A Radiation Disaster in Brazil
In 1985, the Goiania Institute of Radiotherapy, a private chemotherapy clinic about half a mile from the administrative center of Goiania, Brazil, moved offices. It left behind outdated hospital machines and supplies that were not needed in the new location. Among the items left behind was a teletherapy treatment device that used caesium-137, a highly radioactive isotope. Legally, the authorities should have been notified and careful disposal methods should have been followed. Disaster ensued when the clinic failed to do any of that.
The abandoned building was occupied by homeless people, and morphed into a hangout for drug addicts and derelicts. The abandoned teletherapy device and its caesium-137 contents were thus totally unsecured. On September 13th, 1987, two scavengers came across the teletherapy unit. They did not know what it was, but figured it might have scrap metal value. So they removed the source assembly – which contained the radioactive isotope – from the machine’s radiation head. It was a start of a tragic nuclear incident.