India's first radiation death

India's first  radiation death

 A man hospitalised after radiation exposure in the national capital earlier this month died due to multiple  organ failure on Monday night, a first case in India’s 60 years of nuclear history.

“Prasad, 35, died on Monday night at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here. His condition deteriorated on Saturday. He developed bilateral pneumonia and impaired kidney and liver functions,” said Y K Gupta, professor and chief spokesperson of AIIMS.

Prasad’s total leucocyte count went below 100 (normally it should be between 4,000 and 11,000 per cubic mm) and the platelet count came to 7,000 per cubic mm (which would be between 1,50,000 and 4,50,000). In other words, his body simply could not fight infection.
“This is India’s first radiation death,” K S Parthasarathy, former secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), told Deccan Herald over the phone from Kerala.

In the past six decades, there were two specific instances of severe radiation damage. In one case almost 30 years ago, a railway gangman was severely injured, leading to several skin grafting at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Hospital for close to two years. In another instance in the 1990s, a hand of a public sector unit worker was amputated after he mishandled a radioactive source, he said.

AERB asked the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, to phase out the Cobalt-60 camera—used for non-destructive testing in the industry—after the amputation incident as it was easy to take out the source from the camera.

Since the indigenous Cobalt 60 cameras were phased out in the 1990s, experts suspect that the source from Mayapuri may have come from outside the country.

“Prasad must have had whole body exposure. Otherwise death would not have happened,” said Parthasarathy. The exposure was a few million times more than the safe level.

The condition of another worker in the scrap market, Ram Kalap, continues to be critical. His blood counts have also reduced significantly and his TLC stands at 800 per cubic milimetre.

There were eight radiation victims. Six were admitted to AIIMS while two were treated in two private hospitals. Out of the six in AIIMS, one was discharged on April 20. The owner of the scrap shop, Deepak Jain, is having a suppressed bone marrow and is under constant watch in Apollo hospital.

In the wake of the accident, the Centre has promised to install scanners at all ports to check entry of radiation sources in India.

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