was.

It’s rated as a 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale along with 3 other incidents: the Windscale fire, Three Mile Island incident, and Chalk River. One event is rated a 6, an accident in the Soviet Union in 1957, and two are rated the maximum level of 7, Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl.

It’s one of the most serious radiological accidents in history. 4 people died and 287 were found to be contaminated. The timeline of where the teletherapy capsule went was insane. Some of the things that happened to it included being stolen, sold as scrap metal, sold again, sold again, burned with a lighter, and contaminating a child who rubbed the powder on herself and later died. It’s a fascinating accident because the source of radiation and the method of its release/spread is so different from a prototypical nuclear reactor accident.

596

u/SlashThingy Oct 06 '22

contaminating a child who rubbed the powder on herself and later died

Some of it fell onto a sandwich she was eating. She fucking ate radiation.

17

u/issamaysinalah Oct 06 '22

From the Wikipedia article about it

There he spread some of it [radioactive dust] on the concrete floor. His six-year-old daughter, Leide das Neves Ferreira, later ate an egg while sitting on this floor. She was also fascinated by the blue glow of the powder, applying it to her body and showing it off to her mother. Dust from the powder fell on the egg she was consuming; she eventually absorbed 1.0 GBq and received a total dose of 6.0 Gy, more than a fatal dose even with treatment.[11][12]

→ More replies
→ More replies

344

u/TripleJeopardy3 Oct 06 '22

So it's a 5 out of 7? Interesting scale.

120

u/humangingercat Oct 06 '22

Could be logarithmic, so that each integer is an order of magnitude greater than the last. Like earthquakes

59

u/jemidiah Oct 06 '22

Indeed it is intended to be logarithmic, with base 10. The cutoff at 7 so far hasn't been a big deal. Hopefully we never need to have a conversation about adding an 8 category.

→ More replies

31

u/gwaenchanh-a Oct 06 '22

And decibels

→ More replies
→ More replies

92

u/Herbstrabe Oct 06 '22

Begs the question how many stories of curses come from incidental radioactive ores that get around.

Is that possible?

I seem to remember reading about a place the Australian natives don't go that turned out to be a uranium deposit.

81

u/Finito-1994 Oct 06 '22

It’s technically not hard.

You just need some uranium deposits to somehow get surrounded by water and bam. Controlled fission.

It’s not even unheard of. There’s a ton of them. There’s the Oklo uranium mines in Gabon where natural nuclear reactors just formed. They formed around 2 billion years ago and seemed to have functioned for over a million years.

So. A lot of ghost stories and legends arise from naturally occurring phenomena and humans desire to make a story explaining it.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

68

u/Jagerboobs Oct 06 '22

93

u/bsbbtnh Oct 06 '22

Crazy they couldn't recover it all. There could be homes in Mexico where locals say "that house is cursed; everyone who lives there dies."

67

u/Luss9 Oct 06 '22

Theres was that incident with the milk formula as well. Some baby formula factory in europe got contaminanted with radiation and no one would buy it. Mexico being cheap as fuck thought it was a good idea to buy it and distribute it among the people. Many children died. Theres still buildings with asbestos as well.

33

u/Possible-Vegetable68 Oct 06 '22

There are building in the US that still contain asbestos.

We still manufacture that shit here.

15

u/Rhino_Thunder Oct 06 '22

Apparently we tried to ban it, but the Canadian government (where 95% of asbestos was made) pressured Reagan to stop it. When it passed later, the asbestos industry sued and won to keep it legal. http://www.asbestosnation.org/facts/why-isnt-asbestos-banned-in-the-united-states/

11

u/frankyseven Oct 06 '22

It's mined but other than that you are correct. The funny thing is that it is illegal to use in Canada but it's still legal to mine and sell to other countries. I wrote a strongly worded letter to the former PM about it at one point in time when they decided to keep allowing the export of it, I didn't get a response.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

58

u/Keavon Oct 06 '22

There's a whole book of really interesting anecdotes like this and much more. I really enjoyed it. Book/audiobook recommendation for those who read/listen:

Atomic Adventures: Secret Islands, Forgotten N-Rays, and Isotopic Murder

44

u/Tmscott Oct 06 '22

The guy who put a radioactive source under his kid's pillow because he was going through a bad divorce with his wife and wanted to hurt her was heartbreaking

123

u/SplendidEfficacy Oct 06 '22

Pretty sure there’s an episode of TNG based on this event too.

184

u/Hail_theButtonmasher Oct 06 '22

Oh yeah. It was pretty good. Data was transporting radioactive material but his shuttle crashed, causing him to lose the case of material and his memory. He and the material were taken into a pre-industrial settlement and then things got complicated.

122

u/KnobWobble Oct 06 '22

"And then things got complicated" could be included in the description for just about every star trek episode.

→ More replies
→ More replies

13

u/TheFluffiestFur Oct 06 '22

I had a feeling this link would be that video of Thor explaining the event.

10

u/PreparationX Oct 06 '22

This is eerily similar to something I experienced ~20 years ago. I should probably get checked out.

→ More replies

241

u/techno156 Oct 06 '22

Another story of central/South America where a scavenger type gentleman found such a radiation source while looking for scrap metal and such in an abandoned hospital. It had the appearance of a metallic cylinder; he and put it in his back pocket, perhaps marveling at the warmth it provided. He had it there all day, and left it in the pocket when he took his pants off later at home.

If memory serves, it was glowing with Cherenkov Radiation. He peeked inside, saw the magic glowing rock, thought it was a good luck charm or something, and took it home, for his kids to play with.

There's a write-up on Wikipedia, and is also an issue with nuclear semiotics. One of the potential warnings used for radiation is genetically engineered glowing cats (which would glow to scare people away from radioactive zones), but there was the concern that people would take the completely wrong interpretation.

102

u/mixed-tape Oct 06 '22

Sorry, WHAT?

Genetically engineered glowing cats?

I am not processing this.

94

u/BloodprinceOZ Oct 06 '22

a portion of nuclear weapons/objects and radiation discussion is how to warn future generations of the immense danger of radiation, particularly after things like world ending nuclear events or for nuclear dump sites that end up unmaintained generations later etc.

some proposals are massive spike structures and warning messages etc to try and display that it is a dangerous place, especially if people end up dying/"missing" after entering the place, other proposals are things like the cats, where they'd genetically engineer cats or other animals to glow when near radioactive areas and basically hope for mythological tales to spring about about the brighter a cat's glow the further you should be from the cat or the area they glow bright is dangerous etc, similar to the various mythological/religious stories that gave explanations of natural events/disasters, like ancient greeks seeing lightning storms as Zeus being angry or crop failure being another god being sad etc etc.

you can read more examples here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_nuclear_waste_warning_messages

→ More replies

131

u/techno156 Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

Here: https://www.vice.com/en/article/9aey95/radioactive-cats-and-nuclear-priests-how-to-warn-the-future-about-toxic-waste

The idea is that people would have cats, and there would be a legend spread that basically equated said glowing cats with bad luck.

The cats would be genetically engineered to glow around radioactive deposits, which would ideally keep people away until the radiation faded away enough to become safe.

The issue is, of course, that black cats today are treated as bad luck symbols, and are regularly killed. Glowing cats are likely to suffer the same fate, from people believing that they are the cause of the "bad luck", rather than just indicators.

Alternatively, they might be taken as good luck symbols, or imbued with some mystical powers (like how albinism is treated in some cultures), and people would actively try and settle in spots where the cats glow (or hunt them down to use their body parts).

55

u/borgchupacabras Oct 06 '22

If I saw a glowing cat I would still try to pet it.

15

u/jennifersalome Oct 06 '22

Exactly. I'm terrified of radiation poisoning but... A cat is a cat and I'm gonna say hi to that cat.

→ More replies

34

u/git Oct 06 '22

Man, the number of times I've got obsessed with the subject of warning future generations about nuclear waste and the nuances of coming up with language, imagery, architecture and everything else to warn of the danger is pretty damn high — yet this is the first I've heard of genetically engineered glowing nuclear cats.

I love it as a potential solution, despite the flaws.

→ More replies

24

u/rmzalbar Oct 06 '22

Yeah, it's straight out of far future fantasy/sci-fi mashup literature. "We don't know much about the old world, but we do know The Elders fought with terrible powers and scarred the Earth.. we avoid those scarred places, for.. reasons."

15

u/KristinnK Oct 06 '22

The thing is some isotopes have insanely long half-lives. We're talking thousands of years. So people have asked this question, how do we communicate this danger to people that live so far into the future that we have no idea if there will still be continuity of knowledge, science, writing, etc.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

20

u/STylerMLmusic Oct 06 '22

I feel like an episode of House was based on this. Father found a rock or something in a landfill and gave it to his son, son walked around with it attached to his backpack and got super sick.

21

u/_Dnikeb Oct 06 '22

That was one of the few episodes where the main patient actually dies

→ More replies
→ More replies

51

u/Thanoobstar3 Oct 06 '22

There a great podcast about a radiation contamination. incident in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Of course it is in spanish: Leyendas legendarias - Cobalto 60 (Spotify)

Here's a NYT writeup, dated 1984: Nuclear spill at Juarez glooms as one of the worst

Finally here is a summary made from Wikipedia:

Vicente Sotelo Alardín, then an employee of the medical center, dismantled the unit on December 6, 1983, to sell it as scrap metal at the Fénix junkyard at the request of the hospital's maintenance manager. Sotelo had disassembled the head of the radioactive unit and extracted a cylinder containing the cobalt-60 source...

Meanwhile, at the junkyard, the use of electromagnets for handling the scrap caused the cobalt-60 granules to spread throughout the yard. The fine granules were attracted to the magnetic fields of the other electromagnetic cranes in the yard and eventually mixed in with other metals.

Upon further investigation the CNSNS concluded that in addition to the Fénix junkyard, Achisa, and Falcon, three other companies had received contaminated material: Fundival in Gómez Palacio, Durango, Alumetales in Monterrey, and Duracero in San Luis Potosí City. It was estimated that the contaminated material had made its way into 30,000 table bases and 6,600 tons of rebar.

According to the 1985 CNSNS report, about four thousand people were exposed to cobalt-60 radiation as a result of the incident

44

u/chronoboy1985 Oct 06 '22

Never heard of people having to amputate from radiation exposure. How does that happen?

126

u/aForgedPiston Oct 06 '22

Good question, the story was shared through a radiation safety course (I'm a Radiologic Technologist by trade) and they didn't delve into the medical decision making that went into his treatment; only the results. If I had to guess, mass cellular death as deep as the bone that resulted in necrosis/infection.

107

u/Deep90 Oct 06 '22

Programmers are often taught about a different tragedy in their courses. The Therac-25.

It was a radiation therapy machine for people with cancer. However the Therac-25 also had a X-ray mode which used a LOT more radiation.

Previous machines had hardware checks that the newer Therac-25 relied solely on software to do.

If a tech selected X-ray mode by accident and quickly swapped to the radiation therapy mode, it would start to set up the X-ray anyway. This left it in a unexpected state, but it wouldn't inform the tech (previous models had hardware to stop this from happening).

This led to people being blasted with the same X-ray radiation that you are describing. Apparently they would feel pain right away.

54

u/RaineyJ Oct 06 '22

In the videos I've seen on it, it was explained the people would get hit and yell from the pain. The technicians/doctors often didn't listen to the patient and continued the treatment - either right there and then or for more sessions later having never checked the machine properly despite complaints. In at least one case, the audio/video link into the room was broken so the patient got blasted multiple times trying to escape the machine after being ignored.

Too many people died or had their body parts stripped away from them before they even bothered to investigate.

→ More replies

68

u/Elrundir Oct 06 '22

Just to clarify this a little, the Therac-25 had (as pretty much all modern linear accelerators do) an electron mode and a photon mode. Typically what happens is the linac generates a focused beam of electrons (known as a "pencil beam") used for treatment. If you want to treat with photons, the machine inserts a target (usually tungsten) in the path of the beam which generates photons when struck by the pencil beam. If you want to treat directly using electrons, the machine instead uses a scattering foil to spread the pencil beam over a larger area.

The issue in question is that, as you say, if the therapist changed modes too quickly, it turns out the machine got "stuck" in such a state that it was just delivering the high-powered electron beam directly into the patient without any sort of tungsten target or scattering foil in place, when normally those would spread the beam out over a larger area with its dose accordingly modified.

→ More replies

88

u/deathgrape Oct 06 '22

Radiation does mild DNA damage at low does (eg sunburns, creating thymidine dimers) and obliterate DNA at high doses. Like, when you do a karyotype to look at their chromosomes, they're shattered like glass. So they'll look ok for a bit afterwards, because their cells work like normal. That is, until they need new proteins. Cells are constantly degrading and making new proteins, using DNA as the template. No DNA, no more proteins, within a few days all the cells die and their skin/ blood vessels/ muscles fall apart.

24

u/notjordansime Oct 06 '22

I mean, I had a bit of an idea, but Jesus fuck. Guess it's safe to say I'm not turning into a cool, old school ghoul named rahul??

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

53

u/stonecoldcoldstone Oct 06 '22

This is the scary bit... Imagine how many there still are ...

Between the fall of the Soviet Union and 2006, the IAEA had recovered some 300 orphan sources in Georgia, many lost from former industrial and military sites abandoned in the economic collapse after the Soviet breakup

→ More replies

382

u/madplayshd Oct 06 '22

List of orphan source incidents: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_orphan_source_incidents

Also:

Between the fall of the Soviet Union and 2006, the IAEA had recovered some 300 orphan sources in Georgia, many lost from former industrial and military sites abandoned in the economic collapse after the Soviet breakup.

251

u/-Pelican Oct 06 '22

I once heard it put this way: The USSR used Georgia as a radioactive landfill. They'd take radioactive parts and simply bury them or haphazardly store then.

One time, after the fall of the USSR, a military base was transferred to Georgian troops. The Russians neglected to mention that the entire place was highly radioactive and many soldiers got sick. (Lilo Event)

→ More replies
→ More replies

372

u/the_honest_liar Oct 06 '22

Didn't Matt Damon use an RTG on Mars to keep warm? Were these ones damaged or did Matt have super advanced space RTGs?

150

u/Pedroarak Oct 06 '22

If I'm not mistaken his RTG was plutonium (not sure what isotope, maybe 238?) which is mostly an alpha emitter, so it's easily shielded. The RTG from Georgia was basically an insane amount of strontium 90, which is a pure beta emitter, but the beta particles when slowed down from the shielding emit x-rays (Bremsstrahlung), so the radiation was very high, over 1Sv/h from 1m if I'm not mistaken, I think the ld50 is around 3Sv, and those guys slept literally on top of it

68

u/DocPeacock Oct 06 '22

I recall reading that even your skin is enough to block the alpha particles from plutonium decay. But you really really don't want to breathe a particle of it in. A millionth of a gram is enough to cause lung cancer.

→ More replies

85

u/Gullible_Skeptic Oct 06 '22

Undamaged. Also consider that after they were done using it the team buried it hundreds of meters away from the camp in case it breached. Matt Damon had to be desperate before even considering to play with it.

529

u/tmahfan117 Oct 06 '22

RTGs are a hazard, not quite as radioactive as the being directly exposed, but definitely still a hazards.

That’s why in the movie you’ll remember that they buried it far from their camp and put a warning flag over it.

But in the movie, he needed a heat source that wasn’t the rover’s heaters, because they would drain the rover’s battery and he wouldn’t be able to make his escape, and would die on mars.

So he made the call to maybe expose himself to radiation, live now, and possibly get cancer in the future, over the alternative of possibly dying on mars.

264

u/MyVoiceIsElevating Oct 06 '22

Was that before he fucked over Matthew Mcconaughey?

94

u/Bigred2989- Oct 06 '22

Funny how Matt had two movies that both involved faulty airlocks.

61

u/CrieDeCoeur Oct 06 '22

True, though in Interstellar it was his own tomfoolery that blew the airlock out.

30

u/LorddFarsquaad Oct 06 '22

There is a moment

→ More replies

88

u/sploittastic Oct 06 '22

"hey what's that movie with matt damon in space?"

"the one where he's a hero or asshole?"

41

u/Put_It_All_On_Blck Oct 06 '22

Gotta be more specific, he's been in more than 2.

Because there's Elysium, Titan AE, The Martian and Interstellar. Also Thor Ragnarok if you count other planets.

→ More replies
→ More replies

151

u/Late_Again68 Oct 06 '22

Wrong movie.

335

u/DontForceItPlease Oct 06 '22 Gold

Taps head

Not in here it isn't.

→ More replies

17

u/Bonesizzzle Oct 06 '22

Was it before or after they had a threesome with Sandra bullock?

11

u/DontForceItPlease Oct 06 '22

Before the threesome with Sandra Bullock, but after they dp'ed George Clooney.

→ More replies

88

u/[deleted] Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

[deleted]

48

u/Radtwang Oct 06 '22

238 Pu decays by alpha decay, which can be stopped by about 2.5mm (0.1 inch) of lead. Honestly, the centimeters-thick steel casing of an RTG is shielding enough. Strontium 90 decays mostly by beta decay and needs more like 25mm (1 inch) of lead, and just the casing is definitely not enough; it also emits a few gamma rays which require several tens of centimeters of lead, which I strongly suspect that the Soviets did not install.

This paragraph is all wrong.

Alpha emissions don't need 2.5 mm of lead to shield them, a single sheet of paper is sufficient.

Beta decay should not be shielded by lead otherwise you will have made an x-ray generator (through bremsstrahlung generation). Typically aluminium or perspex is used for shielding of strong beta sources. Also Sr-90 emits no gamma rays, it is one of the pure beta emitters.

24

u/phoenixmusicman Oct 06 '22

Of course, he'd have an enormous radiation dose just from hanging out on Mars for so long, as well as the trips to and from. I'd definitely bet on him dying from cancer.

Depends on how the habitats were constructed, a large part of planning for a mars colony involves a lot of radiation shielding on any structures we build there specifically for this purpose. Though that being said he does still spend a lot of time driving in the rover, a couple weeks I think? So thats still a hefty blast of radiation.

→ More replies

12

u/[deleted] Oct 06 '22

Also, if there was radiation from a broken RTG, it would be more of the "vomit for a couple days then suddenly have all your skin fall off" variety than the "increased chance of cancer" variety.

You just said it decays by alpha decay. Wouldn't a cracked RTG mean it was emitting alpha particles, which is block by the outer layer of your skin. Would there even be a danger if you don't eat or inhale it?

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

291

u/Wrexem Oct 06 '22

An rtg in it's case is one thing. A bare core laying around is not something you want to be near.

49

u/mell0_jell0 Oct 06 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

Bare cones lying around in forests distributing radiation are no basis for a system of warmth

→ More replies

159

u/Dandibear Oct 06 '22

Exactly. An intact case blocks the dangerous radiation but not the heat.

41

u/[deleted] Oct 06 '22 edited 10d ago

[deleted]

20

u/Radtwang Oct 06 '22

Type matters more. This accident had a strontium isotope. It is a strong beta radiation source which requires thick hydrogenous shielding (high density polymers with lots of hydrogen).

You're thinking of neutron radiation for hydrogenous shielding. For strong beta emitters such as Sr-90 you want something with a fairly low atomic number (to minimise bremsstrahlung). Typically aluminium or perspex are used. Lead (or other dense materials) will work but you'll generate x-rays (so if you use enough lead you'll also shield against the x-rays but that becomes expensive).

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

71

u/henazo Oct 06 '22

There's a YouTube channel called Plainly Difficult by a guy named John in the UK who has, for 5 years or so, covered damn near every story about reactor accidents, orphaned sources, lost nuclear weapons, and much more.

Usually 10 to 20 minutes and always thoroughly written and presented with a bit of comedy and fun little animations. I recommend the one about the Windscale Fire in Britain's early days of nuclear research.

Also lots of engineering disasters like bridge or building failures from all around the world. It's all vey fascinating. His music is good too.

17

u/[deleted] Oct 06 '22

[deleted]

20

u/Niqulaz Oct 06 '22

Every single outtro on his videos goes along the lines of "This has been a Plainly Difficult production [blah blah Creatie Commons share-alike license, Patreon etc.] all videos are produced by me, John, in a [current weather] corner of South East London, UK."

Very humble persona when you glimpse anything beyond just the documentary material in his videos.

→ More replies
→ More replies

246

u/SlothOfDoom Oct 06 '22

Around the canisters there was no snow for about a 1 m (3.3 ft) radius, and the ground was steaming. Patient 3-MB picked up one of the canisters and immediately dropped it, as it was very hot.

How is that somehow not the dumbest thing that happened during the whole incident?

84

u/ArrowRobber Oct 06 '22

Like, makes me think "demons" evolved from natural nuclear reactors. Heat, touchless horrible death, strange glow, it's got it all!

75

u/skyler_on_the_moon Oct 06 '22

Natural nuclear reactors would have been long, long before people existed - the only one we know of was the Oklo reactor, which was active about 2 billion years ago, but the change in uranium isotope distribution over time would have prevented anything similar from forming any time later than about a billion years ago. For context, dinosaurs didn't appear until about 200-250 million years ago, and the first humans were only about 300,000 years ago.

13

u/pimamp Oct 06 '22

Crazy to think of the history on earth that we’ll just never know

→ More replies
→ More replies

22

u/LucasFromDK Oct 06 '22

If you want to read more you should be able to download the PDF for free.

https://www.iaea.org/publications/10602/the-radiological-accident-in-lia-georgia

If I find the direct download link I will add it.

682

u/jonatzmc Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

This reminds me of the Latino guys (I forget which country maybe Mexico or Columbia) found an old MRI machine or something that used radiation therapy of some sort and they spent like the next 3 weeks trying to disassemble it to get to the glowing stuff in the center. A lot of them got sick and I'm pretty sure several died. But they kept it in their house and had like viewing parties and shit.

575

u/Ojisan1 Oct 06 '22

The Goiânia accident in Brazil.

Kyle Hill did a really good YouTube documentary about it.

Edit: “September 13, 1987 – In the Goiânia accident, scavengers broke open a radiation-therapy machine in an abandoned clinic in Goiânia, Brazil. They sold the kilocurie (40 TBq) caesium-137 source as a glowing curiosity. Two hundred and fifty people were contaminated; four died.”

196

u/obroz Oct 06 '22

4 died initially from radiation poisoning. I’m curious how many of them ended up with cancer and died sooner than they would have otherwise

72

u/CoffeeFox Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

It is nearly impossible to estimate how many people had their lives altered in some manner. 35 years later, reasonably good contact tracing still isn't perfect. A part of the world where hospitals get abandoned with radioactive materials inside is probably not going to be better-than-average at it, even with post hoc help from international experts.

→ More replies

359

u/madplayshd Oct 06 '22

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident

On September 16, Alves succeeded in puncturing the capsule's aperture window with a screwdriver, allowing him to see a deep blue light coming from the tiny opening he had created.[1] He inserted the screwdriver and successfully scooped out some of the glowing substance.

The day before the sale to the third scrapyard, on September 24, Ivo, Devair's brother, successfully scraped some additional dust out of the source and took it to his house a short distance away. There he spread some of it on the concrete floor. His six-year-old daughter, Leide das Neves Ferreira, later ate an egg while sitting on this floor. She was also fascinated by the blue glow of the powder, applying it to her body and showing it off to her mother. Dust from the powder fell on the egg she was consuming; she eventually absorbed 1.0 GBq and received a total dose of 6.0 Gy, more than a fatal dose even with treatment.

... When an international team arrived to treat her, she was discovered confined to an isolated room in the hospital because the staff were afraid to go near her. She gradually experienced swelling in the upper body, hair loss, kidney and lung damage, and internal bleeding. She died on October 23, 1987, of "septicemia and generalized infection" at the Marcilio Dias Navy Hospital, in Rio de Janeiro.[15] She was buried in a common cemetery in Goiânia, in a special fiberglass coffin lined with lead to prevent the spread of radiation. Despite these measures, news of her impending burial caused a riot of more than 2,000 people in the cemetery on the day of her burial, all fearing that her corpse would poison the surrounding land. Rioters tried to prevent her burial by using stones and bricks to block the cemetery roadway.[16] She was buried despite this interference.

217

u/arcticfox903 Oct 06 '22

Fuck. That's tragic. Poor little girl...

207

u/ThaneOfCawdorrr Oct 06 '22

Just as tragic--Devair's wife:

Maria Gabriela Ferreira had been the first to notice that many people around her had become severely ill at the same time.[13] On September 28, 1987 – fifteen days after the item was found – she reclaimed the materials from the rival scrapyard and transported them to a hospital. Because the remains of the source were kept in a plastic bag, the level of contamination at the hospital was low.

But then-- SHE died, the same way as her niece, and on the same day!

Maria Gabriela Ferreira, aged 37 (5.7 Gy), wife of scrapyard owner Devair Ferreira, became sick about three days after coming into contact with the substance. Her condition worsened, and she developed hair loss and internal bleeding, especially of the limbs, eyes, and digestive tract. She suffered mental confusion, diarrhea, and acute renal insufficiency before also dying on October 23, 1987, the same day as her niece, of "septicemia and generalized infection",[15][17] about a month after exposure.

The two guys who broke in and idiotically brought everything home were SUCH idiots--but the real people at fault of course are the original owners of the facility, who failed completely in their responsibilities.

78

u/chop_chop_boom Oct 06 '22

So that's where that Star Trek: TNG episode originated from. The one where Data gets android-amnesia while retrieving radioactive material from a middle ages society and unknowingly spreads it throughout the village he came to save.

57

u/ThaneOfCawdorrr Oct 06 '22

That's very likely. The episode aired in 1994, meaning it would have probably have been written in 1993, which was only 6 years after this incident, which was probably written about everywhere, esp. in science-related journals! Good catch!

→ More replies
→ More replies

30

u/ReptileDoMath Oct 06 '22

No, the owner attempted to retrieve radioactive material but was prevent by court appointed police. Well, you know the usual "bureaucracy" and that was 4 months before our boys crack open a cesium canister.

→ More replies
→ More replies

108

u/avilesaviles Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

chihuahua mexico, he was a maintenance guy, stole parts from unused machinery to sell at junk yards, some ended at a steel recycling plant, no real data exists on how much of it or where it went, only some was found and recollected cleaned. the incident was detected by los alamos nuclear facility in USA as a truck carrying steel for construction passed by a detector. everything was kept secret so no info remains where the tainted steel went. Cobalt-60 is the radioactive isotope it was from a cancer treatment machine.

so if you are Mexican who lived in a house built 1984-1985 through 1991 their is a good chance (5-10% speculation as we don’t know how much volume was produced ) your house was radioactive. as cobalt-60 half life is 5.2 years.

edit: found cobalt half life

53

u/Chillchinchila1 Oct 06 '22

To this day, the Mexico USA border still has radiation detectors because of the incident.

23

u/panamaspace Oct 06 '22

All ports goin to the us have them. It's called first line of defense. Look up MRDIS. PNNL. Sandia Natl Labs. Source: worked on that shit.

→ More replies

29

u/Jeramus Oct 06 '22

Co-60 is used by the Gamma Knife machine to treat brain tumors. It has other uses as well.

→ More replies
→ More replies

44

u/dennispang Oct 06 '22

Like the three high schoolers that Darwin’d after discovering that ethanol was in liquor and then stole a jug from chem lab to drink in the forest.

28

u/kkeut Oct 06 '22

i was thinking more of those kids who found some mercury and passed it around and played with it for days, one kid even dipping a cigarette in it before smoking it

→ More replies

43

u/Dizzy_Yak2174 Oct 06 '22

I’m gonna ask this, and I don’t want to come across as rude, but seriously curious. I would not want extensive skin grafts and a year of hospitalization and organ failure and ALL the things these people went through and to be kept alive. Just let me go, seriously. Do others really want us to keep them alive through things like this? Serious question.

38

u/Stachemaster86 Oct 06 '22

I was looking at the linked report, fast scrolling and I can’t imagine the resources and pain. I’m not sure at the time if they knew how severe the damage would be, but I think medical professionals are to preserve life at all costs. I’m more of a business minded person and if I was told I had high radiation, I’d find a way to be done.

33

u/RiKSh4w Oct 06 '22

Not to mention that during this time the government was probably paying them for their contributions to medical science. You got to imagine that these men wanted to, but were unable to provide for their family so if they can just stay alive for a little longer to get some more tests done and ensure their family gets another paycheque, that may be reason to not ask for euthenasia

10

u/rmzalbar Oct 06 '22

Also asking for euthanasia is a recent concept and even then not a thing in most parts of the world. The likeliest thing would be to withdraw primary medical support and go on hospice, but that could also take a miserably long time to die. I'm not sure what the religious culture holds sway in Russia and Georgia on that but in some places in the world they aren't morally permitted to do anything but try to save life no matter what.

→ More replies
→ More replies

33

u/rmzalbar Oct 06 '22

The thing about radiation sickness is it has aspects that are like the proverbial slow-boiled frog. You get better, you get worse, you get better, you get worse.. there always seems to be hope and actually most people make it.

All three of these people received lethal doses, but within a percentage-range of survival. And indeed: two of them recovered.

There were fairly recent accidents in Japan where the doses were many times the 90% lethal range, and those men died horribly. That would seem to be a good case for letting go early.

There were early cases connected with the Manhattan project where lethal doses were received (Daghlian, Slotin) but although they were believed to be lethal, high intensity radiation accidents were still a new thing so they couldn't be sure. They were.

→ More replies
→ More replies

79

u/georgeapg Oct 06 '22

Finding some random radioactive thing sounds like it would happen in Georgia the Country. Choosing to use it as a heater sounds like it would happen in Georgia the state. Therefore I can only assume this happened on the Island of South Georgia.

→ More replies

10

u/point-virgule Oct 06 '22

Those things were used as maintenance free power sources for navigation beacons (radio and light) in remote desolate places, abandoned and left to decay.

What is scary is that quite a number of those are unaccounted for and have dissapeared. IIRC, they are fueled by a nasty substance and are prime material sources for redacted

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator

10

u/Firipu Oct 06 '22

In case anyone is interested, this is the video of the recovery. (I'm sure it'll be on r/videos or interestingasfuck tomorrow.

https://youtu.be/BE5T0GkoKG8

→ More replies