Radioactive materials are no longer lying in the open in India's national capital and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has taken possession of all such pieces, an official said in Mumbai on Wednesday.
The AERB experts have succeeded in recovering all the 16 radioactive pencils which led to radiation poisoning in a scrap dealer’s shop. The radiation claimed life of one person, injured seven other people, and created a scare in Delhi.
“There is now no radioactive material anywhere in the open in the affected areas which were investigated,” the official said.
"A team of experts from the AERB in Mumbai and New Delhi has also traced the root sources of the radioactive pencils which were found April 4 in a scrap dealer’s shop in Mayapuri," the official said.
The AERB probe has helped to trace the radioactive source to a 42-year-old Gamma Cell which was disposed of by the Delhi University in February this year.
“Inside this Gamma Cell was the source - Cobalt 60 - in the form of 16 pencils. It was sold to scrap dealer Deepak Jain, who in turn sold the Gamma Cell in bits and pieces to different people,” the official said.
The scrap dealer and his clients broke the Gamma Cell into bits and pieces for removing the different metals, including steel and protective shielding materials like lead.
However, since scrap dealer and his clients were not aware of what the material was, they broke 12 of the 16 radioactive pencils into different parts.
The scrap dealer, Jain had also kept the remaining radioactive pencils in his safe inside the shop, which was just behind where he used to sit, the official said.
Slowly, over a period of nearly two months, the radiation started having its effect on Jain. He started vomiting, complained of headaches, skin irritation, hair fall and other symptoms.
He was admitted to the Apollo Hospital where the medicos were mystified about the cause of Jain’s problems.
It was only three days later they suspected radiation effects and they informed the AERB officials in New Delhi and Mumbai.
Two officials were rushed to check out and after confirming the high levels of radioactive leakage, another expert team was summoned from Mumbai.
“We went and found a lot of hazardous radioactive materials, including the clothes worn by some of the victims. One of the seven victims has lost his right buttock since he was carrying a piece of the radioactive pencil in his hip pocket,” the official said.
He said that earlier the AERB had suspected some international scrap as the possible source of the radioactive material.
“However, now we have clearly established that it originated from the Delhi University and we have recovered all the radioactive materials that were in the open in the past few days,” the official said.