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Radioactive lightning spikes stolen

Detectives have issued a public health warning after burglars stole highly dangerous radioactive lightning conductors.

The seven spikes - which were historically used to prevent lightning damage to church spires - were stolen from Balheary Road in Swords, north Co Dublin, over the weekend.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) said the hazardous devices could contaminate anyone who came into contact with them, posing a long-term risk of cancer.

David Dawson, of the RPII, appealed for anyone who came across the lightning preventers to stay well clear and immediately notify the authorities.

"They just look like scrap metal and I'd say that's why they were stolen," he said.

"But they do contain radioactive sources which are dangerous if handled.

"You need to stay well away from these things - do not handle them."

The lightning preventers - mostly imported into Ireland in the 1960s but now considered to be no more effective than other non-radioactive conductors - were stored in a red metal box.

A licence is needed to keep the material and it is understood the legal owner was authorised to keep them.

Gardai said the devices had the appearance of aluminium or stainless steel but were of no scrap value.

"These are highly dangerous and should not be touched or approached, " a Garda spokesman said.

Anyone with information about the lightning preventers is asked to contact investigators at Swords on (01) 666 4700 or the RPII on (01)206 6913.

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