A Brief History
On September 13, 1987, two thieves took advantage of a guard being absent from an abandoned Brazilian hospital site to help themselves to whatever they could scavenge. The men made the blunder of taking a 3.3-ounce capsule of caesium chloride, a highly radioactive substance used in radiation therapy.
The same night of the theft, the thieves exhibited signs of radiation poisoning. Visiting a local clinic, they were diagnosed with radiation sickness. About three days after the theft, the thieves opened the capsule and picked out some of the glowing blue substance inside.
The thieves sold their loot to a scrapyard, where the caesium chloride continued to affect numerous people. In all, 249 people ended up contaminated from the radioactive gunk, and four of those died. Others suffered amputations and other ill-effects. Over 100,000 people were tested for radiation exposure and the doctors that owned the abandoned hospital were charged with negligence but acquitted.
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For more information, please see…
International Atomic Energy Agency. L’accident radiologique de Goiânia. International Atomic Energy Agency, 1990. (English version)
Saenger, Eugene L. Medical aspects of radiation accidents: A handbook for physicians, health physicists and industrial hygienists. University of Michigan Library, 1963.
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