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Questions & Answers  |  More information

 


                              Radiation Bomb (“Dirty Bomb”)

 

Exposure: May be a liquid or a
gas. Nerve agents enter the body through:
•  skin and eyes
•  breathing in (inhalation)
•  the mouth (by eating or swallowing)

Nerve agents are not contagious. They cannot spread from person 
to person.

Symptoms and treatment: Upon exposure to a nerve agent, the pupils of the eyes shrink to pinpoints and the body begins sweating and twitching. Runny nose, watery eyes, drooling, excessive sweating, difficult breathing, dimness of vision, nausea, and vomiting follow.

At first sight of symptoms, immediately remove the victim's clothing and flush eyes and skin with plenty of water, then seek medical attention. There are antidotes for specific chemical agents.


                      

Immediate Action:

At the blast site:
•  Follow instructions of emergency personnel

•  Stay calm. Decontamination does not need to begin immediately

•  Remain in the area until released by emergency personnel

•  Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or other material

Near the blast site:
•  Stay calm. Decontamination does not need to begin immediately

•  Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or other material

•  Proceed on foot away from the area

•  Do not take public transport, so that you avoid contamination of buses and subways

•  If you drive your car or truck, do not use the air conditioner or heater

•  At home, remove your clothing OUTSIDE and place in plastic bag

•  Shower twice. Wash all hair thoroughly

•  News broadcasts will instruct you on proper disposal of contaminated clothing and proper cleaning for your vehicle

 

Questions and Answers

What is a "dirty bomb"?
A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, packaged with radioactive material that scatters when the bomb goes off. (The radioactive material would the kind used in hospitals, nuclear power plants, or other industrial sites. It is not the same as an atomic bomb.) Most dirty bomb casualties will be from the initial blast of the conventional explosive. The radioactive material that is scattered as a result of the explosion gives it the name "dirty".

What is radiation?
Radiation is a form of energy that is present all around us. Different types of radiation exist; some types are more energetic and harmful than others. Radiation comes from man-made sources such as x-ray machines, from the sun and outer space, and from some radioactive materials such as uranium in soil.

Will radiation in a bomb make me sick?
The effects depend on what type of radioactive material is used and on how much material is scattered. Although a dirty bomb could cause serious injuries from the explosion, it most likely would not have enough radioactive material to cause serious radiation sickness among large numbers of people. Exposure for a short time or in small doses not carry a high risk of radiation sickness or cancer.

Radioactive material is much more dangerous if you swallow or breathe it in, or if it enters an open wound. If you come into contact with radioactive material, do not eat, drink, or smoke; do not lick your lips; and do not touch your hand to your face or to an open wound until you have left the contaminated area and have been properly decontaminated by experts.

What types of terrorist events might involve radiation?
Terrorists could put radioactive material in liquid or powder form into the food or water supply. Explosives like dynamite could scatter radioactive materials in to the air. Even exploding a small nuclear device is possible. Though radioactive material in the food or water supply would cause great concern, it probably would not cause much contamination or increase the danger of adverse health effects.

What are the signs of a radiation attack?
Radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or felt. You may, however, see an explosion if a bomb is used to scatter radioactive material.

How quickly should I leave the area?
The amount of radiation scattered by a dirty bomb would probably take hours to accumulate a large enough dose to cause illness. You should have time to take protective measures, listen for instructions, and evacuate if necessary.

How can I protect myself during a radiation emergency?
If you are advised to stay at home or office, close all doors and windows, turn off ventilators, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring in fresh air from the outside. Only use units to re-circulate air that is already in the building. Close fireplace dampers, move to an inner room, and keep your radio tuned to the emergency response network. If you are advised to evacuate, follow the directions from your local officials. If you have them readily available, take a flashlight, portable radio, batteries, essential medicines, and cash and credit cards.

What about using my private vehicle instead of public transportation after an attack?
If you drive your car or truck, some radioactive material may get inside and will need to be cleaned out. Listen to local news broadcasts for instructions about cleaning your vehicle. If you drive your private vehicle, do not run the heater or air conditioner. When you get home, remove your clothing OUTSIDE and place it in plastic bags. Listen to local news broadcasts for instructions on how to discard these contaminated clothes.

I was a mile from the detonation. Will I get sick?
Listen to emergency broadcast information for instructions. Appropriate actions depend on the size of the attack, direction of the wind, and the material detonated. If you are not close enough to be injured by the explosion, it is unlikely that radiation will make you sick or affect your ability to have children.

Will I be able to decontaminate my home and continue to live in it during and after the attack?
Yes. Decontamination is difficult but possible, and with reasonable effort and care you should be able to return to a normal, safe life in your home.

Should I buy a radiation detector?
No. Unless you have been trained, you won't be able to interpret the readings. Many of the Geiger counters available commercially are unreliable or improperly adjusted.

Should I purchase potassium iodide tablets for protection against radiation?
No. Potassium iodide (KI) protects people from thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine, a cancer-causing agent that can be released in nuclear explosions. KI should only be taken in a radiation emergency that involves the release of radioactive iodine, and only radioactive iodine, such as an accident at a nuclear power plant or the explosion of a nuclear bomb. A dirty bomb will not contain radioactive iodine, so KI pills are of no use for a dirty bomb.