A hospital employe intending to use lead containers marked "radioactive" for fishing weights inadvertently prompted a radiation scare near Edgewood, Md., yesterday when a construction worker found the small cylinders and called police.
The accidental discovery of the small lead containers early yesterday in a shed in Belcamp, near Edgewood, prompted an emergency call to fire officials and hazardous-materials teams, who later determined the containers to be safe, said Bob Thomas, spokesman for the Maryland Fire Marshal's Office.
The employe works in the nuclear radiology unit of Greater Baltimore Medical Center, which will be questioned by the Maryland Department of the Environment about the incident, Thomas said.
The woman had received permission to take the small uncontaminated cylinders home for her husband, who wanted to use them as weights for fishing, said hospital spokeswoman Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, adding that no law prohibits it.
The cylinders -- marked "radioactive" and measuring four to six inches long and two to three inches in diameter -- contained either technitium or argon 131 and had a radioactive life of about six hours, Thomas and Stearns-Elliott said.
The chemical was not radioactive and probably had not been for some time, Thomas said. The woman said she put the cylinders in the shed near the Riverside development project in August. A fire later gutted the shed, Thomas said.
"It was a very innocent affair," Stearns-Elliott said. "We don't let any radioactive material out of the hospital that is not decayed, at least in these containers."
Kenneth Mclanahan, a contractor hired by a developer to clear the land and the shed, discovered the containers yesterday, officials said.
Mclanahan, who said there were about 30 containers, placed them in his truck along with other debris for transport to Spencer's Landfill in nearby Abingdon, Thomas said. Mclanahan stopped en route and called officials about 8:25 a.m. yesterday asking whether he was allowed to put the cylinders in the landfill, Thomas said.
State and local authorities descended on the truck and began testing for radioactive isotopes.