With the radioactive capsule that recently went missing and was then found against all odds, Redditors have been sharing various stories of when people have not been so lucky, and had run-ins with radioactive materials.
In one particularly distressing incident in Mexico City in 1962, a family came into prolonged exposure to a radioactive source, and began to get sick without knowing why. In March 1962, a family moved into a house in Mexico City, and inside was a small lead container.
"The source was left to the family to keep and watch without any of the members of the family knowing exactly what the container was and what it contained," a report into the poisonings by the family's doctors noted.
At some point between moving in and April, the radioactive source was taken out of the lead container and ended up in the yard. It was then found by the 10-year-old boy, who put the radioactive cobalt-60 capsule in his pocket and brought it into the house.
His mother then took the capsule from the trouser pocket, and placed it in a kitchen drawer. Later that month, "the mother of the survivor, came to live in the house. At that time she noted for the first time the blackening of the glass tumblers that were kept in the piece of furniture where the capsule was."
Blackening of glass has been described in other reports of radiation exposure. However odd it might have been, it did not alert any of the family as to what was happening.
The team attempted to determine doses of radiation the family received, which was no easy task, given that they were moving around inside and outside the house, and the team had to account for things like how much radiation was scattered and absorbed by objects around the home. Using information from the only survivor about the routines of the family, the team were able to estimate exposure.
The 10-year-old received a high dose, largely received during his direct contact with the cobalt-60. While the radioactive source was in the drawer, he and his sister were exposed to it less as they played outside. However, the mother, who was pregnant, received a large dose during this time due to her time spent preparing meals.
This changed when she began to feel sick – due to the radiation – and her mother-in-law took over chores from her while she rested.
On April 29, the 10-year-old died, after which his 2-year-old sister spent more time inside with family, closer to the source. The mother died on July 19, at which point the capsule was found and removed from the house. However, the radiation had already done its damage and killed the 2-year-old daughter on August 18, and the grandmother on October 15.
The father, the lone survivor of the incident, received around 990-1,200 radiation absorbed doses (rad) given his time away from the source, far lower than the boy's 4,700-5,200 rad.