Thieves who stole what they may have thought was a toolbox in an overnight break-in are being warned they are in possession of radioactive material.
A device called a Troxler Nuclear Moisture Density Gauge was taken from a van at a property in Drogheda, Co Louth, on Monday night or the early hours of yesterday morning.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned there is a risk of radiation exposure if the box is opened or the device is activated or tampered with.
“The annual dose limit a member of the public can receive is set in the legislation as 1 millisievert (1 mSv/y),” the EPA said.
“If the box is closed and remains secure, a person in close proximity, (less than 1 m) to the stolen item would exceed the annual dose limit in approximately 10 hours.
“However, if a person opens the box and attempts to access the radiation source, they could potentially exceed the annual dose limit in approximately 12 minutes.”
The gauge is used for determining the density of compacted material such as tarmacadam on roads.
It was stored in a locked yellow case with the distinctive trefoil radiation symbol on it, warning that it contains a radiation source.
The EPA is asking anyone who comes across it not to interfere with it but to immediately notify the authorities. Gardaí at Drogheda can be contacted on the confidential line at 1800 666111. The EPA can be contacted at 01-2680100.