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What to Do in Case of a Radiation Emergency

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There are a few ways to protect yourself from radiation, first by hiding in a safe place and then by decontaminating your clothes and body. A radiation emergency can happen due to a nuclear war, but also due to an accident involving radioactive material. During a nuclear war, nuclear weapons and Radiological Dispersal Devices are used. The nuclear weapon creates an explosion, by means of a nuclear reaction and it produces 4 types of energy: a blast wave, intense light, heat, and radiation. Nuclear weapons are in the form of missiles or bombs. Some of them produce a fallout, that is radioactive particles that can be carried by the wind and be deposited on the buildings, ground, people, animals, and plants, and require decontamination. Radiological Dispersal Devices also called dirty bombs, are a combination of radioactive materials and explosives.

There are 2 types of accidents that can occur, nuclear power plant accidents and transportation accidents, and both of them are dangerous to the health of people.


If an explosion occurs there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. If possible hide inside a building because walls offer some protection against radiation. Try to get into a basement and stay there for at least 24 hours. The longer you stay inside the safer you are. It has been observed that the least negative effects on the health of people were in the case of those who stayed inside for the next 80 days after the explosion. This was due to the fact that 80 days is the time necessary for the most dangerous isotope, Iodine-131 to decay. If you have no basement to hide in, then think about a simple rule, the more walls separate you from the radiation, the safer you are. Therefore, you can hide inside the house, in a room with no windows.

While you are hiding inside, remove all traces of radioactive dust from your clothing as fast as you can. This is called the process of decontamination. Carefully take off the outer layer of clothing, that might contain the radioactive particles, and be attentive not to shake the dust from the outside layer onto your skin or on the inner layer of clothing. Put the contaminated clothes into a plastic bag and take them away. If possible take a shower, to remove the dust from your entire body and then put on new clothing, taken from inside a closet, which was thus protected from the radioactive particles. While showering, pay attention not to touch wounds, in order to prevent radioactive material to enter your body via those wounds. If your dog was contaminated, wash your pet, wearing waterproof gloves and a mask, to prevent breathing in the contaminated particles. While washing the pet, keep any open wounds, either on your body or on that of your pet, covered to prevent contamination.


While showering, use plenty of soap, but do not rinse your skin, because the skin protects your body from radiation. Wash your hair using lots of shampoo, but do not use conditioner, since this would cause radioactive material to stick to your hair. If you can't shower, then wash at least the skin that was exposed, like hands and face with water, or clean it with wet paper towels. Wipe your eyelids, eyelashes, ears, and blow your nose. If you don't have any water, then shake or brush off your clothes, covering your nose and mouth to prevent dust from entering your body.

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While inside the shelter, eat only packaged foods and drink only bottled or canned water or juice, because water outside will get contaminated with radioactive particles and so will any unpackaged food, and consuming those products will get the radioactive particles inside your body. Before you open the packages wash them well, to prevent ingesting any radioactive dust that may be attached to the package.

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