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Researcher Exposed to Above-Normal Radiation Levels

By A. Arif Husain
Associate News Editor

An MITlaboratory researcher reported above-normal levels of radiation exposure after working with a radioactive phosphorus tracer in August, according to the News Office.

The man, known only to be a post-doctoral fellow, is believed to have ingested a small drop of the substance. The MIT Radiation Protection Office and the Campus Police are investigating the case.

The protection office suspects the incident occurred Aug. 14, although it was not discovered until five days later during a routine radiation self-examination. How the chemical was ingested is not yet known.

The researcher has been examined by the Medical Department and by Environmental Medical Services a number of times since the report was issued several days ago. No physical health effects were noted.

According to the protection office, the researcher's intake was no more than 579 microcuries of radioactive material. This figure is within the 600 microcurie acceptable limit for single-event and annual exposure to the phosphorus isotope.

In addition, the substance is gradually excreted from the body, so the researcher's exposure level has returned to normal.

The incident seems to be isolated as no other members of the lab appeared to have been exposed.

The Radiation Protection Office confiscated and took inventory of the lab's radioactive materials for a brief period in August, but the lab continues to operate as usual.

No other details regarding the case have been released, although it has attracted media attention in The Boston Globe , The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other local papers and radio stations.