Word to the wise: just don't steal things. You don't know where they've been, and sometimes, you might not even know what they really are.

Two gunmen may have made a crucial mistake when they stole a truck off a Mexican highway while the driver decided to take a nap. The truck carried discarded cobalt-60, which can emit gamma radiation that can cause burns and radiation sickness, leading to death within days of exposure. Reports of the theft led to an emergency situation: "At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded," the International Atomic Energy Agency said. "However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged." So as long as the thieves didn't mess with the shielding, they'd be fine, and whoever came in contact with the truck would be safe as well. But, of course, it didn't play out that way.

Police recently found the truck with the shielding removed, and the cobalt-60 sitting there nice and exposed. "The person or people who took this out are in very great risk of dying," said Mardonio Jimenez, a physicist at Mexico's Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards. The thieves could die within three days.

Cobalt-60 is used in the medical field to treat treat inoperable tumors that might be hard to access surgically. Luckily, those in nearby towns were deemed safe from the radiation. 


[via Time]