Three Los Alamos National Laboratory workers were reportedly exposed to high levels of an undisclosed radioactive material while working in one of the laboratories at the facility on Saturday, Sept. 23. The wing of the facility where the after-hours incident occurred is known to handle plutonium, some of which is used to craft portions of nuclear bombs.
This latest incident marks the second such incident to occur at the same location within the past two months. Another potentially catastrophic incident occurred in August when an employee sent plutonium via plane instead of by vehicle. In both cases, the incidents happened on weekends, when regular supervision was not scheduled to work.
Immediately before this most recent incident occurred, two of the facility's pipefitters are believed to have inadvertently dislodged a safety plug from a hazardous materials chamber. They reportedly believed it was safe to do so as they were making repairs to a waterline within the receptacle. Instructions that they'd been given in their work order contained very few limiters for their actions.
When they removed this plug, it released toxic material into the lab's air circulation system. Fortunately, all personnel working in the lab at the time were donning their required air purifying masks and protective clothing. As soon as monitoring equipment showed that radioactive particle levels had exceeded safe levels, all technicians reportedly removed themselves from the lab.
Each of the workers then took part in a decontamination process after leaving the lab. It's then that it was discovered that one the employee's chests had been contaminated during the incident. In his report, one of the laboratory supervisors contends that the employee was able to simply wash the particles away with water.
He also noted that he was unable to determine whether his employees experienced any airborne exposure of radioactive particles that was initially detected, and that he'll continue to track the radiation levels in their bodies.
In the last few years, scientists have invested significant resources in an attempt to understand more about the long-term health implications that an exposure to unsafe working conditions or environments has on workers. If you believe that your health has declined because of some type of exposure to a toxic substance, then a Los Lunas workers' compensation attorney may advise you of your right to file a lawsuit in your case.
Source: The New Mexican, "Three Los Alamos lab workers contaminated in accident," Rebecca Moss, Oct. 26, 2017