Thursday, September 13, 2007

Radioactive Unsexiness

I'm not sure about the rest of the world but in britain at the moment there is a huge inflation in quackery - an army of 'nutritionists', homeopaths, and other insubstantial witch doctory. It has to be said though, bad though the quacks are these days, they used to be much worse - I refer you to this bottle of delicious radithor! A life improving radioactive tonic sold in the late twenties and early thirties which contained about enough radium to kill you after a few bottles of the stuff. It was discontinued after a wealthy industrialist called Eben Byers drank enough to kill a small town, and well, sort of dissolved.

I also discovered that today is the 20th aniversary of the Goiânia Accident in which a large proportion of a city had to be decontaminated after some tramps rummaging around in an abandoned hospital found some pretty glowing metal and sold it to a local scrap dealer. Which led me off to the interesting category in Wikipedia of "List of Civilian Radiation Accidents" which contains many similar instances to the Goiânia Accident in other poor countries around the world in addition to a couple of soviet union ones which show such a bizarre recklessness they are almost funny. Like this incident for example

"December 2000 – Three woodcutters in the nation of Georgia spent the night beside several "warm" canisters they found deep in the woods and were subsequently hospitalized with severe radiation burns. The canisters were found to contain concentrated 90Sr. The disposal team consisted of 25 men who were restricted to 40 seconds' worth of exposure each while transferring the canisters to lead-lined drums. The canisters are believed to have been intended for use as generators for remote lighthouses and navigational beacons, part of a Soviet plan dating back to 1983."

who on earth thought that that was a good idea, and how on earth did they get them out there without killing themselves? I'm assuming it wasn't a very professional disposal operation.

Then of course there are the Radium Girls whose story just makes me angry.