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Radioactive contaminated imported scrap, a threat to Indians health

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, April 08, 2010 | 9:55 PM

Last year, Scrap News reported that more than 50% of the total 123 shipments of contaminated steel is from India. The 67 shipments from India were denied entry into European and US ports. The reason, contamination of Cobalt-60 in the finished products. There were rumors last year that the highly radioactive Chernobyl scrap was shipped to Asia but we do not have any substantial evidence on that.

The poor and corrupt regulatory measures in import of scrap metal is responsible for it. Huge amount of hazardous radioactive scrap metal is imported into India considering the cheap rates. Indian harbors do not have a proper regulation on hazardous materials.

Ineed if the finished products has radioactive hazards, one can visualize the fate of raw scrap and the workers who process the scrap. Only a bare minimum of these finished products are exported. The major portion of the recycled scrap is used in India.

Cobalt-60 is not categorized extremely radioactive but it still emits gamma rays which can cause cancer. It takes about 5.27 years to for cobalt 60 to lose its radioactivity to 50%. So calculate how long it will take to completely lose its radioactivity and become stable nickel.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) confirms that the cause for the radiation of finished products in India is due to the import of hazardous materials. It also insists that every importer of metal scrap in India should obtain a certificate from the exporting country that the scrap is free from radioactivity. A multilayer radiation check system proposed by AERB should be followed to prevent the import and export of radioactive contaminated material.

Zee News reports, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram have been informed about the incident of nuclear radiation. According to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, there was a report of a "radiation leak" and four persons were injured. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) scientists will examine the material in the morning. BARC’s PRO SK Malhotra ruled the possibility of the metal being Uranium. “Uranium does not emit so much radiation. This could be Cobalt-64 which is used in hospitals to treat Cancer and also in industrial incinerators”.
He also said the metal could have been sourced by a foreign party as in India, the regulations are very tough in this regard.

IANS reports that four people were taken ill and suffered burn-like injuries after coming in contact with a suspected radioactive material in a scrap market in the Indian capital on April 8. Deepak Jain, the owner of the scrap shop in Mayapuri in west Delhi where the object was found, is in critical condition after his body turned black when he touched the material, according to eyewitnesses. Three other people working in the shop were also affected by the radiation.

Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said experts have been called in and a limited area around the scrap market has been cordoned off. "The object was in a scrap shop. The area has been cordoned off... There is nothing to worry. It is a mild radiation. A limited area has been surrounded so that no one else is affected. The impact is not severe and soon we will be able to neutralize the impact of the metal," Bhagat said.

People in the area panicked as they said those present within a few meters of the shop also felt the effect of the radiation from the object.

Indian Express reports, five persons were admitted in AIIMS on 8th April evening with burn injuries and other ailments after continuous exposure to radiation at a scrap dealer’s shop in Mayapuri Phase-II, West Delhi. A 1-kilometre radius around the shop has been cordoned off as a precautionary measure, a senior officer said.
According to the officer, the five victims slept at the scrap dealer’s shop, where some radioactive material was dumped some five days ago in West Delhi.

The Police Control Room received a call from the scrap dealer’s shop at 8.30 pm. According to officials, skin of two men had turned black due to exposure to the radioactive material — all five victims have burn injuries and rashes on their bodies.

“This is not an immediate impact — they have been subjected to the radiation for the last five days,” the officer said. “They were sleeping in the room where medical waste equipment had been stored. They have shown allergic reaction and are vomiting continuously.” The victims are being examined at AIIMS, according to the officer.
Prima facie, it has been revealed that the waste material had come from a city hospital. A team of experts has been constituted to look at the scrap shop to examine the radioactive waste.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sharad Aggarwal said, “We have seized the equipment and sent it for examination. We are taking the help of researchers and experts to know what caused the radiation.” Police officials said experts from Mumbai and Chandigarh are arriving in the Capital to examine the radioactive waste.

A team from the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) will reach the Capital on 11th April morning. Police officials said the shop is located in a congested locality and experts are investigating whether more people have been affected. The shop is owned by one Deepak Jain. He is also being examined for possible exposure.

Hindustan Times reports, Police said the victims had been exposed to radiation for the past few days. “These people were sleeping in a room where the medical waste equipment had been stored. They showed allergic reactions and started vomiting when exposed to the radiation. We have cordoned off the area around the factory as a precautionary measure,” said Ajay Kashyap, joint commissioner of police (southern range).They were sent to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). A team of experts were sent to the factory where the incident took place and the police were investigating the source of the medical equipment.

“We have seized the equipment and sent it for further examination. We are taking the help of researchers and experts to know what caused the radiation,” said Sharad Agarwal, DCP (west). The shop is located in a congested locality and police suspect that more people could be affected.

Bloomberg reports, Indian scientists have sealed off part of an industrial area in the west of the capital, New Delhi, after radioactive material injured five people.
“An expert team has already identified the radiation source and removed it,” said Sharad Agarwal, deputy commissioner of Delhi police. “They are in the process of scanning the whole area and hopefully in the next few hours the area will be cleared.”

Zee News reports, Deepak Jain, the owner of the scrap shop where the metal was found is in a critical condition. His body turned black after handling the metal.
Jain had found the "bright, shining object" among some medical waste he bought from a hospital in west Delhi. When he, along with three of his workers, opened the bag, they noticed that their hands were turning black and they fell unconscious. What has caused panic in the area is that those present within ten meters of the shop also felt the effect.

Clarifying that the metal found in the shop is a radio active material, but with limited impact, Delhi Police’s spokesperson, Rajan Bhagat said that “"The object was in a scrap shop. The area has been cordoned off... There is nothing to worry. It is a mild radiation. A limited area has been surrounded so that no one else is affected. The impact is not severe and soon we will be able to neutralize the impact of the metal.” He said the experts from the Atomic Centre as well as National Security Guards have told police that the radiation is only in a limited area.
He advised the citizens of Delhi not to panic as an expert team from Chandigarh had taken possession of the radioactive material and was in full command of the situation. The area has been cordoned off by the police. He gave the assurance that very soon the affected area would be neutralized and there was no reason to panic.

Immediately, a team was requisitioned from Mumbai-based Atomic Energy Regulatory Board which found during screening that radio-active emissions were coming from the scrap.

The Hindu reports, a scrap dealer and three of his workers suffered serious burns and complained of uneasiness after they were exposed to a radioactive isotope under mysterious circumstances at a scrap market in West Delhi. The material has been covered and the entire area cordoned off to prevent further damage.

Shop owner Deepak Jain bought a scrap consignment that included a metal piece, which may have contained the radioactive material, about a week ago. The metal piece was kept inside an almirah in his shop in Mayapuri Phase-II.

On 8th April, when one of the workers, Jitender, cut the piece, a white fluid oozed out, causing instant burn injuries. Jain also suffered burn injuries and patches on the skin when he lifted the piece. His hair started falling and his skin turned black. Other workers also complained of nausea and vomiting as the mysterious injuries created a scare in the area.

Police said the four were taken to Apollo Hospital, from where they were shifted to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. Jain's condition is said to be serious.
Suspecting it to be a case of radiation exposure, the police contacted the authorities concerned. A team of nuclear radiation experts visited the spot to examine the object.

“They recorded strong radiation emission from the object, following which it was covered by the scrap as a temporary arrangement to contain the level of radiation,” a police officer said. The police suspect that the scrap consignment containing the metal piece was brought from neighbouring Faridabad and that it originated from abroad.
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