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Australian Man Takes a Piss in His Backyard, Triggers a Radiation Alert

The man self-discharged from hospital after receiving nuclear medicine. When he got home, his urine contaminated his backyard and exposed his family to radiation.

by Gavin Butler
01 August 2019, 8:09am

This is not the guy. Image via Flickr user Kai Hendry, CC licence 2.0

This article originally appeared on VICE AU.

An Australian man triggered a nuclear incident a couple of years ago when he took a radioactive piss in his backyard. This is according to a new report by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), which details more than 500 radiation-related incidents that occurred throughout the course of 2017.

The man in question self-discharged from hospital after receiving radiotherapy involving nuclear medicine, returned to his family home, and—presumably thinking nothing of it—relieved himself in the back garden. This seemingly unremarkable act resulted in the nuclear contamination of his backyard and put his family at risk of radiation, Fairfax reports.

Authorities had to remove turf and soil in an attempt to decontaminate the yard, eventually clearing 95 percent of the radiation. The ARPANSA report partly blamed the incident on the man’s failure to obey the instructions of hospital staff.

"A patient was permitted to self-discharge from hospital following administration of 3.5 GBq Iodine-131 (I-131). The patient did not follow the instructions provided and contaminated a residence, which resulted in exposure to the patient's family,” it stated. "The contamination was primarily of the rear yard where the patient urinated outside. Communication issues with the patient were identified as a factor in this incident."

It further concluded that radiation use in Australia "is generally very safe" but unexpected events can occur "even with strict controls in place". Cases such as this were outlined as parties within the Queensland government debate whether or not Australia should consider using nuclear technology to produce electricity.

The hundreds of other nuclear mishaps detailed in the report included one incident in which a worker spilled a vial of irradiated solution while trying to remove its cap—contaminating his hands and causing “tissue reactions,” despite the fact that he was wearing two pairs of gloves—and another in which a radioactive vial shattered in a microwave.

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