Swiss watch botch: Dumped radioactive pollution concealed for 18 months


Swiss authorities covered up for 18 months that over a 100kg of radioactive radium paint was found at a local dump during roadwork. The radiation level measured at the site exceeded the normal level by 100 times, Swiss weeklies report.An old dump in the canton of Bern, near the town of Bienne with 50,000 inhabitants turned out to be a radioactive waste repository site, storing some 120kg of highly radioactive radium-based paint, once used by the watch-making industry to illuminate the watch faces’ numbers and clock hands, AFP reported.But the use of radium, a popular gamma radiation source for many purposes, was banned back in 1963 precisely because of its radioactive nature. One company evidently failed to find a better way to properly dispose of its paint deposits than to leave them at an ordinary waste site.The containers of radioactive paint had probably been rusting at the forgotten dump site for half a century until construction workers laying a road found them and called the local authorities.

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