WA: Radiation fears as tiny capsule lost on road between Perth and Newman

A tiny capsule containing radioactive material has been lost somewhere on a 1000km stretch of road in Western Australia.

The capsule – that could fit onto a 10 cent piece – came loose during transportation from north of the Pilbara mining town of Newman to the eastern suburbs of Perth earlier in January.

The small, round, silver capsule, 6mm in diameter and 8mm high, is used within gauges in mining operations and contains a small quantity of radioactive Caesium-137.

But Chief Health Officer Andrew Robertson said despite its size, the capsule contained “quite a large radiation dose”.

“It’s around receiving around 10 X-rays an hour … the amount of natural radiation we would receive in a year just by walking around,” he told reporters in Perth on Friday.

He warned people against picking it up, saying more severe health conditions including cancer could stem from prolonged exposure.

It’s believed the capsule could be on the side of the Great Northern Highway between Perth and Newman, but motorists who’ve travelled that route since January 10 are being urged to check their tyres, as the capsule could have become stuck in them.

The state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said while risk to the community is relatively low, exposure to the substance could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness.

Anyone who spots something that could be the capsule should stay at least five metres away from it, not pick it up or put it in their car, and call DFES immediately on 13 DFES (13 33 37).

If you believed you’d come into contact with the material, seek medical advice.

DFES is managing the incident, assisted by the Department of Health and WA Police.

Originally published as Radiation fears as tiny capsule lost on road between Perth and Newman

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