Stolen radioactive device recovered in Mexico

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Originally published on December 12, 2013

This animation depicts the discovery and recovery of a radioactive medical device stolen last week during transit in a truck from a Tijuana hospital to a radioactive waste-storage center in the south of Mexico.

Police located the stolen truck last Wednesday, but the container carrying the radioactive medical device had been removed. One full week later, authorities finally located the device--which is used for radiation therapy for cancer patients--and experts used a radio controlled robot to place the radioactive medical device into a concrete storage container.

After tests, Mexican authorities said they do not believe exposure levels in the area were high enough to be of concern, but authorities say they will continue to monitor the situation and have notified regional hospitals to be on the lookout for patients that might be suffering from radiation sickness.

Last Friday, Mexican police arrested six suspects and brought them under guard to hospital after they showed signs of radiation poisoning. Doctors later cleared all six men, saying they had not been exposed to serious levels of radiation. Police are now holding five of the suspects after releasing one man.

The stolen radioactive device was found on Wednesday 65 kilometers from where it was originally taken. The medical device contained cobalt-60 a substance that emits gamma radiation that can increase the risk of cancer in humans.

The discovery of the medical device was a welcome relief after the UN's atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed concerns of not only local radiation poisoning, but also the possibility of terrorists using the material to make a so-called "dirty bomb" that could use explosives to spread radioactivity over a wide area.

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