Kitty litter is being blamed for a radiation leak in New Mexico that has caused a nuclear waste storage site to remain shut down for weeks.
The waste disposal site contains drums of plutonium-tainted refuse that are buried 2,100 feet beneath the earth’s surface. On February 14, scientists detected unsafe levels of radiation, leaving 21 workers exposed and leading to a shutdown at the plant.
An investigation into the chamber where the leak occurred suggested that a chemical reaction may have melted the seals on drums and boxes containing waste from Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, releasing dangerous plutonium. They believe kitty litter caused the radiation leak, creating the chemical reaction that allowed the waste to seep out.
“Kitty litter is in the field of theories,” Jill Turner, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Environment Department, said about a possible cause for the accident.
The kitty litter was used to soak up liquid in the debris, Turner said.
Kitty litter has been proven to cause health problems before, thought not always with radiation. A study last year found that a common parasite found in cat litter, Toxoplasma gondii, has been linked with mental illness and even suicide.
The cat parasites were found to have other dangerous health effects. Teodor T. Postolache, MD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine said:
We can’t say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies. We plan to continue our research into this possible connection.
The kitty liter radiation leak in New Mexico will cause the plant to remain closed for at least 18 months, managers said. It can take up to three years for the site to return to its full function.