Radiation Limits, Dirty Bombs, and Chaos
- Interesting article ...
September 28, 2005
Radiation Limits, Dirty Bombs, and Chaos
by Jon Basil Utley
New Orleans, of course, showed up Washington's unpreparedness for
response. But there's an even far greater threat on the horizon:
radiation limits and the true risks from a "dirty bomb."
Realistic radiation health limits need to be properly understood by first
responders and affected citizens. Otherwise, panic may do economic
destruction far, far beyond the actual damage. Indeed, the government
emergency site Ready.gov just tells people to get as far away as
without specifying distances. Texas-sized traffic gridlock would then
paralyze whole cities. In actuality, a dirty bomb might contaminate
few city blocks, while current EPA limits could entail shutting down
miles of central cities. After New Orleans, one can easily imagine
going into people's homes and offices, demanding that they leave to
with government "danger" levels, while, like New Orleans, criminals
to loot the abandoned areas.
The Federation of American Scientists Web site declares, "Areas as large
tens of square miles could be contaminated at levels that exceed
civilian exposure limits. Since there are often no effective ways to
decontaminate buildings that have been exposed at these levels,
may be the only practical solution. If such an event were to take place
city like New York, it would result in losses of potentially trillions of
Similarly, a recent article in the National Journal, "Surviving a Nuclear
Attack on Washington, D.C.," states, "Meeting the EPA standard for public
safety - no more than 15 millirem of radiation exposure per year - would
cost trillions of dollars for a midsized city, according to a study led
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. But the cost drops by half or more
when the acceptable threshold is raised to 100 or, better, 500 millirem,
which is still just 10 percent of the 5 rem level approved for nuclear
reactor workers." The study refers to an actual nuclear bomb, but
the catastrophically low EPA thresholds. The author has little faith in
government response. He warns, "Plan to be completely on your own."
Add to this the unrealistic limitations for first responders. These
terrified and run away or at best be handicapped by unnecessary,
anti-radiation suits. Some are subject to OSHA rules that mirror the EPA
limits, and any authority or property owner who ignored them might later
sued for liability damages by their employees. All of this together makes
for a possibly unimaginable economic catastrophe from just a small dirty
bomb. America needs immediate emergency modification of these rules.
There are some variations in different state responses. Washington
regulations, for example, allow 5 rem (50 mSv) as the accepted exposure
limit for emergency responders. Exceeding 5 rem requires a review and
approval of the state health officer. The state then allows exposure up
25 rem for life saving and higher for volunteers "who understand the
Other responders (in New Orleans, for example) are told to leave the
over 10 rems.
Exposure Limits Should Be Far Higher
Scientists are now learning that humans can absorb much higher radiation
limits than formerly supposed. There is accumulating evidence that
radiation, within limits, even increases life spans and health. In
Chernobyl, for example, the latest UN report [.pdf] describes how
harm was far less than predicted. According to the 600-page report
version [.pdf]), the accident caused fewer than 50 deaths, most of them
among emergency workers who died in the first months after the 1986
disaster. Early estimates of deaths were in the thousands. An increase in
thyroid cancer in children did result, but only nine children died from
Ninety-nine percent of the 4,000 children who developed the illness have
already survived for 20 years. The report describes the 20-mile exclusion
zone around the reactor as abounding in animal life, full of wolves, elk,
wild boars, eagles, etc. The World Health Organization's summary also
states, "No evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the
population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of congenital
Environmental journalist Michael Fumento has reported how the European
public was terrified with reports of 15,000-30,000 people dying and
far away as Italy having abortions in fear of radiation. Out of 5 million
people who received "excess" radiation, 4,000 are now estimated to be at
risk for premature cancer, and even that number is an estimate lacking
Similarly, after the Three Mile Island panic, no one died, and nearby
residents were exposed to more radiation from the granite in the Senate
Office Building where they testified than they had received near the
Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) offers a most informative Web
with medical references. Its newsletter, Civil Defense Perspectives
recently warned that "the government is 'protecting' Americans with
extremely costly measures against non-threats--while leaving them totally
vulnerable to the really big threats."
The July 2000 CDP described"radiation denial," in both its good and bad
aspects. Some examples:
"The EPA and the radiation protection industry remain committed to the
Linear No Threshold theory - it being necessary for their agenda or
livelihood. LNT defenders rely on studies and methods that Dr. Luckey
in 19 categories such as the following: ignoring health benefits, lumping
data to eliminate dose-response information, misrepresenting data,
data, using single-tailed statistics, using the median instead of the
blocking publication, extrapolating from cells to intact organisms, using
old animals for growth studies, and leaving out the low-dose category. .
"Nuclear Workers. Based on more than 7 million person-years of
the U.S., Britain, and Canada, low-dose radiation decreased cancer death
rates by 52 percent."
What Are the Realistic Limits?
Dr. Jane Orient, director of DDP, provided me with a short, rough
noting that there are two important factors, the amount and the time
"100 rems over 100 days might not be harmful at all. Chronic exposures to
levels much higher than background have actually been associated with
improved longevity. One can have a scientific debate about the shape of
dose-response curve, but after a nuclear explosion, the issue is taking
action to reduce the immediate casualties."
(A detailed explanation of radiation limits and damage levels can be
There are other potential problems with first responders. As CDPexplains,
"Radiation monitoring instruments, calibrated in microrads/hr., reflect
concerns about very low levels of radiation. The highest dosage
by many instruments carried by first responders is 15 mrem/hr. These
be off-scale and worse than useless in a nuclear attack."
As concerns the risk of cancer, Dr. Orient cited an article from the
of American Physicians and Surgeons, "Is Chronic Radiation an Effective
Prophylaxis Against Cancer?," which indicates the opposite, that low
may help prevent cancer.
Another excellent, short explanation of risks and treatment is the
"Radiological Terrorism Fact Sheet - Dirty Bombs" [.pdf]. See also the
National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements reports.
Note also that the aforementioned National Journal article has excellent
information about civil defense and survivability in the event of a real
nuke in an American city. Even a Hiroshima-size attack on Washington on
ground (which would collapse every building within a half mile of the
explosion) could be survived by those farther away from the blast zone,
they knew the rudimentary rules for seeking shelter, in particular from
fallout path during the first 24 hours (which falls mostly downwind, only
10-15 minutes after the explosion, allowing some time to seek shelter).
article notes that the radiation threat from nuke bombs dissipates
Ninety percent is gone after seven hours, 99 percent in 49 hours. Fallout
spreads according to the wind patterns, but citizens can protect
for the few hours necessary and then by disposing of outer clothing,
washing, using a simple breathing mask to keep alpha particles out of the
What really needs to be done is to explain to Americans how to protect
themselves from radiation, specifically by sealing rooms and staying in
place rather than panicking and trying to leave town. Most Americans are
ignorant about radiation, and politicians want to "show that they care"
establishing the lowest limits. But the new threat of dirty bombs makes
vital that the government and the media tell the truth, before the
to an attack causes needless panic, waste, and chaos.
Find this article at:
- Most interesting reading especially the link to "Surviving a nuclear attach on Washington D.C.".The article mentions "Prussian Blue" as a way to get certain radioactive particles out of the body. How is it administered?
- Hi Ron!
From the FDA site:
"FDA has determined that the 500 mg Prussian blue capsules, when
manufactured under the conditions of an approved New Drug Application
(NDA), can be found safe and effective for the treatment of known or
suspected internal contamination with radioactive cesium, radioactive
thallium, or non-radioactive thallium."
"...We are unaware of any clinical data demonstrating the
effectiveness of Prussian blue for treating patients contaminated
with any other elements. When the nature of the radioactive
contamination is not known, Prussian blue may be given together with
other drugs, such as potassium iodide, calcium or zinc DTPA, or
sodium alginate, with known effectiveness in treating contamination
from other radioactive substances."
And from the CDC:
"Prussian blue was first produced as a blue dye in 1704 and has been
used by artists and manufacturers ever since. It got its name from
its use as a dye for Prussian military uniforms. Prussian blue dye
and paint are still available today from art supply stores.
People SHOULD NOT take Prussian blue artist's dye in an attempt to
treat themselves. This type of Prussian blue is not designed to treat
radioactive contamination and is not made for that purpose. People
who are concerned about the possibility of being contaminated with
radioactive materials should go to their doctors for advice and
And now my $0.02... Just in case of extreme emergency I keep a bottle
of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing ( http://www.mrsstewart.com/ ) in
my "doomsday kit" - right next to the Duck Tape and the doxycycline.
--- In CDV700CLUB@yahoogroups.com, "Boomologist" <Boomologist@G...>
> Most interesting reading especially the link to "Surviving anuclear attach on Washington D.C.".
> The article mentions "Prussian Blue" as a way to get certainradioactive particles out of the body. How is it administered?