Hospitals in dozens of states across the country could be storing low-level radioactive material on their premises because there is no disposal alternative, according to a report in the Associated Press.
In July, a South Carolina law put an end to a practice in which nuclear waste from hospitals and research installations throughout the U.S. could ship their radioactive waste to a landfill in the state.
This was one of the main ways that hospitals disposed of this waste. It was sealed in concrete drums, placed in specially designed trenches and buried under six feet of soil.
As a result, these materials – which include capsules of radioactive cesium isotopes, cobalt-60 pellets and powdered cesium – are now often stored at the hospitals themselves until they lose their radioactivity, the AP explains.
"Instead of safely secured in one place, it’s stored in thousands of places in urban locations all over the United States," Rick Jacobi, a nuclear waste consultant, told the news source.
The government says that it is monitoring this waste and many facilities use safety precautions such as alarm-fitted doors and warning signs to keep materials contained.
However, concerns remain about the lack of a long-term alternative plan for disposing of these low-level radioactive items.