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Radioactive metal bar kills 1, poisons 100
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-02 05:44

HARBIN: An elderly woman has died and her 13-year-old granddaughter is seriously ill after being exposed to radiation from a metal bar a neighbour had picked up as scrap.

Over a hundred others living nearby have been found to be suffering from the affects of radiation. The man who picked up the metal bar and his 9-year old son have been treated for radiation poisoning along with three others who were seriously affected.

Police in Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, are investigating how the radioactive metal bar came to be thrown away without being properly processed.

Xu Hong, a 13-year-old girl, and her 82-year-old grandmother, surnamed Cui, are the worst affected victims. Xu was temporarily living with her grandmother in an apartment complex in Harbin's Daoli District while her parents decorated their new home.

The source of the radiation was found to be a metal bar, usually used in industrial X-ray equipment, picked up by their ground floor neighbour Bai Yuhai.

According to Guo Weihua, from the provincial supervision station for the radioactive environment, Bai found the bar on the coal heap in the community's boiler room. "There should be a lead protective layer on the outside, someone obviously stripped off the lead to sell it," Guo said.

The reason Xu and her grandmother were seriously affected was because Xu did her homework on the balcony in front of Bai's house, and her grandmother's age made her susceptible to the radiation, Guo said.

The pair were sent to hospital after developing acute radiation poisoning in mid-July. Cui died on October 20.

According to Xu's mother, her daughter is now recovering well in hospital, but doctors said even if Xu recovers now, it is likely that she will develop problems in the future.

(China Daily 11/02/2005 page3)

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