Hungarian laboratory the likely source of iodine outbreak, UN agency says

17 November 2011

A Hungarian laboratory is the most likely source of the outbreak of a radioactive particle recently detected in the atmosphere above parts of Europe, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported today.

“Very low levels” of iodine-131 were measured above the Czech Republic and other European countries earlier this month, and the IAEA said last week that the radiation did not pose a health risk to the public.

Today it reported it had received information from the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority that the most probable source is the Institute of Isotopes in Budapest, which produces radio-isotopes for health care, research and industrial applications.

The Hungarian authorities said the release of iodine-131 occurred between 8 September and yesterday, and the cause is under investigation.

Iodine-131 is a short-lived radio-isotope with a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days, and IAEA stressed today that the levels detected in the atmosphere are extremely low.

“If any member of the public were to breathe iodine for a whole year at the levels measured in European countries, then they would receive a dose in the grange of 0.01 microsieverts for the year,” the agency stated in a press release.

“To put this into perspective, the average annual background radiation dose rate is 2,400 microsieverts per year.”

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'Very low' levels of radiation detected in Europe, UN agency reports

Small amounts of a radioactive particle have been detected in the air in the Czech Republic and other European locations, but they do not pose a health risk to the public, the United Nations nuclear agency reported today.