Not exactly what you want to hear about our healthcare system. But it’s true. Backrooms and basements of hospitals are piling up with tubes, pellets and capsules of used radioactive material that could get misplaced, lost or, even worse, stolen by terrorists and turned into dirty bombs.
Low-level nuclear waste, like materials used to treat cancer patients, was once shipped to a landfill in South Carolina, but recently the state clamped down on regulations, leaving 36 states with no place to dump their nukes, so more and more of it is being stored onsite.
Meaning hazardous materials are ferreted away throughout major cities all over the United States. Government officials say it being properly contained and monitored, but admit it’s difficult to track and is only being inspected once every 5 years. Outside groups and watchdogs suspect smaller radioactive items have already been lost.
Fortunately, much of the radioactive waste only needs to be securely stored for up to 3 years and then can be safely discarded with regular medical garbage. But one radiation control expert said materials like cobalt-60 pellets, used to focus radioactive beams during brain scans, could even end up at flea markets, recycling plants or on Ebay. Eek!
During the past 10 years, 4,363 radioactive sources have been lost, stolen or abandoned. None are considered extremely dangerous, but more than half of the radioactive items were ever recovered; the Associated Press reports.