Search underway for dangerous material

Emergency services are searching for a capsule containing a radioactive substance and are asking the public to be alert and report anything that looks like the missing material.

The capsule is small (6mm diameter and 8mm tall), round and silver.

It contains a small quantity of radioactive Caesium-137, a substance used in mining operations, that went missing in transportation between a mine site north of Newman and the north-eastern parts of Perth between 10-16 January.

The capsule cannot be weaponised however it can cause serious health consequences.

People are urged not to touch the capsule.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Chief Superintendent Country North David Gill said a search was under way to find the capsule and safely contain it.

"DFES was notified by WA Police on 25 January and is now coordinating the search as the lead agency for hazardous materials," he said.

"A multi-agency Incident Management Team, comprised of DFES, Department of Health, WA Police and other subject matter experts, are confirming the exact route and stops made during the journey from north of Newman.

"The start and finish of the transportation journey – the mine site north of Newman and the transport depot in the north-eastern suburbs of Perth – were among the locations searched yesterday and today. We are also combing roads and other areas in the search zone."

Dr Andrew Robertson, Chief Health Officer and Radiological Council Chair, said the immediate focus was to find and safely contain the material to protect the community and to warn the public of the health dangers.

"Exposure to this substance could cause radiation burns or severe illness – if people see the capsule or something that looks similar, stay away from it and keep others away from it too," Dr Robertson said.

"Do not touch or pick it up. The public is asked to report it immediately by calling 13 DFES (13 33 37).

"If you have touched the material, or have been close to it for an extended period, contact your local health practitioner or visit a hospital emergency department and tell them that you think you may have been exposed to radioactive material.

"If you are very close to the material or touching it, the radiation risk increases immensely and could cause serious damage to your health, including causing radiation burns to the skin."

Stay up to date with the latest information and advice by checking Emergency WA, listening to ABC radio broadcasts, following DFES on social media or calling 13 DFES.

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