Egyptian Authorities Say Fatal Radioactive Object was Radium, not Cobalt

Published June 30th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The radioactive object that killed two people in a farmer's home north of Cairo is composed of radium 192, not cobalt as originally reported, Egyptian authorities said Thursday 

In its first full technical report, Egypt's Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) said the object had a very high degree of radioactivity, measuring 50 curies. 

The report, published by the state-run MENA news agency, said with a half-life of 18 months, the object had retained most of its radioactivity since it was only 73 days old. 

It said the object was three-square centimeters (0.5 square inches), smaller than the reported cobalt needle of six centimeters (2.4 inches) in length and 2.5 centimeters (one inch) in diameter. 

The report added the radioactive body could have been used in welding boilers or for medical purposes. Its cost was estimated to be around 100,000 Egyptian pounds (28,500 US dollars). 

The authority said a company or institution working with the object might have disposed of it improperly instead of having it buried at AEA facilities at Inshas, which would have cost 5,000 pounds (1,428 US dollars). 

But it did not say how the object reached the home of a 61-year-old farmer in Mit Halfa village, just 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Cairo. The farmer and his nine year-old son died and five other family members are sick. 

The Health Ministry also said 76 people were under observation after they showed mild symptoms of contamination in blood tests conducted on some 400 people who knew the family. 

The AEA report said the object had been in the farmer's home since April, contradicting a report by a relative interviewed by MENA who said it had been in the family's possession for almost a year - CAIRO (AFP) 


© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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