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People Attracted to Beautiful but Radioactive Container

In 1987, The New York Times reported on a radioactive contamination accident in Brazil caused four deaths and left 112,000 people with radioactive contamination. Several houses had to be destroyed and the International Atomic Energy Agency labeled it as "one of the world's worst radiological incidents."

The incident began when a private radiotherapy institute moved to a new site and unknowingly left behind a container of radioactive material inside an obsolete unit used for cancer treatments. Two men illegally entered the partially demolished building and disassembled the unit. The container with radioactive material was deemed to have scrap value so they wheeled it home. There one of the thieves punctured a small hole in the container's thick window "allowing him to see a deep blue light coming from the tiny opening he had created."

The thieves sold the container to Devair Alves Ferreira, the owner of a local scrapyard. He "noticed the blue glow from the punctured capsule. Thinking the capsule's contents were valuable or even supernatural, he immediately brought it into his house. Over the next three days, he invited friends and family to view the strange glowing substance."

As Mr. Ferreira and several other workers took the machine apart. … Inside, they found the shiny bluish dust which, they later told doctors, glowed in the dark. Attracted by the pretty powder, several people handled it, examined it, and even rubbed it on their skin. Soon many people became very sick. A medical physicist used a device to confirm the presence of radioactive materials and alerted the authorities.

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