After the 46-year-old man was extensively questioned by security guards, he remembered the medical treatments he'd received six weeks before, and was released after providing medical documentation.
Dr. Kalyan Gangopadhyay, a physician at City Hospital in Birmingham, authored a report of the man's incident in the British Medical Journal, which said that since roughly 10,000 UK citizens are treated with radioactive iodine every year, cases of triggering radioactive sensors would only increase.
"In Europe and America there will be hundreds of thousands of people having this treatment," says Gangopadhyay. "Airport security alarms are being made more sensitive worldwide so we will get more of these incidents."
Doctors were alarmed at how long the radioactive iodine remained in the bodies of patients, since the Florida incident occurred a month and a half after the man's treatment. Other incidents involving people treated with radioactive iodine setting off radiation detectors have recently been found in medical literature; two years ago, a 55-year-old pilot who'd received the radioactive therapy set off a radiation alarm at Moscow airport twice in four days. In the 1980s, two White House visitors treated with radioactive isotopes set off a radiation alarm and were detained until the cause was discovered.
"That patients treated with radioactive iodine set off nuclear detection devices at security checkpoints should also sound the alarm about the potential health consequences of such therapies," said Mike Adams, a consumer health watchdog. "If this latent radiation is so strong that it's being detected as possible nuclear material, then imagine how much it's irradiating the healthy tissues and organs of the patient!"
City Hospital has started issuing treatment cards to all patients treated with radioactive iodine, warning that they may trigger airport security alarms for up to 12 weeks after their treatment.