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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 14:27 GMT
College breaches radioactive regulations
radiation sign
The anti-static gun is safe unless tampered with
A Bristol college has been issued with an enforcement notice by the Environment Agency for breaching radioactive materials regulations.

The move follows the disappearance of a special anti-static gun containing the isotope polonium 210 from Soundwell College.

The gun which is in general use in many UK garages, has radioactive material on the inside of the barrel.

Air is sprayed through the gun to remove static electricity before spray painting to help improve the spray finish.

Locked away

Granville Roberts, Radioactive Substances Inspector at the agency, said the gun could become dangerous if tampered with.

"The gun is shielded and quite safe, but the problem is if someone tampers with it, say, cuts it open, the radioactivity - the polonium - could get into the body and then there's no shielding.

"What was safe could become quite dangerous."

Mr Roberts said the college's safety procedures were inadequate.

"They were issuing the gun to a group of students for the day and really we thought it should be issued to each student as they use it and then locked away when it's not in use."

The college now has a month in which to introduce new safety procedures and to inform the Environment Agency of them.

"I am expecting them to comply, although I believe they are considering ceasing using the gun," said Mr Roberts.

"They reacted well and did everything they could to find it, but the source is still missing."

Click here to go to Bristol
See also:

13 Oct 00 | Health
Nuclear birth fears eased
06 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Radiation sickness
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