Three radioactive waste cans found in Thai car park
BANGKOK - Thai authorities said yesterday they found three metal canisters believed to contain radioactive waste dumped in a suburban Bangkok parking lot after five people fell ill.
One canister was found on Sunday and two yesterday after four workers from a scrapyard and a garbage collector in eastern Samut Prakarn suburb were admitted to hospital with radiation burns and associated illness caused by handling parts from the first canister, they said.
"Four workers were admitted to hospitals from February 15-17 suffering from exposure to dangerous levels of radiation after they were exposed to cobalt 60 on or after February 1," Public Health Ministry spokesman Amphon Jindawatthana told Reuters.
The fifth person in hospital was a garbage collector who sold the parts to the scrapyard, officials said, after finding them in the parking lot, where youths often play soccer.
Three of the five in hospital were in stable but serious condition, officials said.
Chaweng Suwannarat, manager for medical equipment of Kamol Sukosol Co which sells cobalt 60 to Thai users, told Reuters on Monday the three canisters had been in his companys care and some cylinders in one were stolen for sale to the junkyard.
WRAPPED IN HEAT RESISTANT FOIL SHIELD
The first canister, two feet (0.6 metre) wide and five feet (1.5 metres) long, was wrapped in a heat resistant foil shield, officials at the Thai governments Office of the Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP) told reporters.
Two metal cylinders, stolen from the canister, were found in the scrapyard and taken away by officials.
The canister had atomic energy symbols and was labelled "Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, Ottawa, Canada; Commercial Product Model 78, Serial Number 15", officials said.
The other two canisters, similar in shape and size, were found on Monday at the parking lot.
Cobalt 60 is an isotope artificially produced to be used as a source of gamma rays or high energy radiation. It is used in cancer treatment machines, in food irradiation and in glass colouring plants, OAEP officials said.
Officials said their latest measurements showed the level of radiation in the area was below the danger level.
The three canisters were moved from the parking lot to OAEP safekeeping on Monday.
All government offices and banks were closed for a Buddhist holiday today, and officials at the Canadian embassy were not available immediately for comment.
Arthit Ourairat, Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, said the company would face charges for mishandling the radioactive waste, noting that under the law such containers had to be kept in proper storage areas and not in the open.
He said he would call a meeting with around 100 users of cobalt 60 on Wednesday to prevent such incidents occurring again.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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