The Mexican government has issued a high alert after a vehicle carrying an unknown quantity of radioactive material was stolen. The pickup truck was transporting mobile industry radiography equipment containing Iridium-192.

The interior ministry said the vehicle disappeared in Tlaquepaque in the western Mexican state of Jalisco on Sunday, 23 April. The operators of the truck have warned that the radioactive material could pose a serious health hazard if it is mishandled or removed from the equipment.

"This was industrial equipment that included Iridium-192... which can be dangerous for people if it is taken out of its container," the interior ministry said in a statement.

Tecnología No Destructiva, SA de CV, the company which operates the tools, registered a formal complaint saying the Iridium-192 was stored in a metallic box.
The Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacan San Luis Potosi, Durango and Zacatecas have been placed on high alert. The public has been urged to alert the authorities if they come across any information.

This is not the first time radioactive material has been stolen in Mexico. There have been several similar incidents since 2013. A container with a radioactive substance used in industrial X-rays went missing in early 2016 but was later recovered.

What is Iridium-192?

Iridium-192 is a highly radioactive isotope of the element Iridium which has widespread industrial applications and in the medical field. It is also one of the isotopes to lose its potency quickly.

How hazardous the exposure to Iridium-192, an unstable isotope, is depends on the strength and age of the material. It has previously prompted fears among security officials in other parts of the world that it could be used to make a dirty bomb.

A dirty bomb is often an explosive which combines nuclear materials with conventional bombs so as to spread radiation in a particular area.