APNewsBreak: State investigating MIT lab radiation complaint

FILE - In this April 3, 2017 file photo, students walk past the "Great Dome" atop Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in an Oct. 17, 2019, letter provided to The Associated Press, that it has opened an investigation into "radiation safety and compliance" at the university's Bates Research and Engineering Center in Middleton, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this April 3, 2017 file photo, students walk past the "Great Dome" atop Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in an Oct. 17, 2019, letter provided to The Associated Press, that it has opened an investigation into "radiation safety and compliance" at the university's Bates Research and Engineering Center in Middleton, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BOSTON, MA – Massachusetts public health officials are looking into allegations that workers at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory may have been exposed to radioactive materials.

The state Department of Public Health said in a letter earlier this month that it has opened an investigation into "radiation safety and compliance" at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Bates Research and Engineering Center in Middleton.

John Priest, director of the department's Radiation Control Program, said in the Oct. 17 letter that the agency considers the concerns "very serious" and plans to review records, conduct interviews and complete on-site inspections.

The letter was provided to The Associated Press by former MIT researcher Babak Babakinejad, a critic of the university's Open Agricultural Initiative, which is run out of Bates lab but was halted earlier this month amid investigations by MIT and the state for possible academic and environmental violations.

"I am particularly concerned about possible exposure of employees to the radioactive contaminated equipment that are still stored at the Bates Lab, many years after the shutdown of the accelerator," Babakinejad wrote in his correspondence to the state.

It's not immediately clear what levels of radiation the accelerator produced or what health risks, if any, they pose.

State health officials say the radiation risk of an accelerator is dependent on its type, size and capacity.

Tony Sharon, MIT's deputy executive vice president, said staff not directly working with radioactive materials would only be exposed to "natural background levels of radiation."