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70 workers exposed to radiation at Chinese oil company in Sudan: report

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June 14, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – A Chinese oil company operating in Sudan evacuated dozens of workers to Khartoum in order to undergo medical tests on suspicion that they were exposed to radiation resulting from a radioactive device left outside its designated area in an apparent act of negligence.

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Sudanese oil workers at the Heglig oil field (FILE)

Al-Taghyeer daily published in Khartoum reported that 70 workers stationed at a field in West Kordofan were directly exposed for three consecutive days to the radiation emitted by a device called "Source."

One of the engineers reportedly left the device used in oil exploration inside the workshop without properly securing it at its underground location which is 200 kilometers away from the workers.

Some of the workers expressed fear that they are now at risk of cancer as the company scrambled to transfer them in secrecy to conduct the necessary tests on the extent of their exposure.

A medical source confirmed to the newspaper the incident and said the workers are being monitored.

One of the workers, who requested anonymity, told the newspaper that the first batch sent to Khartoum comprised of 21 workers including 13 Sudanese, 2 Pakistani and 6 Chinese.

He explained that the device remained at the workshop frequented by workers and engineers without any protection from six o’clock Friday evening until Monday evening (Local time). It was only discovered as missing by pure coincidence by a Chinese engineer after some other machines stopped working as a result from the device’s radiation.

Another worker disclosed that the impacted group consisting of technicians, engineers and guard are currently staying at a hotel in Khartoum at the expense of the company in the neighborhood of Riyadh while being tested. They are allowed to move but with restrictions to ensure that news of the incident does not get leaked before final results are released.

He said the manager of the private hospital, which is conducting the tests refused to write a report specifying the quantities the workers were exposed to under the pretext that this type of testing is not available noting that anything over 20 millisievert (mSv) a year can heighten risks of cancer.

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), 20 mSv per year averaged over 5 years is the limit for radiological personnel such as employees in the nuclear industry, uranium or mineral sands miners and hospital workers.

But WNA says that 50 mSv is the lowest dose at which there is any evidence of cancer being caused in adults. It is also the highest dose which is allowed by regulation in any one year of occupational exposure.

(ST)

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