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Device stolen from construction firm has radioactive material, warns PNRI

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) on Tuesday warned about the health risks of a piece equipment stolen from a construction company in Norzagaray, Bulacan in July.

According to a 24 Oras report by Susan Enriquez, the stolen item, a soil moisture density gauge, contains radioactive materials such as radium and cesium that can be dangerous to humans' health.

"It's a Category 4 source of radioactive material. It cannot kill one instantly when you're exposed to it, but it's possible that for a long period of time it can have some deleterious health effects. Some may get cancer from it," said the nuclear agency's deputy director Dr. Soledad Castañeda.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) lists five categories for radioactive materials. Category 4 elements such as radium and cesium "could lead to the temporary injury of individuals who may be in close proximity to the source."

Castañeda said that these injuries include burns when handling the material, as well as headaches and vomiting. 

"But kung hindi, 'yung long term effect would be chronic, 'yun nga, it destroys your cells. You can get cancer," she added.

The PNRI called on the public to immediately inform authorities if they see something that looks like the soil gauge.

"Let's be careful. Itawag agad sa pulis or directly sa PNRI so we can go and detect kung may radioactivity," Castañeda said. — Anna Felicia Bajo/BM, GMA News