– Radioactive man? Milford resident pulled over by state police (Connecticut Post, May 10, 2012):
Mike Apatow was minding his own business Wednesday, driving to an appointment for work in Washington Depot when a state police car appeared suddenly and signaled for the Milford resident to pull over.Apatow, 42, was entering Interstate 84 in Newtown when the cruiser appeared, and he had no idea what he’d done to merit police attention. It turns out he didn’t do anything.
But earlier that day, Apatow, who’d experienced a recent spike in his blood pressure, had a nuclear stress test at Cardiology Associates of Fairfield County in Trumbull. In the test, a small amount of a radioactive material is injected into the veins and used to help track blood flow to the heart.
Though the amount of radioactive material used in the test is relatively low — equal to a few X-rays or a diagnostic CT scan — it was enough to set off a radioactivity detector in the state police car. The detectors are used to help identify potential terror threats.
“I asked the officer `What seems to be the problem?’ ” Apatow said. “He said `You’ve been flagged as a radioactive car.’ ”
Apatow’s doctor had given him a document attesting that he’d had a medical procedure involving a small amount of radioactive material that he handed to the officer. A Stratford firefighter, Apatow was more curious than annoyed by the incident.
“I had no idea the police even had devices like that,” he said. “I imagined it being like a cartoon — like I’m driving down the street and my car was glowing.”
State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance confirmed that many of the state police cars have the radioactivity detectors. “It’s part of our homeland security operations here,” Vance said. “It’s just another layer of public safety that we have in this state.”
Though the goal of the detectors is to alert police to motorists who might be carrying hazardous materials, cases like Apatow’s happen from time to time.
“They’re very sensitive,” Vance said of the detectors.
Apatow had the stress test after feeling ill while working at the Fire Department. He took his blood pressure and found it was 180 over 110 — much higher than the 120 over 70 reading he usually gets. He attributed the spike to a variety of potential factors, including a lack of sleep. On Thursday, after visiting his doctors again, he was cleared for duty.
Dr. Gilead Lancaster, president of the Connecticut chapter of the American College of Cardiologists, said Apatow’s experience with the stress test isn’t as rare as some might think. Lancaster, also director of non-invasive cardiology at Bridgeport Hospital, said a colleague knew of an incident in which a patient was traveling by plane the day after a stress test and set off alarms in the airport. “It’s definitely known that this happens, and we do let patients know that there is a chance that they could be picked up,” he said.
He said patients are also often told to avoid close contact with family immediately following the stress test.
Apatow said his doctors told him not to go within 10 feet of his infant son within 24 hours of the test. Despite this, Lancaster said the amount of radioactive material used in the stress is unlikely to be harmful to the patient. “Any amount of radiation is harmful, but nobody has yet shown that this level of radiation has been of significant harm, especially to adults,” he said.
Dr. Lawrence Schek, chief medical officer and chairman of cardiology at St. Vincent‘s Medical Center in Bridgeport, said facilities that perform these tests have to be certified and are meticulous about safety.
“There’s very strict criteria in place,” he said.