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Homeland Security

Radiological Attack: Long-term Issues

Monitoring and Clean-up of Affected Areas

In the days and weeks following the use of an RDD, officials might be expected to:

  • Establish a plan for careful monitoring and assessment of affected areas.
  • Limit entry, or cordon off access to areas where radioactivity remains above safety guidelines.
  • Remove contamination from areas where persons might continue to be exposed.

Delayed Health Effects of Radiation

One concern of radiation exposure is an elevated risk of developing cancer later in life, although studies have shown that radiation is a relatively weak carcinogen. Exposure at the low radiation doses expected from an RDD would increase the risk of cancer only slightly over naturally occurring rates. Long-term health studies on the survivors of the 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki indicate that for those who received radiation doses from 0 up to 10 rems, less than 1% of cancers in that population were attributable to radiation. A long-term medical surveillance program might be established for victims of a significant radiological attack to monitor potential health effects.

Economic Impact

Such impacts might involve disruption to lives and livelihoods as the contaminated area is being cleaned up. This impact could continue even after the site has been cleaned up if people are reluctant to return to the affected area.

Last Published Date: August 9, 2012
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