terrorist events could involve introducing radioactive material into
the food or water supply, using explosives (like dynamite) to scatter
radioactive materials (called a “dirty bomb”), bombing or destroying
a nuclear facility, or exploding a small nuclear device.
introducing radioactive material into the food or water supply most
likely would cause great concern or fear, it probably would not cause
much contamination or increase the danger of adverse health effects.
a dirty bomb could cause serious injuries from the explosion, it most
likely would not have enough radioactive material in a form that would
cause serious radiation sickness among large numbers of people. However,
people who were exposed to radiation scattered by the bomb could have
a greater risk of developing cancer later in life, depending on their
meltdown or explosion at a nuclear facility could cause a large amount
of radioactive material to be released. People at the facility would
probably be contaminated with radioactive material and possibly be injured
if there was an explosion. Those people who received a large dose might
develop acute radiation syndrome. People in the surrounding area could
be exposed or contaminated.
an exploded nuclear device could result in a lot of property damage.
People would be killed or injured from the blast and might be contaminated
by radioactive material. Many people could have symptoms of acute radiation
syndrome. After a nuclear explosion, radioactive fallout would extend
over a large region far from the point of impact, potentially increasing
people’s risk of developing cancer over time.
Can I Protect Myself During a Radiation Emergency?
a release of radioactive materials, local authorities will monitor the
levels of radiation and determine what protective actions to take.
most appropriate action will depend on the situation. Tune to the local
emergency response network or news station for information and instructions
during any emergency.
a radiation emergency involves the release of large amounts of radioactive
materials, you may be advised to “shelter in place,” which means to
stay in your home or office; or you may be advised to move to another
you are advised to shelter in place, you should do the following:
and lock all doors and windows.
off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring
in fresh air from the outside. Only use units to recirculate air
that is already in the building.
possible, bring pets inside.
to an sealed room or basement.
your radio tuned to the emergency response network or local news
to find out what else you need to do.
you are advised to evacuate, follow the directions that your local officials
provide. Leave the area as quickly and orderly as possible. In addition
your Go Pack.
pets only if you are using your own vehicle and going to a place
you know will accept animals. Emergency vehicles and shelters usually
will not accept animals.
is a form of energy that is present all around us.
types of radiation exist, some of which have more energy than others.
of radiation released into the environment are measured in units called
curies. However, the dose of radiation that a person receives is measured
in units called rem.
How Can Exposure Occur?
are exposed to small amounts of radiation every day, both from naturally
occurring sources (such as elements in the soil or cosmic rays from
the sun), and man-made sources. Man-made sources include some electronic
equipment (such as microwave ovens and television sets), medical sources
(such as x-rays, certain diagnostic tests, and treatments), and from
nuclear weapons testing.
amount of radiation from natural or man-made sources to which people
are exposed is usually small; a radiation emergency (such as a nuclear
power plant accident or a terrorist event) could expose people to small
or large doses of radiation, depending on the situation.
estimate that the average person in the United States receives a dose
of about one-third of a rem per year. About 80% of human exposure comes
from natural sources and the remaining 20% comes from man-made radiation
sources – mainly medical x-rays.
exposure refers to radioactive material that is taken into the body
through breathing, eating, or drinking.
exposure refers to an exposure to a radioactive source outside of our
refers to particles of radioactive material that are deposited anywhere
that they are not supposed to be, such as on an object or on a person’s
Effects of Radiation Exposure
affects the body in different ways, but the adverse health consequences
of exposure may not be seen for many years.
health effects range from mild effects, such as skin reddening, to serious
effect such as cancer and death. These adverse health effects are determined
by the amount of radiation absorbed by the body (the dose), the type
of radiation, the route of exposure, and the length of time a person
radiation syndrome (ARS), or radiation sickness, is usually caused when
a person receives a high dose of radiation to much of the body in a
matter of minutes. Survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs
and firefighters responding to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant event
in 1986 experienced ARS. The immediate symptoms of ARS are nausea, vomiting,
and diarrhea; later, bone marrow depletion may lead to weight loss,
loss of appetite, feeling like you have the flu, infection, and bleeding.
The survival rate depends on the radiation dose. For those who do survive,
full recovery takes from a few weeks to 2 years.
exposed to radiation may be more at risk than adults. Radiation exposure
to the unborn child is of special concern because the human embryo or
fetus is extremely sensitive to radiation.
exposure, like exposure to the sun, is cumulative.
Against Radiation Exposure
The three basic ways to reduce radiation exposure are through—
the amount of time you spend near the source of radiation.
your distance from a radiation source.
the shielding between you and the radiation source. Shielding is anything
that creates a barrier between people and the radiation source. Depending
on the type of radiation, the shielding can range from something as
thin as a plate of window glass or as thick as several feet of concrete.
Being inside a building or a vehicle can provide shielding from some
kinds of radiation.