One dead after radiation exposure in New Delhi: police

Radioactive waste found in a New Delhi scrap metal market earlier this month has killed one person, who died in hospital of multiple organ failure, police said Tuesday.

Seven people were hospitalised after the discovery on April 12, which caused panic in residential areas surrounding the scrapyard in western New Delhi, which deals with metal and old ammunition.

Local police and a team of experts from an Indian atomic research centre took away waste containing cobalt-60, a radioactive metal used in radio therapy machines in hospitals and sterilisation in industrial food processes.

"The 35-year-old victim died due to multiple organ failure on Monday. He was working in the scrap shop where we found cobalt-60," a senior police official told AFP on Tuesday, asking not to be named.

Police said six people were still in hospital.

Search teams have found cobalt-60 in 10 scrap metal shops in the yard but they had yet to establish where the material came from, the police officer said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency warns on its website that cobalt-60 can make its way into landfill and scrap metal yards undetected because it is often encased in a metal housing.

After the detection, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in the western city of Mumbai has stationed two experts in New Delhi to scan the market and check if shop owners have hidden or buried any of the hazardous material.

Their team is also conducting workshops to create awareness among workers and shop owners on safe waste management practices.

"We found some dealers keeping samples of cobalt-60 in their wallet to show it around," said S.K.Malhotra, head of public awareness wing at BARC. "Such dangerous practices have to stop."

Last week, India's shipping ministry ordered 12 ports nationwide to install detectors for radioactive material, fearing other hazardous materials could slip into the country.

Experts say the contamination in New Delhi illustrates the lax enforcement of regulations to dispose of hazardous waste in the South Asian country.

Source: AFP

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