Radioactive cash drama at Pudong airport

A wad of radioactive banknotes has been seized but no criminal intent is suspected. 

This was no ordinary 10,000 yuan (US$1,520) wad of banknotes.

The cash triggered an alarm when passing through the radioactivity monitoring system inspection process at Pudong International Airport on October 10.

The notes contained a high level of radioactivity. They were being carried in the bag of a male passenger. 

They were found to contain Americium-241 — a highly toxic radioactive substance, according to the Shanghai Airport Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. Americium-241 has a half-life of 433 years.

Furthermore, it promotes the formation of cancer cells because of its radioactivity.

If cash is contaminated by radioactivity, it poses a serious threat because banknotes are circulated quickly, bureau officials said.

It is also difficult to track the source of contamination during circulation and users are usually unaware of the risks, they added.

This was the first time that banknotes severely contaminated by radioactivity were found at a Shanghai port, the bureau said.

Health products and health cushions, however, were once seized in Fujian and Shandong provinces for having excessive levels of radioactivity.

Meanwhile, the male passenger has had his money confiscated, but he has not been arrested and is considered an innocent party in the matter, officials said. Investigation is still under way, but no details further details were revealed.

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