Debunked: Radioactive I-125 Corpse Vapors Possibly Contaminate McDonald's Food


Active Member
The blog post titled "ALERT! Radioactive I-125 Corpse Vapors Possibly Contaminate McDonald's Food Distribution Hub" can be found here:

The youtube video with the same title is embedded into the blog post. however here is a direct link to the youtube video for sharing purposes:

The allegations stem around NRC incident #48331.


The following information was provided via facsimile transmission:

"The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) received a phone call from the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison informing them that the university had received a phone call from a funeral home, that had just cremated remains of a person who had received an I-125 lung mesh implant. The implant was put in the patient on September 13, 2012 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hospital. The patient was implanted with a lung mesh with 40 seeds totaling 23 mCi. The funeral home received a phone call during the cremation, from a family member notifying them that the person had received a radiation treatment a few weeks prior to the cremation. The cremation took place on September 20, 2012. After the cremation was completed, the crematory remained closed until DHS inspectors arrived. DHS conducted an investigation on September 21, 2012. Radiation readings inside the crematorium were 0.75 mR/hr with a Victoreen, Model 451 (#199588, calibrated on 1/20/2012). The cremains read 3.8 mR/hr on contact with a plastic bag. They have placed the cremains in a concrete container and radiation levels were at background on the outside of the container. No other areas of the facility were contaminated. The facility has agreed to suspend the operations until clean-up."

Wisconsin Event Report ID No.: WI120013

The video allegations are as follows:

- The NRC waited 2 weeks to inform the public which concerns the POTRBLOG Team to dig deeper.
- They read the NRC report and located the probable place where the event happened and determined it to be 550 N Newcomb St Whitewater, WI 53190
- They noted that the corpse cremated at this location contained 40 Iodine-125 seeds of a total of 23mCi.
- They noted that the corpse remains were measured to have a dose rate of 3.8mR/Hr
- They noted that the crematory oven was measured to have a dose rate of 0.75mR/Hr
- They noted some interesting facts about Iodine-125 being that when at room temperature I-125 will sublimate into a gas.
- They theorize that the oven temperature and the fire would have sublimated the I-125 and the vapors would have escaped the smoke stack at the crematory and be breathed by individuals in the community and taken into their thyroid glands contributing to a public hazard.
- They noted that across the road there is a food processing plant; owned by Golden State Foods 729 Executive Drive, Whitewater, WI 53190.
- They noted that Golden State Foods provides food items to 385 McDonald's stores in 4 states.
- They noted that the weather on the day the incident occurred had prevailing winds from west to east blowing directly at Golden State Foods
- They then make allegations that the I-125 going out the vent at the crematory contaminated Golden State Foods and potentially 385 McDonald's stores.

There are many things wrong with the theories and allegations presented here by the POTRBlog team. Let's dig in.

First off, considering the nature of the claims I contacted the NRC via e-mail about the alleged McDonald's Food contamination and received an e-mail response back in less than one hour. The NRC took the allegation very seriously and were extremely professional. They let me know that the NRC allegation department would look into this and get back with me. 18 hours later, I had received a phone call from Jim Heller of the NRC Region III office. He stated that the issue happened in an agreement state; Wisconsin. In Agreement States such as Wisconsin; for these types of issues the State does the inspection of the sites and they sent a notification to the NRC so they can review the data at their next State level inspection if the NRC chooses to do so. This was why there was a two week delay from the Incident to the NRC Incident number. As stated on the NRC Event they received this via fax. He directed me to contact the Wisconsin Department of State directly for information about the incident from Sheryl Rogers the Program Supervisor.

I called and spoke with Sheryl and we had an at length discussion about the inspection that was done by her team directly; the particular contamination itself, and the required decontamination that her team will be taking on directly. She stated that the contamination is limited to the crematory oven and the cremains. She explained that the radioactivity is in a sealed radiotherapy source; which is sealed inside of titanium.® Physics Sheet.pdf

As they are sealed in Titanium which has a high temperature melting point of 1668 °C/3034 °F it is not likely that the cematory was able to melt or rupture these seeds. The crematory operates at a temperatures of 870–980 °C (1600–1800 °F) . Sheryl also stated that the particular crematorium has bricks inside that are replaced frequently and that those bricks are due to be replaced. The bricks could have captured some of the iodine seeds in their cracks and until the bricks in the oven can be removed and dismantled, they will not be able to locate all of the seeds. She had a high level of confidence that all of them would be located; and she also had a high level of confidence that the seeds did not rupture.

Additionally she sent me this statement via email:

As discussed, the radioactive material is contained in small sealed sources or “seeds”. We do not believe the seeds ruptured so there should not be any contamination. Likewise, we do not think the I-125 sublimated to the atmosphere due to the fact that it is contained inside the small sealed source. The inspectors only found elevated radiation levels in the crematorium and from the ashes. They did walk around the outside of the facility with survey meters and did not find any readings external to the crematorium. At this point, it appears that the radioactive material remains inside the crematorium, except for perhaps a few seeds that were with the cremains as indicated by the elevated radiation levels. When the crematorium is cleaned up, we will know if any seeds ruptured.
Cheryl K. Rogers, Supervisor
Radioactive Materials Program

Golden State Foods was listed as POTRBlog's team to be a food processing hub, however they are more of a cold storage warehouse. The food is already processed and packaged when it comes into the possession of Golden State Foods, and they pack and sort pallets to be loaded onto trucks that are then distributed to McDonald's stores. You can clearly see that the plant has a large amount of refrigeration on the roof, as well they are almost entirely lined with trucks on one side. This is the typical warehouse arrangement; anybody familiar with trucking and warehouses can clearly see what this place does. I have contacted Golden State Foods and asked them if they are aware of the allegations, if they have done any inspections for radioactivity and if they wished to issue a statement but so far I have not received a response.

However; regardless of the nature of Golden State Food's business at their location next to the site where this event took place; there is no contamination recorded by the Wisconsin Department of State outside of the crematorium.

A quick visit to their POTRblog, you are relentlessly bombarded with their "Radiation mitigation widget" in which they link to Amazon retailers selling among other things, IoSAT Iodine pills and Geiger counters. It would seem that their team has an ulterior motive to making their radical claims about Radioactive Iodine contamination of the community and McDonald's food. This behavior is very much in line with Charlatans and Fear mongering.

I had several other discussions with Cheryl Rogers about this incident as well. We talked about the potential of leakage from the seeds; and she mentioned that there is a possibility of the seeds rupturing. In fact she stated it was likely that this happened. Her decontamination team is on site today working through the cleanup; and will have a better idea of the source term that could have leaked once they are done measuring and decontaminating.

However Sheryl has nothing to hide here. Her final report is not done yet so she cannot actually answer the total amount that could have leaked. The actual amount in total of the seeds was 23 micro curies. Iodine-125 has a specific gamma ray constant 0.27 to 0.70 mR/hr per mCi at 1 meter. The initial site survey which prompted the report measured the corpse remains were measured to have a dose rate of 3.8mR/Hr and the crematory oven was measured to have a dose rate of 0.75mR/Hr. They did not mention the decay state of the iodine, nor did they mention at what distance measurements were taken. Sheryl said the oven was still 300 degrees when they surveyed the crematory.

She also stated that her team is now in process of decontamination as of 10-17-2012. They will account for all the seeds and once they do they will be able to determine if they leaked and how much if any did leak out the stack.

I talked with her about the chimney/vent stack and on the survey date they were not able to gain access to that because the oven was still 300 degrees. but the decontamination team will be accessing it in their survey.

They expect that if any leaked the public hazard would be extremely low given the micro curies in total, 60 day 1/2 life time. Again they have nothing to hide, I had Sheryl on the phone in one ring. They care and are there to answer your questions. They will be accounting for the seeds and not hiding the source term; they intend to document every part of that 23mCi.

I then received another e-mail from Cheryl Rogers on 10-24-2012 where she stated the following:

I am just following up with you re the outcome of the crematorium clean-up. It appears that the seeds did rupture as none were found on the clean-up. Therefore, most of the radioactivity, except for that in the cremains or in the retort, went up the stack. The original activity was 23 millicuries. Given that the stack was used and the gases were hot, it is most likely that the Iodine did volatilize and go into the atmosphere versus depositing on near-by locations. When we get all the information in, we will do a final assessment to see if our effluent release limits were exceeded, but I do not think it is likely.
I hope that this information puts things into perspective.
Cheryl K. Rogers, Supervisor

When she says Effluent Release Limits, she is specifically talking about the Federal Code of Regulations 10 CFR Part 20. And now since we are talking about a volatilized gas of Iodine-125; the possibility of contamination of stored and packaged food stuffs becomes irrelevant. The iodine would be spread out into the atmosphere, and this is why the NRC has release limits. The concentration of iodine-125 released to unrestricted areas can not exceed an average of 3 x 10-10 µCi / ml. I am not sure on how they will make the calculation for this, but Cheryl does not feel it is likely that the release limits were violated.

In short if you are scared of this release then you should probably be scared of modern medicine like x-rays and CT scans. Typically these types of claims of harm from these things rest on low dose radiation being more harmful than higher doses, perhaps to an extreme. My question to the forum is; does this mean the claims of the youtube poster are debunked? Discuss or add to this conversation. Thanks!
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Mick West

Staff member
Seems pretty much debunked to me. Although until they find all the seeds, you don't know where they are.

But it would seem any contamination outside the crematory would have been detected.

And Welcome to Metabunk!


Active Member
I received a detailed follow-up response from the Wisconsin DEQ today. This issue is now debunked entirely (Mick can you edit the subject to state debunked: radioactive I-125 corpse vapors contaminated mcdonald's food):

Dear Joel,
This is to follow-up and close out your concerns expressed to me in your e-mail dated October 12, 2012. I sent a couple of follow-up e-mails dated October 12 and 24, 2012, but our investigation was not complete at that time.

DHS found the claim that McDonalds was contaminated by radioactive material to be unsubstantiated due to the following data, calculations or observations:

1) Surveys of the vent that carried air from the retort to the outside air found no radiation levels above background.

2) No contamination was found outside the crematorium within the funeral home facility.

3) A dose assessment was performed using conservative assumptions, i.e., including that all the radioactivity implanted in the patient went up the stack. If an individual stood on the facility site boundary for one hour, that individual would have received 1 E-5 millirem. This is well beneath the radiation dose limit for a member of the public, (2 millirem in any one hour or 100 millirem/year.)

I hope this addresses the concerns you expressed to me in your e-mail.

Cheryl K. Rogers, Supervisor
Radioactive Materials Program
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Mick West

Staff member
I received a detailed follow-up response from the Wisconsin DEQ today. This issue is now debunked entirely (Mick can you edit the subject to state debunked: radioactive I-125 corpse vapors contaminated mcdonald's food):

Done, thanks!