A 40ft container-load of stainless steel and aluminium kitchenware has been ordered back to India after it was found to be radioactive.
The discovery has heightened concerns over the integrity of the materials used in a range of imported consumer goods.
Port authorities in Colombo, Sri Lanka, detected radiation emitting from the shipment, and subsequent testing this month by the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority found that the products contained cobalt 60 – an extremely dangerous artificial radioactive element used in radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
The AEA has now ordered the shipment of domestic and professional kitchenware to be sent back to India, where it was manufactured, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has been notified.
The problem of radioactivity being found in everyday consumer products is not a new one. In recent years authorities in countries around the world have been detecting radiation in everything from pet bowls and sinks to hand tools, cutlery and even lift buttons. Indian-made products are the worst offenders, followed by products from China.
The hazard occurs when waste industrial, mining and medical equipment containing nuclear material is improperly disposed of and recycled for manufacture into new goods. India in particular has a huge business in processing scrap metals, which it imports from all over the world, but it is poorly monitored for safety.