Rubbed Glowing Radioactive Powder on Self : Little Hope for Girl Sick With Radiation

United Press International

International radiation experts were trying today to save a 6-year-old girl who rubbed glowing radioactive powder over her body, one of 34 victims in Brazil’s worst radiation accident.

Experts from the United States, the Soviet Union, Argentina and West Germany were in Brazil to try to save Leide Ferreira, the most serious of the 34 hospitalized victims. But doctors said she and two adults had little hope of survival.

The contamination occurred in late September in Goiania, 600 miles from Rio de Janeiro, when Ferreira’s uncle, a scrap-metal dealer, broke open a stolen hospital radiation therapy machine and gave curious children and neighbors the attractive glowing powder he found inside, officials said.


The powder was cesium 137, a radioactive isotope commonly used in radiation treatment for cancer, but potentially lethal in large doses.

“Apparently the girl even ate a piece of bread while she had powder all over her hands,” said Rex Nazareth, president of Brazil’s National Nuclear Energy Commission.

Officials said the victims waited days before reporting to local hospitals with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea and burning skin.

The worst of the victims have lost their hair and are growing weaker as they lie in lead-shielded beds, with sharply reduced production of red blood cells by their damaged bone marrow, doctors said.

They said the girl may have absorbed as much as 3,000 rems, the standard unit used to measure radiation. The normally lethal human dose is between 500 and 600 rems.

At least two other Brazilian victims may have received more than 1,000 rems.