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Radiological Weapons

By

James M. Madsen

, MD, MPH, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD)

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
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Radiation exposure Radiation Injury Radiation injury is damage to tissues caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. Large doses of ionizing radiation can cause acute illness by reducing the production of blood cells and damaging... read more is discussed in detail elsewhere. Mass casualties due to radiation can result from the detonation of a nuclear device. A nuclear detonation not only creates a large burst of direct radiation but will also cause numerous blast Explosives and Blast Injuries In mass-casualty incidents involving explosions, three concentric zones are identified: Blast epicenter Secondary perimeter Blast periphery In a blast epicenter (kill zone), most people are... read more and burn Burns Burns are injuries to tissue that result from heat, electricity, radiation, or chemicals. Burns cause varying degrees of pain, blisters, swelling, and skin loss. Small, shallow burns may need... read more Burns injuries and disperse radioactive material widely (termed fallout). Radioactive material can also be dispersed by packing it around a conventional explosive that is then detonated. Such a weapon is sometimes called a dirty bomb. People may also be exposed to radiation from a concealed source (for example, a container of radioactive material hidden under a subway seat). Doctors determine whether people have been exposed (irradiated), contaminated by radioactive dust and debris, or both. If contamination has occurred, doctors put people through decontamination measures Treatment Radiation injury is damage to tissues caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. Large doses of ionizing radiation can cause acute illness by reducing the production of blood cells and damaging... read more .

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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