NEW DELHI — A scrap dealer who dismantled a machine once used by the chemistry class of a major Indian university died of radioactive poisoning, police said yesterday, raising concerns about the country’s ability to safely dispose of hazardous waste.
The dealer died Monday in New Delhi after being among workers who sawed open a gamma cell that Delhi University had auctioned off in February, a police statement said. Seven other workers are being treated for radiation exposure.
Police traced the cell to the school’s chemistry laboratory, where it had been lying around unused for more than 25 years. Students had used it in the 1970s to study the radiation effects of various chemicals, said Police Officer Sharad Aggarwal.
Deepak Pental, Delhi University vice chancellor, apologized yesterday and accepted “moral responsibility’’ for the lax manner in which the radioactive equipment had been handled.
“Our university has a strong desire that this [incident] be investigated and recorded, Pental said. “Such accidents shouldn’t happen even remotely.’’
The case has raised fears about the unregulated disposal of hazardous material in India, where dangerous chemicals and even radioactive waste are often sold to scrap dealers.