Truck Inspection Turns Up Contaminated Tissue Holders

A routine vehicle inspection -- one of more than 600,000 done annually by the California Highway Patrol -- recently turned up a shipment, leading to a nationwide product recall, according to the agency.

Commercial vehicle inspectors from the California Highway Patrol recently discovered a shipment of bathroom tissue holders that were contaminated with Cobalt-60 and prevented them from reaching retail stores in northern California, according to the agency, which says it has the nation's largest commercial vehicle inspection program, conducting more than 600,000 inspections annually.

The items were detected during a routine commercial vehicle inspection and ultimately determined to be constructed from contaminated metal containing Cobalt-60. CHP said it notified the California Department of Health Services, an action that brought about a nationwide product recall.

"Our commercial personnel have the training, equipment, and capability of locating items that may threaten the safety of public safety," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "This equipment and training is essential in accomplishing our mission of providing safety, service, and security."

The department operates 51 Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facilities in 37 locations statewide and 73 mini-sites. Sixteen of these facilities are open 24/7. "Through an ongoing effort, the CHP strives to improve commercial motor vehicle safety on California's highway transportation system through enforcement, training, education, and new technologies," Farrow said.

According to CDC, Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope with a half life of 5.27 years. It is a hard, blue-gray metal resembling iron or nickel and is used medically for radiation therapy as implants and as an external source of radiation exposure. It is used industrially in leveling gauges, to x-ray welding seams and other structural elements to detect flaws, and for food irradiation. It can be commercially produced and is a byproduct of nuclear reactor operations when metal structures, such as steel rods, are exposed to neutron radiation.

External exposure to large sources of it can cause skin burns, acute radiation sickness, or death. For more information about Cobalt-60, see the Public Health Statement by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/cobalt.html or visit www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/cobalt.html.

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