20 Radiation Crimes and Incidents That Will Scare You

11Estonia Radiation Incident

In 1994, a cesium-137 source was stolen from a radioactive waste facility by three brothers in Estonia. One of them placed it in his jacket pocket and took it home. A few days later he was hospitalized when he felt ill and died a month later. His whole family suffered radiation sickness and one dog who slept near the radiation source died.


12Radiation Suicide

In 1960, a 19-year-old research worker at a radiological laboratory in Moscow committed suicide by exposure to a cesium-137 source. He took a capsule containing the source from the laboratory and put it in his left pants pocket for 5 hours, then shifted it around his abdomen and back for 15 hours. Symptoms of radiation sickness developed within hours, and he died after 15 days.


13David Hahn

A Michigan man named David Hahn was arrested in 2007 for stealing smoke detectors, apparently to collect radioactive sources from them. He was charged with stealing at least 13 smoke detectors (containing americium-241) from several buildings. At the time his face was covered with open sores reported to be related to exposure to radioactive materials. Previously, around 1993 at the age of 17, he had accumulated large amounts of commercial radioactive sources in an effort to build a homemade nuclear reactor.


14Gu Jiming

In 2002, a Chinese nuclear scientist named Gu Jiming used radioactive iridium-192 pellets in an attack on a business rival. He obtained iridium-192 and placed it above the office ceiling panels of his rival. The victim soon reported symptoms of memory loss, fatigue, appetite loss, headaches, vomiting, and bleeding gums. Another 74 staff members, including one pregnant woman, also had symptoms. Gu was convicted in 2003 and given a suspended death sentence.


15Radiological Assault

In 1979, an individual in France placed radioactive graphite fuel element plugs under the driver's seat of a car. The victim sustained a 25-30 rad dose to his spinal bone marrow and 400-500 rads to his testes. The perpetrator, who was trying to kill his employer, was tried and convicted of poisoning by radiation, fined $1,000, and served 9 months in prison.


16Texas Radiological Assault

In 1972, a man in Texas used radioactive sources to intentionally irradiate his 11-year-old son. The man had limited visitation rights following divorce from the child's mother in 1971. He obtained capsules from one or two cesium-137 oil and gas well logging sources, which he was licensed to use with a company. On several occasions, over a period of 7 months, he exposed his son to the capsules, which resulted in skin blisters, nausea, rashes, hair loss, and castration. The case was reported to law enforcement authorities on 31 January 1974, and the father was convicted in 1975.


17Peru Incident

In 1999, a welder working with a radiographer at a hydroelectric plant in Peru picked up a lost iridium-192 industrial radiography source and put it in his pocket for several hours. After about six hours, the worker began experiencing pain in the back of the right thigh. He went home with the source, causing minor exposures to family members. Radiographer, having discovered the source was missing at about midnight came to the welder's home and discovered the source. The welder received an estimated whole body dose of 150 rem, although localized doses were much higher, up to 10,000 rad to one buttock, requiring amputation of one leg.


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18Egypt Incident

In 2000, casualties resulted from a radiography source unwitting brought into a household in Egypt. Four iridium sources used for checking pipes were lost and the workers searched unsuccessfully for them. One poor family found one source on and took it home, believing it to be a precious metal. It contained iridium-192. The father of the household and his 9 years old died of radiation sickness and other family members were hospitalized. 76 neighbors were treated for minor symptoms of blood changes.


19Brazil Radiation Incident

In 1987, a radiotherapy unit was abandoned in a clinic in Brazil which was being demolished. The unit had a source which consisted of 1,375 curies of cesium-137. The source was stolen by two people, one of whom took it to his home and extracted the source from its containment enclosure. Then onwards the radioactive source changed a lot of hands around the town before it was discovered. About 112,800 people were examined at the city's Olympic stadium, of whom 129 were found to be contaminated and 20 were hospitalized. All in all four people died and many others displayed long-lasting effects.


20Moroccan orphaned source

In 1984, a 16.3-curie iridium-192 industrial radiography source was lost and taken home by a laborer in Morocco. The laborer laid the source on a table in the family bedroom, and it remained in-house for a few weeks. Exposure to radiation caused the deaths of 8 family members, including 4 children and their parents within a few days of each other, about 45 days after exposure. Three other people received significant exposures. Diagnosis of radiation exposure was only made 80 days after initial exposure.

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