Ever wonder what happens to old X-ray machines, equipment used to irradiate food, or mining equipment? Looks like a lot of it gets sold as scrap and recycled in to household items.
Recently, metal tissue boxes from Bed, Bath & Beyond were found to be radioactive and had to be recalled and removed from over 200 U.S. store locations. Can you imagine blowing your nose and then having it glow in the dark?
This briefing from the March 28 Washington Regional Threat & Analysis Center All Hazard Open Source Bulletin gives the details:
(U) Growing Global Threat of Radioactive Scrap Metal
The discovery of radioactive metal tissue boxes at U.S. Bed, Bath & Beyond stores in January highlighted one of the topics drawing world leaders to a nuclear security meeting in Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. home furnishing retailer recalled the boutique boxes from 200 stores without injury.
Industries are confronting the impact of loose nuclear material in an international scrap metal market worth at least $140 billion a year. Going shopping? Don't forget your wallet and credit card. Or your Geiger counter. Abandoned medical scanners, food-processing devices and mining equipment containing radioactive metals such as cesium-137 and cobalt-60 are picked up by scrap collectors, sold to recyclers and melted down by foundries. Dangerous scrap comes from derelict hospitals and military bases, as well as defunct government agencies that have lost tools with radioactive elements.
Exposure has dangers. Chronic exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cataracts, cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A 2005 study of more than 6,000 Taiwanese who lived in apartments built with radioactive reinforcing steel from 1983 to 2005 showed a statistically significant increase in leukemia and breast cancer.
Analyst Note: Even with numerous safeguards in place, it may still be possible for radioactive materials to enter the recycle market and ultimately end up in manufactured products. All detections of radiological materials must be thoroughly investigated to determine the path from discovery back to the origin of the source, and the potential path that other materials contaminated from this source may have taken.
I guess this is one more great reason to carry a Nuk-Alert in my EDC!
Good Nuke News
There is some new technology out there that may be of tremendous benefit in case of a nuclear attack or radiological accident. This report from the April 5 WRATC Bulletin gives us some news from Oklahoma State University:
(U) A Home Based Radiological Contaminant Neutralizer for Essential Beverages Researchers at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater have developed a nano based denomination technology to effectively clean up contaminated water and other beverages from radioactive metals and other harmful metals. The scientists stated at the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society that the nanotechnology can be delivered on a large or scale by food processors or in the homes of consumers according to Science Daily.
Nanoparticles can react with the radiological agents and other metal contaminants then remove them from the liquid. They are comprised of metal oxides (chemical elements combined with oxygen) that can react with all 15 radioactive elements and other non- radioactive elements such as strontium, lead, and arsenic. Reactive elements used by power plants or used as threat agents can be uranium, curium, and actinium, and plutonium are effectively removed.
Lead researcher Dr. Allen Apblett, stated that with concerns of terrorists using nuclear materials to elicit an attack and with the recent Fukishima nuclear plant incident in Japan, motivated this nanotparticle research. Dr. Apblett further explained the process for purifying beverages: stir the capsule into the solution, the contaminants would adhere to the contents in the in the capsule, then the capsule would be removed. Oklahoma State University at Stillwater is in the process of making the technology commercially available.
Analyst Note: Metal oxide nanotechnology offers a real-time home based approach to radiological preparedness. Currently there are limited MCMs that counteract the effect of a radiological agent which have a shelf-life. Metal oxide nanoparticles provide substantial benefits in regards to decontamination, public health, and the economy. This smart nanotechnology is an immediate decon method. On a large or small scale, it allows consumers to recover their beverages safely from lethal radionucleotides with a small capsule. Manufacturing companies or consumers can add the capsule to their beverages without the assistance of a HAZMAT team which is a cost effective approach to decon.
The capsule contains the necessary metals to effectively neutralize harmful radioactive metals that are associated with power plants and radiological threats.1 This technology mitigates short and long term health effects such as acute radiation syndrome and cancer by eliminating residual isotopes from a radiological incident. Being that the threat agent has been neutralized the likelihood of medical surge after an incident and exposed victims receiving medical additional treatment is reduced.
Metal oxide nanoparticles are versatile. The capsules can be used to remove other metals of concern such as arsenic and lead. Recently, there have been reports of high levels of arsenic found in fruit juice and water. 1-3 Overall, this technology offers a practical approach to treating contaminated consumable liquids that provides long term health and economic benefits in addition to reducing the workload of first responders