India: 7 treated for radiation

2010-04-14 17:16

New Delhi - Seven people have been admitted to a New Delhi hospital after being exposed to radioactive waste, police said on Wednesday, raising fears over the lax disposal of hazardous material in India.

Radioactive waste was detected in a congested scrap metal market last week when five people were rushed to a hospital after they showed symptoms of radiation exposure. Two more victims have since been admitted.

"Seven people have been hospitalised and we are yet to find the exact source of the radioactive leakage," senior police officer Sharad Agarwal said on Wednesday. "No one has been detained or arrested as of now."

The incident triggered panic in residential areas surrounding the scrap yard in western New Delhi, which deals with metal and old ammunition, after reports of the contamination spread.


Police said they had found cobalt-60 at the site, a radioactive metal used for radiotherapy in hospitals and sterilisation in industrial food processes, which can cause cancer.

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.

A team of scientists from the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, India's leading atomic research institute, have cordoned off the affected area.

One expert said the incident highlights the country's poor enforcement of rules on radioactive waste disposal.

"In India we have better laws than most countries, but the laws are not enforced, R G Pillay, a nuclear scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Last year, about 50 workers at a nuclear power plant in southern India were treated in hospital for poisoning after drinking water that was deliberately spiked with radioactive material.