Missing radioactive capsule prompts urgent public health alert in Western Australia

FILE - A warning sign "Radioactive" hangs at the entrance of the transport container storage facility. (Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A radioactive capsule that went missing while being transported from a mine in Western Australia has prompted officials to issue an urgent health warning Friday. 

A radioactive substance risk has been issued for parts of Pilbara, Midwest Gascoyne, Goldfields-Midlands and Perth Metropolitan regions, according to a Facebook post published by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA (DFES). 

The substance inside the capsule "is used within gauges in mining operations," the warning reads. 

Exposure to the contents inside the capsule could result in radiation burns or radiation sickness. 

Health officials during a news conference on Friday said the amount of radiation exposure from the capsule is comparable to getting 10 X-rays in one hour, The Guardian reported. 

"We are recommending people not be close to it or hang on to it," said Western Australia’s chief health officer, Andy Robertson. 

The capsule was sent to Perth for repairs and arrived on Jan. 16. It was placed into a secured storage area until Jan. 25 when it was retrieved for inspection. 

Upon opening the package the capsule was stored in, it was discovered that one of four bolts holding in the capsule had gone missing, as well as the capsule itself. 

"Risk to the general community is relatively low, however it is important to be aware of the risks and what to do if you see the capsule," DFES said. 

As of this report, the capsule has yet to be retrieved. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.