Another Truck Containing Radioactive Material Stolen In Mexico


By Will Racke

A thief in Mexico made off with an unknown amount of radioactive material in a stolen truck Monday, in what is the fourth time in five years that potentially deadly isotopes have been taken in a truck theft.

Mexico’s interior ministry issued a warning after it was discovered that a truck containing iridium-192 was stolen near Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. Officials with Civil Protection, the government’s main emergency response agency, said Monday that the material could pose a health hazard if removed from its container, Reuters reported.

Civil Protection head Luis Felipe Puente asked citizens with information about the stolen material to report it immediately, but warned in a tweet: “Don’t open it.”

A similar incident occurred in April 2015, when a container of iridium-192 was stolen from a truck in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco. And Mexico’s National Commission of Nuclear Security and Safety had to issue another warning less than a year later, after a device containing iridium-192 was taken from a pickup truck in the central state of Queretaro in February 2016.

In the most highly publicized theft, thieves stole a truck containing a cancer-treating medical device with highly radioactive cobalt-60 near Mexico City in 2013. The incident caused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to issue an alert for “extremely dangerous” material, while U.S. government officials in Mexico and along the southern border kept tabs on the ensuing search. Mexican police eventually recovered the material and arrested the thieves, who were hospitalized for radiation exposure but survived.

The latest theft occurred in Tlaquepaque, just outside of the capital of Jalisco state. Monday’s alert covered the states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacan San Luis Potosi, Durango and Zacatecas.

None of those states share a border with the U.S.

Civil Protection said Monday that iridium-192 can be harmful in cases of direct contact but isn’t dangerous as long as it remains sealed in its container.

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