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Radiological Terrorism

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We run the risk that terrorists will decide to detonate an explosive device laced with radioactive materials (a radiological dispersal device, or RDD). If such an attack occurs, it is unlikely that the affected population or emergency responders would be exposed to high levels of external radiation, although airborne radionuclides may present a health risk under some circumstances. However, the effects of radiation and radioactivity are not well known among the general population, emergency responders, or medical personnel. This could lead to unwarranted panic, refusal to respond to the incident, inappropriately delaying or denying treatment to injured victims, and other unfortunate reactions during the emergency phase of any response. During the recovery phase, current regulations may lead to costly and restrictive radiation safety requirements over very large areas, although there have been recent efforts to relax some of these regulations in the first year following a radiological attack. The wide spread of radioactive contamination can also lead to environmental contamination, particularly in low-flow areas and near storm sewer discharge points, but the total radiation dose to the environment should not be excessively high in most locations.

Keywords: RDD; dirty bomb; nuclear weapons; radiation; radiation health effects; radiological weapons; terrorism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10807030590949618

Affiliations: Department of Biological Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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