28. The Idiot Scrapyard Owner Who Contaminated a Town
Scrapyard owner Devair Alves Ferreira invited family members and friends to come and check out the mysterious contents, and shared several grains of the glowing stuff with them. Ferreira’s 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 25, 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 become ill. She began to suspect that the glowing blue stuff might have had something to do with it.
On the 28th, she recovered the device from the second scrapyard and took it to a hospital, where the caesium-137 radioactivity was finally detected. When it hit the news, the incident created a furor, and about 130,000 panicked locals swarmed hospitals, afraid that they might have been irradiated. Eventually, 250 people were discovered to have been contaminated, of whom twenty suffered radiation sickness, and four died. The fatalities included Ferreira’s wife and six-year-old niece. The two original scavengers 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.