Radiation Leak (05:54)
In November 1983, Vicente Sotelo, a maintenance worker for a medical warehouse in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, took a radiotherapy machine to a local scrapyard. It was cut open and began leaking radiation, which went unnoticed for weeks.
Spread of Radiation (05:17)
Metal from the scrapyard in Ciudad Juarez was frequently driven to a smelting plant 250 miles away. Some of metal was made into rebar, which was driven across the border into the United States. One of the trucks got lost and stopped to ask for directions at the Los Alamos Research Laboratory in New Mexico, where its sensors detected the radiation.
Detection of Radiation (03:00)
The New Mexico Radiation Protection Unit tracked down the truck in Santa Fe and realized radioactive steel had been sold throughout the United States. The radiation was traced to the smelting plant and then the scrapyard.
Source of Radiation (04:58)
Investigators traced the radiation back to Sotelo and the radiotherapy machine. The medical warehouse staff accused him of stealing the machine to cover-up their improper disposal of it.
Effects of Radiation (07:00)
More than 400 new buildings in Mexico that used the contaminated steel had to be demolished. American authorities worked to trace all the steel that came in from Mexico. Workers from the scrapyard began to show symptoms of radiation sickness and there was a rise in cancers linked to radiation poisoning.
Credits: Disaster: Series 3: Deadly Metal (00:49)
Credits: Disaster: Series 3: Deadly Metal
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