You are here

The Radiological Accident in San Salvador

Non-serial Publications

English STI/PUB/847 ¦ 92-0-129090-X

¦ € 24.50 ¦ Date published: 1990

Download PDF (7.87 MB)


On 5 February 1989, a radiological accident occurred at an industrial irradiation facility near San Salvador, El Salvador. Medical products are sterilized at the facility by irradiation by means of an intensely radioactive cobalt-60 source in a movable source rack. This source rack became stuck in the irradiation position. The operator bypassed the irradiator’s degraded safety systems and entered the radiation room with two other workers to free the source rack manually. The three men were exposed to high radiation doses and developed the acute radiation syndrome. They received initial hospital treatment in San Salvador and subsequent, more specialized treatment in Mexico City. The legs and feet of two men were so seriously injured that amputation was required. The worker who had been most exposed died six and a half months after the accident from lung damage due to irradiation complicated by injury sustained during treatment. The report describes the accident and the response to it and presents lessons derived for operators and suppliers of irradiators, national authorities, medical staff and international organizations. Detailed information on dosimetric and medical aspects of the accident is presented in appendices and annexes.
Contents: 1. Introduction; 2. The background in El Salvador; 3. The irradiation facility; 4. The accident; 5. The response to the accident; 6. Factors contributory to the accident; 7. Generic lessons learned; Addendum; Photographs; Appendix I: Dosimetric analysis; Appendix II: Medical treatment; Annexes I and II: Patients A and B: Nutritional reports by the Angeles del Pedregal hospital in Mexico City.

More Information on reusing IAEA copyright material.

Related publications

Stay in touch