Dirty bombs are a type of bomb that mixes radioactive materials with explosives such as dynamite. When exploded, a dirty bomb scatters radioactive material.
There are two main dangers from dirty bombs: radiation and the explosion itself. In many cases, the explosion may be the greater danger.
The severity of the radiological threat depends on the kind and amount of material used.
Dirty bombs are more likely to contain low-level radioactive materials that are less dangerous.
Wind can carry contamination beyond the blast site. Even if you do not get contaminated material on your body, you can still be exposed to radiation.
Exposure occurs when you are close to a radioactive source or breathe airborne radioactive particles.
Decontamination may be required in many areas. It may take several days or months for the blast site to be decontaminated and return to normal.
How to respond to a dirty bomb explosion:
- Tune to the news for information about safety measures you should take.
- Follow instructions from your local officials whether to evacuate or shelter in place.
- If you must shelter in place, close all windows, doors, and fireplace dampers. Turn off the air conditioner.
- To find out if you have been exposed to radiation you must be screened with special equipment that measures radiation levels in the body.
- If a large enough dose of radiation is received, symptoms can include nausea, reddening of the skin and an increased risk for cancer later in life. Severe radiation exposure can lead to death.
- There are medications that can be taken after exposure to prevent or reduce risks from some types of radiation, but not all types.
- Do not eat food from contaminated areas.
What do if you get contaminated by a dirty bomb:If you are at the blast site or in another contaminated area, you can reduce contamination on your body by taking the following steps:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth to avoid inhaling radioactive dust and smoke.
- Get out of the contaminated area quickly and go indoors. If emergency personnel are present, they may instruct you to take specific protective actions.
- Remove the outer layer of your clothing and put it in a plastic bag. This can remove up to 90 percent of contamination. Do not throw clothing away. Follow instructions from authorities about proper disposal.
- Shower or wash all areas of your body that were exposed with soap and lukewarm water. Be sure to wash your hair.
- If injured, cover wounds to help avoid internal contamination and seek medical attention.
- Contaminated pets should be hosed down or bathed with soap and water, and their outdoor food and water should be discarded.