Federal regulators yesterday ordered an immediate suspension of the use of an industrial device that has leaked tiny particles of radioactive polonium at plants around the nation.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also ordered the 3M Corp. to recall for inspection all 45,000 of the suspect devices, ionizing air guns used to control static electricity and remove dust from product containers.
Robert Bernero, deputy director of the NRC's office of nuclear materials safety, said that of 828 plants inspected so far, "detectable" -- though virtually harmless -- contamination had been found at 118 sites. Of those, he identified 39 plants where the radiation exceeded the reportable limit of .005 microcuries.
"This is an incomplete list," said Bernero. "It changes daily."
Last week, the NRC issued successive recalls of 3M models used in the food, beverage, cosmetic and drug industries.
The latest order affects all industries and applies to all the devices made since they were first marketed in 1965.
Echoing earlier reports, NRC and Food and Drug Administration officials said Wednesday that they still have no evidence that the faulty devices have posed any health hazard, either to workers at plants where radioactive contamination was found or to consumers of the products made at those facilities.