The fear of the use of nuclear devices to cause massive casualties has been on the minds of us all, since the first atomic bomb was used on the city of Hiroshima on August 06, 1945. This fear has been that a war would break out, and countries would attack each other with stockpiles of nuclear weapons and end the world as we know it. Today the fear is new, this new fear is that radical terrorist may come into the possession of a nuclear weapon or enough radioactive material to create a dirty bomb and release these weapons on innocent populations to create terror and disorder to governments. This paper will probe the readiness of our communities and the effects of radiation on humans and animals.
The use of a radiological weapon in a terror attack is a worry for most responders. The need to be prepared is in a responders mind paramount, but to be ready for the use of a dirty bomb in a large city or assembly center such as a football stadium or concert is a scenario that responders worldwide have not had had to deal with before. This scene has almost been played out in Russia from a group of Chechen rebels, but with training, intelligence and care did not happen. The rebels alert the press that they have buried a cache of radiological materials in Moscow's Ismailovsky Park. In the very spot where the rebels indicated it would be, authorities find a partially buried container of cesium (Terrorism News Letter, 2014). In the case of the use of a dirty bomb, the community that the attack happens, the responders and the communitys resources would become quickly overwhelmed.
The explosion of a radioactive bomb in a crowded area will create many victims near the blast area and depending on the size of the weapon, in a large area surrounding the explosion. The use of radioactive material in a terrorist bomb will not have the explosive power as a manufactured weapons-grade nuclear weapon, but will have a certain amount of fallout depending on many explosives used. Dirty bombs are composed of conventional explosives used to disseminate radioactive materials (Burke, 2007).
The radioactive material released from a dirty bomb will contaminate many victims that will have to be triaged, decontaminated and sent to hospitals, the radioactive material will cause radiation sickness taking even more responders; this will put a strain on local resources and medical professionals. Scattering of radioactive material through the use of a dispersion device would cause widespread contamination over a large area (Burke, 2007). The incident area will be a hot zone for many years depending on the material used; this will shut down all use of resources in the affected area.
The effects of alpha radiation
Alpha radiation has many effects on human beings depending on the type of exposure. Since alpha radiation is a very short-range type of radiation, it is not capable of penetrating human skin, so external exposure is not dangerous (The Effects of Alpha Radiation on Humans, 2012). Alpha-emitting materials can be harmful to humans if the materials are inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through open wounds. Alpha radiation is not able to penetrate turnout gear, clothing. Thus, turnout gear and dry clothing can keep alpha emitters off of the skin but without respiratory protection alpha radiation can still enter the body. Conversely, swallowing the particles, inhaling them or if they are absorbed into the body through open wounds, the effects of alpha radiation on humans can indeed be quite severe. Alpha radiation increases the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer since most alpha emitters are inhaled and thus reside in the lungs.
Alpha radiation also damages the DNA of cells and the DNA of surrounding cells. Cell death can occur around the alpha radiation, but does not seriously affect the organism unless the cells are part of an extremely critical system (Burke, 2007). Animals as with the human element are prone to have the same effects of alpha radiation exposure. Since the radiation exposure is inhaled and depending on dose, the effects of the Alpha radiation can cause DNA cell damage it may affect the offspring of animals.
Overall, the available data indicate that the production of viable offspring through gametogenesis and reproduction is a more radiosensitive population attribute than the induction of individual mortality (Linsley, 1997).
Beta Radiation Effects
Beta radiation is a short wave radiation that penetrates only a few inches; this radiation causes injuries akin to a second or third-degree burn. Furthermore, transient and inconsistent erythema can also occur within a few hours of exposure and be followed by a latent, symptom-free phase lasting from a few days to several weeks. After the latent period, intense reddening, blistering, and ulceration of the irradiated site are visible (Cutaneous Radiation Injury (CRI), 2014). Chronic Beta injuries can also cause skin cancer and the changing of pigmentation and can do more significant damage if the radiation gets into the body. Beta particles are high-energy electrons that are emitted from the nuclei of unstable atoms (for example, cesium-137, iodine-131) (Jerrold, 2015).
Beta radiation affects animals in the same way as humans animals would not be spared skin tissue damage, animals digestive tract could become radiated by eating fall on the ground or in the feed. It is entirely possible that lethal physiological effects from Beta radiation may never be seen in farm animals following nuclear detonations. This is because beta radiation high enough to cause such effects would under most circumstances accompanied by gamma radiation of sufficient magnitude to deliver an overwhelming total- body exposure (Damage to Livestock from Radioactive Fallout in the event of Nuclear War, 1963).
Gamma radiation effects
Gamma radiation and x radiation are the primary causalities causing radiation forms of radiation caused by the nuclear explosion. Much of it passes through the body without interacting with tissues or cells, but large doses as that from a nuclear explosion can overwhelm the body and cause radiation sickness. Either internal or external sources of gamma radiation can result in whole body exposure (Burke, 2007). Gamma rays and x-rays can cause damage distant from their source and are typically responsible for acute radiation syndromes. Acute Radiation Syndromes (ARS), after the whole body, or a large portion of the body, receives a high dose of penetrating radiation, several distinct syndromes may occur; Cerebrovascular Syndrome, Gastrointestinal (GI) syndrome, Hematopoietic syndrome (Jerrold, 2015).
Gamma radiation can also accumulate over time causing chronic radiation poisoning, and as with acute radiation poisoning can cause the same symptoms. Gamma radiation will have the basically the same effects on animals as humans the animals that do not die from the initial explosion will in the cases of full body exposure probably die within a short period. When near death, severe blood loss occurs through the gut, in the form of black, tar-like feces. Deaths would probably begin to occur in the animals at about three weeks after exposure as well (Berber, 1987).
Neutron radiation effects
Neutron radiation can be as harmful as gamma radiation this radiation is produced by the splitting of atoms either in a nuclear reactor or the explosion of a nuclear device. The effects of neutron radiation if the victim survived the explosion would be the same as a full body gamma radiation exposure. This would consist of Acute Radiation Syndrome, chronic radiation poisoning, and death in a short period. As with the Gamma, radiation animals would have the same symptoms as humans.
As with all terrorism, the need to be vigilant and well-trained is a must for all responders. The protection of resources such as nuclear power plants, medical radiological supply facilities, nuclear waste handling facilities and the transport of any radioactive material is a must. Training of security at entries into the country and the instruments to detect such weapons is paramount, and the training of first responders in the correct PPE for these situations is a must. The risk of a dirty bomb being set off in this country is remote but we must train and prepare as if is imminent, to prepare for the worst will help us be ready for any scenario.
(1963). Damage to Livestock from Radioactive Fallout in event of nuclear War. Washington D.C.: National Academy of Science-National Research Council.
Berber, J. R., C., D., (1987). Radiological Emergency for Livestock, Poultry, and Animal Products. Oakridge: IT Corporation/Radiological Science Laboratory.
Burke, R. (2007). Counter- Terrorism For Emergency Responders,2nd Edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Pg. 218,234,235,236
Cutaneous Radiation Injury (CRI). 2014, October 17). Retrieved on October 9, 2015 from Center for Disease Control and prevention: http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/criphysicianfactsheet.asp
Jerrold, T. B. (2015). Radiation Exposure and Contamination. Retrieved on October 30, 2015 from Merck Manuals Professional Edition: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/radiation-exposure-and-contamination/radiation-exosure-and-contamination
Linsley, G. (1997, January). Radiation and the environment: Assessing effects on Plants and animals. Retrieved on October 29, 2015, from International Atomic Energy Agency: https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/39102681720.pdf
Terrorism Newsletter. (2014). Retrieved on November 2, 2015, from CBRNE Terrorism News Letter: http://www.cbme-terrorism-newsletter.com/
The Effects of Alpha radiation on Humans. (2012). Retrieved on October 29, 2015, from Bright hub: http://www.brighythub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/85643.aspx
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