A suspected radioactive leak was reported from the import cargo bay of the Indira Gandhi (IGI) International Airport Sunday after one of the loaders raised an alarm that a radioactive substance had leaked from a shipment carrying material for cancer treatment from France.
The “leak” was tracked to a consignment of nuclear drugs for cancer — Molybdenum-99 — for a private central Delhi-based hospital. After detailed examination, authorities claimed there was no need to panic and that the radioactivity is within permissible limits.
In a statement, District Magistrate Abhishek Singh said, “An inadvertently wrong radiological emergency message was conveyed. A nuclear medicine, Molybdenum-99, was being brought from Air France flight on behalf of B L Kapoor Hospital, Pusa Road. The quantity of radiation emitted from the nuclear medicine is below 1 milli-roentgen (measurement of radiation). There is no beta radiation in the surrounding areas and there is no leakage. Hence it cannot be termed an emergency. A final call has thus been taken and the Radiological Emergency has been called off at 1.55 pm.”
Emergency response was activated after a PCR call was made by one of the loaders at the cargo bay. According to sources, the man saw the radioactive tag attached to the consignment and took a radiation reading.
A police source said, “After reaching the bay, it was found that six packets containing solid sodium molybdate had arrived from Paris by (Air France) flight AF226 Saturday night. The consignment was meant for the cargo terminal but was mistakenly placed in an area meant for courier packets. During measurement, the loader incorrectly measured the limit of the radioactive substance. When the reading showed ‘high’ levels, he immediately made a call to PCR, following which the area was cordoned off. The cargo complex was vacated as a preventive measure.”
It was later found that the supposed leakage had a reading of 5 milli-roentgen per hour, well within permissible limits, added the source.
DCP (Airport) Sanjay Bhatia said the radioactivity following the leak was within permissible limits and no one at the airport was affected.
“After receiving the PCR call, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Department of Atomic Energy and other agencies reached the spot. No injury or health problems to people have been observed so far. After detailed examination, the NDRF has confirmed that radioactivity is within the permissible limits. The consignee of the medicines was identified as Dhitee Biotech India Pvt Ltd, located in Okhla industrial area in south Delhi,” he said.
Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) said there was no radioactive leak at the airport and no flight operations were affected.
Meanwhile, Air France confirmed that a shipment of the radioactive material was brought on its flight from Paris to New Delhi. “The shipment of the radioactive medical material on flight AF226 did not reveal any anomaly. After several controls by the relevant authorities… its acceptation has been confirmed compliant. The transport of this type of material is subject to strict rules and carried out in accordance with international regulations,” said the airline in a statement.
An official at B L Kapoor Hospital said, “It is regular medicine which we require for nuclear diagnostic scans. They are delivered every week by air. The quantity of radiation emitted from the nuclear medicine is below 1 milli-roentgen.”