Drilling for Oil - and Radioactive Waste

From 1993 to 1996, 5.5 million pounds of radioactive scrap steel was shipped to China and Taiwan from Louisiana and Texas. The metals are contaminated in the process of drilling for oil. The drilling carries radioactive radium to the surface where it becomes encrusted on drilling equipment. Oil companies sell the contaminated equipment to other countries without regulations.

Some of the radioactive metal shipped to China and used in housing construction was emitting radiation at 2,000 micro-rems per hour -- about 400 times the normal background. As of January 1998, at least 178 buildings containing 1,573 apartments are contaminated with excessive levels of radiation.

The information about the contamination was withheld from the tenants by the government for over a decade. Much of the radioactive metal came from the U.S., but there is also heavy traffic in radioactive metal from former Soviet bloc countries as well. Many of the people who live in those apartments in Taiwan are suffering from various cancers, birth defects, and unusual chromosome damage.

*-- Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D, "The Radioactive Dinner Table," Lycos Environment News Service, Aug. 16, 1999.