In order to better inform the public on what a dirty bomb is and what terrorists might intend to try to accomplish in setting off such a weapon, the following information is provided.
Basically, the principal type of dirty bomb, or Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. In most instances, the conventional explosive itself would have more immediate lethality than the radioactive material.
At the levels created by most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present in a dirty bomb to kill people or cause severe illness.
For example, most radioactive material employed in hospitals for diagnosis or treatment of cancer is sufficiently benign that about 100,000 patients a day are released with this material in their bodies.
However, certain other radioactive materials, dispersed in the air, could contaminate up to several city blocks, creating fear and possibly panic and requiring potentially costly cleanup. Prompt, accurate, non-emotional public information might prevent the panic sought by terrorists.
A dirty bomb is in no way similar to a nuclear weapon. The presumed purpose of its use would be therefore not as a Weapon of Mass Destruction but rather as a Weapon of Mass Disruption.
What People Should Do Following an Explosion of a 'dirty bomb'
* Move away from the immediate area--at least several blocks from the explosion--and go inside. This will reduce exposure to any radioactive airborne dust.
* Turn on local radio or TV channels for advisories from emergency response and health authorities.
* If facilities are available, remove clothes and place them in a sealed plastic bag. Saving contaminated clothing will allow testing for radiation exposure.
* Take a shower to wash off dust and dirt. This will reduce total radiation exposure, if the explosive device contained radioactive material.
* If radioactive material was released, local news broadcasts will advise people where to report for radiation monitoring and blood and other tests to determine whether they were in fact exposed and what steps to take to protect their health.
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