Radioactive leak from medical consignment at Delhi airport causes panic

Government agencies are investigating a suspected radioactive leak from cargo containing medical consignment at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, which was detected in the morning today, airport officials said.

The medical consignment that arrived on a Turkish Airlines plane carried sodium iodide liquid Class 7 for medicinal use, which has "low radio activity," and the leakage was immediately plugged and the area sanitised, airport authorities said, adding that there was nothing to worry.

The leak was detected in the cargo area of the IGI Airport this morning after two workers who handled the consignment complained of irritation in the eyes. They were taken to Delhi's AIIMS hospital for a preliminary check and are back at work.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said the leak was plugged by emergency teams.

Airport officials emphasised that the incident did not affect airport operations, Also, they said, the passenger terminals of the airport are about 2km away from the cargo area and if at all it would not have affected passengers.

"The radioactive leak was very very small. There is nothing to panic about and there is no effect on the passenger area," said National Disaster Response Force or NDRF chief O P Singh, whose teams sanitised the cargo hold and cordoned it.

Atomic energy experts from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board too were at the spot to help remove the radioactive material.

Officials said four of a consignment of 10 cartons of the sodium iodide meant for a private hospital (Fortis Hospital) had leaked.

Sodium iodide is a kind of nuclear medicine used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancers. It must be handled with care to minimise inadvertent exposure to health workers and patients as it emits radiation, in small quantities.

Such incidents could sometimes become dangerous as in 2010, when a scrapyard worker in Delhi died from radiation poisoning and seven others were injured after handling scrap material containing Cobalt-60.