Facts and Fiction
If Nuclear Fallout lands on inanimate objects, they do NOT become radioactive
Medical self-help is an emergency measure to be used only in cases of sudden or extraordinary misfortune. If people require medical care during normal everyday living they should always be treated by a doctor, however when disaster strikes you may not be able to obtain trained medical aid in time. There are many forms of disasters that can happen to you and your family at any moment. This article is about Self Help, with the purpose of teaching you what to do in an emergency when there is no doctor.
Alpha, Beta and Gama-rays use the energy of the atom and can kill all living tissue within their beams, both sick and healthy cells of the human body are destroyed, its invisible rays are so highly penetrating that without protective shielding even x-rays, that are much like the gamma rays of radioactive fallout. There are many falsehoods and misconceptions about radiation.
We will teach you what you need to know about fallout so that if our country is ever subjected to a nuclear attack, you can help yourself and your family to survive its dangers for fallout is probably the most dangerous product of nuclear disaster, in terms of the number of people who could be affected by it. But it is also the one aspect of a nuclear blast which we are best able to protect ourselves from.
let's examine what happens when a nuclear weapon is exploded near the earth, first there is blast or the pressure wave created by the explosion along with heat, the most intense ever created on earth, both will extend great distances from the point of the explosion from 1 to 50 miles depending on the size of the weapon, however, the further away you are from the site of the explosion the less chances you will suffer the fatal effects of the blast and heat wave.
There is yet another immediate result of a nuclear detonation, the initial radiation from the blast and the final effect is residual radiation, the main concern for anyone surviving the blast is the radiation that follows the explosion and the radiation that remains at high altitudes for some time before falling back to earth. What exactly is residual radiation? Our Sun, like other stellar bodies of the universe, is a giant nuclear furnace burning at temperatures of millions of degrees while emitting various types of radiation, among these are gamma rays shorter in wavelength than their closest neighbor x-rays.
The Earth's atmosphere prevents these radiations dangerous to the health of man and animal from reaching our planet, however, when a nuclear weapon is exploded man is creating on earth in the splitting of atomic nuclei his own nuclear furnace to produce the gamma and beta radiations of outer space.
Let's see now just how this radiation is created:
At the time of the burst, vast amounts of dirt stone and other debris are vaporized by the heat of the explosion and are sucked up into the rising cloud as the mushroom cloud forms, these particles are made radioactive and as they cool and condense, they are contaminated by residue from the bomb. These particles when they fall back to earth are what we call radioactive fallout.
We cannot predict with accuracy the pattern by which fallout particles will return to Earth The fallout pattern will depend on the number, size and location of nuclear weapon exploded and the direction of upper air current. let's for example explore the fallout produced by one of these nuclear weapons.
It sends its column of radioactive material up to 80,000 feet or about 16 miles above the earth, here the radioactive particles begin to drift downward and are at the mercy of upper air currents, that vary from day to day descending at various altitudes through many different layers of air that may be moving at varying speeds and direction, thus winds on the surface of the earth give little help in determining the direction or the occurrence of fallout.
Meteorologists with their special instruments however can appraise altitudes as well as the total distance fallout will be carried in a nuclear attack so stay tuned to your local radio or news stations, they will keep you posted where fallout is taking place and the approximate amount, though you will see this dust once it reaches the earth.
You cannot see or detect the radiation fallout emits without the aid of radiological instruments, nor can you taste smell or feel this radiation, this is why fallout is so dangerous to human and animal life, because each particle gives off radiation as if it were a tiny x-ray machine, this radiation consists mainly of gamma rays which are extremely penetrating, like x-rays, gamma rays are able to injure and even destroy the cells of the human body and if we are exposed to a sufficient doses for long enough or if we eat or drink material contaminated by fallout particles, the exposure to gamma rays can make you sick and can even cause death
However no matter how long one may be exposed to fallout you will not become radioactive nor can anyone catch radiation sickness from you like a contagious disease, in fact this radiation cannot make anyone or anything radioactive.
Now let us suppose that fallout has descended on a can of food, we will use salt to represent fallout dust and sprinkle the salt on top of the canned food. The particles don't go through the tin can, the radiation does, but radiation is harmless to all things except living matter. On non-living materials, and the radiation has no effect on the food inside the can. Now to use the canned food carefully wipe away the fallout particles from the can, or better still wash them away with water, the food inside cannot be contaminated and is perfectly safe to eat.
The same is true of all foods and liquids that have been protected by packaging or containers, even the thinnest layer of cellophane will protect the food, as long as you you don't swallow the dust there is no ill effect.
If water for washing is in short supply canned goods that may have been exposed to fallout can be handled safely with a piece of paper towel use one sheet of paper to lift the cans and turn it upside down there is no dust on the bottom, now dispose of the paper towel, use another paper towel to wipe the sides of the can with a new piece of towel and don't forget to put the contaminated paper in a covered receptacle, now open the clean top there will be no harmful particles in the food itself.
A sealed loaf of bread that has been exposed to fallout can be salvaged in a similar manner, by turn the loaf upside down to expose the bottom which will be clear of dust then dispose of the towel, now insert a sharp knife through the wax paper at the center of the loaf and cut upwards making a slot for 5 inches lengthwise insert your fingers through the slot and rip the paper slowly open the bread and move it to a clean plate or container, then dispose of the bread wrapper.
Vegetables such as potatoes can be prepared by using a clean piece of newspaper and working first in one corner cut off one end move to a clean surface of the paper and peel the potato then move it to another piece of clean paper and remove the other end dispose of all peelings and soiled paper carefully. After handling any contaminated food containers or vegetables, wash your hands thoroughly, fall out dust is dangerous, but it can be dealt with by following safe procedures.
Theirs is another widespread legend and fear that fallout spells death to all life on earth, the plain fact is that even if a great number of nuclear weapons were exploded, the resulting fallout would cover only a small area of the world's total landmass; The real concern is if we are in that area how do we protect ourselves?
Gama-ray fallout can penetrate through almost any kind of building material; Here are the materials and thicknesses. 99% of radiation will pass through glass. 66% of radiation will pass through wood siding on a house. 50% through a brick veneer wall 1% of gamma radiation would penetrate 18 inches of concrete.
Though it's not a building material, it's important to know that only 1% would pass through 25 inches of earth. Aside from the shielding effect of building materials the intensity of radiation decreases with the square of the distance from the source thus 10 feet away from a particle of fall out the radiation rate is only 1% of that encountered at 1 foot.
Other things being equal, the central parts of a building are safer, the radiation rate or the intensity from fallout decreases with the passage of time in fact for every seven-fold increase in time the radiation will be reduced by a factor of ten that means that at 7 hours after the explosion the radiation level will be about 10% of its intensity at one hour.
At 49 hours it will be about one percent within two weeks the radiation rate can be expected to decay to about one-tenth of one percent, therefore the most vital period to seek protection from fallout is the first few days after nuclear attack, even more so the first few hours, but remember even with the passage of time a low level of radiation can be dangerous, that is why you may need to remain within a sheltered area for as long as two weeks.
So, the three basic factors in protection against fallout are time, distance and shielding, time meaning the longer you stay protected from fallout the safer you will be distance or the further away you get from fallout the safer you will be and shielding meaning the more mass or weight you put between yourself and fallout the safer you will be.
if and when fallout should ever occur in your area, just how much radiation can you receive without becoming sick? We measure exposure to gamma radiation from fallout in units called Röntgen, they're the same units used to measure x-rays named after Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, the discoverer of the x-ray.
People and animals may develop radiation sickness if they have been exposed to large amounts of radiation over a short period of time, few people become sick who have been exposed to a total radiation dose of 100 Röntgen or less however exposure to more than 300 Röntgen over a period of a few days will cause sickness and may cause death. If you receive an exposure of 600 Röntgen in that same period, death is almost certain.
How can you tell just how much radiation you've been exposed to, there are instruments commonly used to detect and measure radiation they are part of the equipment supplied to the radiological monitoring team of every public FEMA shelter and with them you can determine not only the total amounts of radiation received but also the dose rate per unit of time or the dose rate in Röntgen per hour this is called dosimeter, conveniently shaped to be worn on one's person at all times, it is able to measure the total accumulated radiation exposure in Röntgen.
Next the Geiger counter, this instrument measures radiation in fractions of Röntgen per hour within or outside the shelter or home. And finally, the survey meter can measure higher intensities of radiation that may exist outside the shelter or home shelters. These measuring instruments are available from commercial sources; however, most households will rely chiefly on their radios or cell phone, (if there is still service) to receive readings as they are taken by civil defense monitoring teams.
If there is a nuclear attack and you survive the initial effects of an explosion you will have at least a half hour to get to a public or home fallout shelter therefore to be safe from radiation sickness get into the best available shelter as soon as possible once there stay put because each time you're exposed to fallout radiation over a period of a few days, the dosage continues to build until it reaches dangerous levels.
If you're among those are compelled or must travel through a fallout area on essential errands, there are certain rules to follow protect your body with boots or rubbers gloves headgear and outer clothing that can be removed before you re-enter the shelter on returning brush off the rest of your clothing thoroughly as well as any parts of your body that may have been exposed to fallout.
if sufficient water is available wash your face and hands carefully remember these are the dosages of radiation as they affect human health 100 Röntgen little or no affects 300 Röntgen sickness or death, 600 Röntgen death. Recovery from radiation sickness is nothing new patients who are treated by x-rays routinely experience this sickness and get over it, of course the dosages they receive are carefully measured just as in combating the virus of the common cold your general state of health will often govern how quickly you can throw off the effects of mild or moderate radiation sickness.
In an emergency situation where there is no doctor, always treat radiation sickness by treating its symptoms, in fact these symptoms are often similar to those produced by extreme anxiety or emotional stress so it's best not to try to determine their cause, I repeat do not try to diagnose, but merely treat the symptoms just as you would if they were the result of any other type of illness. Symptoms of radiation sickness may appear shortly after exposure to fallout.
2. loss of appetite
3. Nausea and vomiting
Make sure the patient gets plenty of rest. For nausea you may give the patient any of the commercial preparations that settle an upset stomach or one-half teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water or tea and other hot liquids may be helpful.
When a high fever is present, apply cold wet packs, give aspirin or Tylenol, this will reduce the fever in severe radiation sickness. Along with the early symptoms, other symptoms may appear a week or more after exposure recovery is possible, but it'll take longer.
Long term symptoms are diarrhea, inflammation of mouth and throat, loss of hair. Give anti-diarrhea and aspirin dissolved in warm water for gargles. People are naturally alarmed at the thought of bodily changes that may follow severe radiation sickness such as loss of hair or sterility these conditions are usually temporary and will disappear with recovery
I hope we've dispelled another commonly held myth, you can get over radiation sickness just as you get over the common cold. Nevertheless, don't minimize the danger of fallout and remember if the effects are cumulative, the only real protection against it is to take shelter as soon as possible.
Depend on your local radio station to tell you where fallout is taking place you may be able to see some of the fallout dust when it reaches the earth but you cannot taste smell or feel the radiation itself the gamma rays given off by fallout are able to injure or destroy the living cells of our body if we are exposed long enough.
Food or water in containers that prevent contamination by fallout dust is perfectly safe; radiation is harmful only to living tissues, packaged foods that have been exposed to fallout should be open carefully by following proper procedures.
You can eat such foods without danger to your health.
Radiation can pass through most building materials, but its intensity is diminished in proportion to the weight and mass of the material or the shielding. The intensity also decreases with distance from the fallout, the radiation rate will decrease or decay rapidly with time, it is most dangerous in the first few days after the explosion, thus the three basic factors that protect you from fallout radiation are time distance and shielding, you should know the location of the nearest public shelter in your community, inside it, you will be at least 40 times safer from fallout than you would be outdoors and should have been stocked with supplies to sustain its occupants for up to two weeks.
If you're not within distance of public shelters, you can provide a satisfactory home shelter for your family.
Radiation is invisible but we have accurate instruments with which to measure it in Röntgen units the dosimeter can be worn on the person and measures the accumulated radiation exposure the total dose at any given time.
The Geiger counter measures radiation in fractions of Röntgen per hour inside or outside the shelter, and the survey meter is used to measure the higher intensities of radiation that may be present outside the shelter.
Assuming that you have the protection of a good shelter within a half hour after nuclear attack you will probably have little or no radiation sickness, if there are victims who appear to have radiation sickness do not diagnose simply treat the symptoms. Perhaps the most important thing we have learned is to see the danger in its true perspective, make no mistake a nuclear attack would be a terrible catastrophe with millions of people killed by the initial blast and heat wave, and millions more would be threatened by death from radioactive fallout, but that is a threat that can be combated with knowledge and preparation.