Vial of radium found in attic of Dordogne house

It is believed to be over 100 years old. Family found it while preparing to move home

The vial was filled with radium salts. It is not known how it came to be there
Published Last updated

A vial of radioactive radium has been removed from the attic of a house in Dordogne by France’s nuclear safety authority after being found by a family as they prepared to move.

The adult children of an elderly couple found the vial whilst cleaning their home for a move in Ribérac and alerted the emergency services.

A two-day lockdown of the home ensued with the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (Nuclear safety authority, or ASN) sending specialists to assess the vial and check the area.

The vial was filled with radium salts and was found to have a ‘low level’ of radioactivity, said Paul de Guibert, the head of the local ASN unit.

He said there had been “no direct contamination" and "no risk of irradiation” in the surrounding area, adding that nearby residents have nothing to fear.

Six sent to hospital

However as a safety precaution six people who came into direct contact with the vial were sent to hospital for check-ups.

No averse signs were recorded during the checks, and the vial has now been safely removed by the ASN. The house remains closed off whilst further tests are carried out.

It is not known how the vial came to be in the attic.

Some people used to keep small traces of radon to help make watches glow in the dark, even though it was banned in the 1960s.

The ASN rated the incident as a level 1 on their danger scale, the lowest possible.

“This kind of discovery happens: it is not frequent, but it is not unique,” said Mr de Guibert.

Related articles

Where is radon gas mainly found in France and is there a health risk?

How to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning in French home