Halliburton lost a 7-inch radioactive cylinder used for hydraulic fracturing.

Oil company Halliburton has lost an important instrument for its drilling processes somewhere in Texas, and if touched by humans, it could be harmful.

Halliburton recently announced that is lost a 7-inch radioactive cylinder that is used for hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a process where oil and gas companies insert water and other components underground to break up subterranian formations. By doing this, natural gas is free to leak to the surface.

However, Halliburton slipped up and lost this 7-inch radioactive cylinder somewhere in West Texas. While the cylinder doesn't produce radiation in a way that would kill humans quickly, it's still dangerous. The Texas Department of State Health Service warns that humans should stay back 20-25 feet if they come in contact with it.

The cylinder, which has "Do Not Handle" and "Danger Radioactive" printed on its sides, contains beryllium and americium-241. This form of americium can be found in some smoke detectors.

Why is this combination dangerous to humans? Alpha particles given off by americium-241 form neutrons when mixed with beryllium. The alpha particles can easily be shielded by a piece of paper, but the neutrons require much more than paper to protect humans from exposure.

The neutrons in the cylinder are 10 times more powerful than X-rays, and the International Atomic Energy Agency rated this mixture as a Category 3 for radioactive sources (it's a five-category scale, where a Category 1 is the most dangerous). A Category 3 means that a person could suffer "permanent injury" if they handled it for a number of hours, and they could die if they handled it for a number of weeks.

If found, the Texas Department of State Health Service said not to touch the tool, but rather contact law enforcement. The Texas National Guard has recently joined the search as well.

Earlier this year, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey said that the number of earthquakes in the middle of the United States had increased from 2009 until now compared to decades previous to the year 2000. They loosely blamed tools like this radioactive cylinder, which cause hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for the increase in earthquakes.