Mexico has issued an alert after radioactive material was reported as missing. A stolen pickup truck contained a device that uses beam gamma radiation to detect structural problems in pipelines. Both the truck and device are owned by a company called Central Industrial Maintenance. If the housing is removed from the device, the radiation would become potentially fatal at close range.
Reports CNN on Feb. 29: “The device, used for industrial radiography, was being transported in a pickup that was stolen early Saturday in the state of Queretaro, Mexico’s National Commission of Nuclear Security and Safety said.”
Officials did not know if the radioactive device – containing the Iridium-192 isotope – was the target of the theft, or if thieves made off with the truck and later discovered the device. Six Mexican states have been put on high alert for a stolen 2006 red Chevrolet Silverado truck.
The incident occurred on Saturday in San Juan del Rio, an industrial city north of Mexico City. The theft of the radioactive hand-held cylinder is at least the sixth time over the last two years that hazardous materials have been stolen, reports ABC News.
Mexico’s National Coordination of Civil Protection released a statement saying the radioactive material “can be dangerous to people if not handled in safe conditions or if handled without the right protection.”
“It can cause permanent or grave wounds to a person who handles it or is in touch with it during a brief period (between minutes and hours),” the statement said. “If the material is not found in its container it represents an important risk to health. The material is nevertheless not dangerous if it is still in its packaging.”
Police are concerned that the stolen radioactive material will be removed and used in the making of some sort of dirty bomb.