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Radioactive material found in clinic chief's chair

>From CNN:


Radioactive material found in clinic chief's chair

Police in Florida probing incident as possible theft and assault

Thursday, October 21, 2004 Posted: 7:14 PM EDT

(CNN) -- Police in Florida are investigating the discovery of three packets

of radioactive material in the chair cushion of a Naples medical clinic

administrator.Police and state health officials said the administrator sat

on the chair for three or four hours, but was exposed to only low levels of

radiation and should not suffer any health consequences.

Nevertheless, police are investigating the incident as a possible theft and

assault by a disgruntled employee.

"That's what it looks like. We have to prove it now; that's going to be the

tough part," said Capt. Bruce Davidson of Naples Police and Emergency


No arrests have been made, he said. Naples is on the southwest coast near

Fort Myers.

The Naples Diagnostic Imaging Center notified police last Friday that three

packets of Germanium 68 were missing from a General Electric PET CT Hybrid

Imaging device.Florida health officials said the radioactive materials are

kept in a small, shielded container in the machine and are used to

calibrate the PET scanner, a kind of high-tech X-ray device.

Areas in medical facilities that use radioactive packets are required to be

restricted and must be secured when people are not there, said Bill

Passetti, health physicist for the Florida Department of Health.

Police said there was no sign of a break-in.

Officials said the estimated exposure to the supervisor was 60 millirem

(mR), based on a four-hour exposure. The yearly allowable exposure is 100

mR -- or 5,000 mR for people who work in the medical radiation field,

Passetti said.

"It's well below any accepted limits," Passetti said. Because the small

size of the source, and the fact it decays over time, "there's really not

the potential to receive a dose that would be considered a health hazard,"

he said.

But David Albright of the Institute for Science and Intelligence Security

said the amount is "not a trivial amount" and could have increased the

victim's chances of getting cancer had it not been discovered.

"It's not guaranteed cancer, but this should be seen as the equivalent of a

physical attack that jeopardized his safety," he said."Even if it was only

a 10 percent increase, he should not have to suffer that. It is a malicious

act that should be interpreted as somebody trying to do you bodily harm."

The apparent target of the incident, Michael Conrath, the administrator of

the chain clinic, said he does not know who moved the material, nor would

he guess about the motive."I'm trying to let the police do the figuring. My

position is, I don't know and I'm not going to venture a guess at this

point," Conrath said.As for health consequences, he said, "I'm going to

undergo some medical testing so I can determine that myself. I don't know

if it can be determined with any certainty."

Asked if he is concerned, he said, "Not terribly. It's evidently not a

tremendous amount of radiation. The state physicist is very reassuring."


Joseph M. Greco, CHP

Radiation/Laser Safety Officer

Eastman Kodak Company

Rochester NY 14652-6261

voice:  585-588-3324

fax:       585-588-0825

email:   joseph.greco@kodak.com

motto:  "illegitimi non carborundum"


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