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Radioactive Rod Sickens Welder

March 20, 1999

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ A welder who found a radioactive rod on a construction site and carried it in his pocket for six hours before showing it to his family is seriously ill, doctors said today.

Concepcion Casya, 37, found a small, candy cane-shaped rod on the ground of a hydroelectric plant construction site in the state of Junin in Peru’s central Andes mountains on Feb. 20.

He put the rod in his back pocket, not knowing it was radioactive, said Dr. Mayer Zaharia, director of radiotherapy at Lima’s National Cancer Institute.

Casya took the rod home and unwittingly exposed his wife, three children and a friend to the radiation. At night he felt a burning in his right buttock and asked his wife to throw the rod away, Zaharia said.

Casya has been under medical observation ever since and will likely need surgery to removed damaged tissue from his buttocks, Zaharia said.

He is in isolation because his immune system may have been damaged and doctors are still determining how much tissue will have to be removed. They have measured high levels of radiation in his system.

``He received a high dose of radiation, but his life is not in danger,″ Zaharia said.

The others exposed to the radiation were examined and pronounced healthy.