A Radiation Disaster That Contaminated Hundreds
Devair Alves Ferreira invited family and friends to check out the teletherapy device’s mysterious contents, and shared several grains of the glowing stuff with them. His brother took some of the luminescent dust to his home, where he spread it on the concrete floor. His six-year-old daughter, fascinated by the substance, coated her body in it, and ate an egg contaminated with it. On September 25th, 1987, Ferreira sold the device to a second scrapyard. In the meantime, his wife, who had become seriously ill, realized that many people around her had also sickened. She began to suspect that the glowing blue stuff as a cause.
She recovered the device from the second scrapyard on the 28th, and took it to a hospital. There, the caesium-137 radioactivity was finally detected. When news spread, about 130,000 panicked locals swarmed hospitals, afraid that they might have been irradiated. Eventually, 250 people were discovered to have been contaminated. Of those, twenty suffered radiation sickness, and four died. The fatalities included Ferreira’s wife and six-year-old niece. The two original scavengers who had kicked off the disaster both lost limbs to amputation. A cleanup operation was required in which the topsoil was removed from several sites, while various houses were demolished and all their contents were incinerated.