Top-level committee to trace Cobalt-60’s origins
It was found in the unlikely confines of two junk shops in Mayapuri in west Delhi. But where did the Cobalt-60 radioactive material, that could have affected numberless people as it passed hands, actually come from?, reports Rhythma Kaul.delhi Updated: Apr 17, 2010 00:28 IST
It was found in the unlikely confines of two junk shops in Mayapuri in west Delhi. But where did the Cobalt-60 radioactive material, that could have affected numberless people as it passed hands, actually come from?
It is to find an answer to this question that a high-level committee is being formed, comprising officials from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Union and State health ministries.
“It has become an international issue, as it's more or less confirmed that the Cobalt-60 source entered the country from abroad. That's why it becomes imperative for all the agencies to work in tandem to trace the route to prevent such incidents in future,” said an official from the health ministry, who did not wish to be named, as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The exposure to the gamma radiation emanating from the radioactive source found lying in scrap shops in the area resulted in six people seriously and one critically falling ill.
Sources at the BARC, whose experts extensively scanned the entire area, along with those from other agencies, and collected samples the whole of last week, said that the Cobalt-60 appeared to be a part of a bigger consignment and not just few small pieces, making it necessary to track down the actual route.
Also, by examining the size of the container that contained the radioactive source, it appeared that the equipment must have been in use for some industrial purpose.
“By the look of it, the equipment can't be used for radiotherapy or any cancer therapy, as the diameter of their cylinder is maximum 2cm long,” said an official.
“Blood is treated with radiation in biochemistry and haematology labs. Also for sterlisation of things such as needles and prosthesis, and to detect any manufacturing defects in metal rods etc,”added the official.
With more radioactive sources being located at the spot, and speculation rife of more people getting affected with the radiation, Army Research and Referral (R&R) hospital, Delhi Cantt., one of the biggest army research hospitals in the country, has offered to keep aside four isolation beds for the radiation victims.
“Considering the hospital isn't meant for civilians, we appreciate their offer. They have haematology and bone marrow transplant facility available, so it will be helpful in case such a situation arises,” said State health minister Kiran Walia.
The health ministry is also ensuring that none of the norms regarding radioactive material and its disposal are flouted.
“The guidelines are very important, and have to be strictly adhered to. Since the time this incident occurred, I have been meeting specialists in our hospitals dealing with any kind of radiation to check the situation. There will be no leniency in the matter if anyone is found flouting the norms,” said Walia.