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Truck Drops Deadly Radioactive Pill Somewhere in the Australian Outback

A tiny capsule of death has fallen off the back of a truck somewhere in Western Australia, sparking a hunt to track it down.

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A photo the Great Northern Highway in Australia.
Somewhere on the Great Northern Highway is a tiny pill of death.
Photo: Paolo Picciotto/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

Have you ever dropped anything off the back of your truck while you’ve been out on the road? Perhaps a poorly strapped down bike, or a parking receipt that blew out an open window? What about a tiny radioactive capsule that could burn your skin or even cause cancer? That’s exactly what’s slipped off the back of a truck in Australia.

According to Vice News, a nationwide search has been started in Australia to track down a tiny radioactive pill that fell off the back of a truck as it trundled down the highway. The pill, which measures just 8mm (63/200 inches) long and 6mm (59/250 inches) wide, is packed full of cesium-137.


Vice News reports that a bolt was shaken loose in the back of the truck carrying the material by the bumps and ruts in the road. This left space for the capsule to slip out and onto the road below.

A photo of an open mine in Australia.
Cesium-137 is used in mining equipment that monitors the flow of liquid.
Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post (Getty Images)

Authorities report that the radioactive substance dropped out somewhere on a stretch of the Great Northern Highway between Perth and Newman in Western Australia (WA). Accordion to Vice:

“The cylinder is missing along a 900-mile stretch of highway in Australia and authorities urged people not to pick it up if they find it.

“It emits both gamma and beta rays to anyone in close proximity. Long term, it could cause cancer. In the short term, it could burn the skin or cause acute radiation syndrome. The WA emergency department wrote in an alert that once the truck arrived to be unpacked, workers realized the capsule was gone.”

According to authorities in Australia, the capsule was safely packed away on January 10. It was then shipped on the highway between January 11 and 14, before being held at a facility in Perth from January 16.

When the package was finally opened up earlier this week (January 25), authorities realized the capsule was missing.


Officials said that the “risk to the general community is relatively low” but did warn of the risks of picking up the capsule if they spot it. Instead, they are warning anyone that spots something to stay “at least five meters” away and alert the authorities. Vice adds:

“They are warning people to stay at least 5 meters away from it, to ‘not touch it,’ ‘not put it in a bag,’ ‘not put it in your car,’ and to ‘seek immediate medical advice … if you have touched the material’.”


The radioactive capsule contains cesium-137 that’s stored in a ceramic source. Traditionally used in commercial mining, the pill emits the equivalent of someone undergoing 10 x-rays every hour.