[ RadSafe ] "Dirty Bomb" Treatment Technology Developed in U.K.

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Tue Sep 15 13:08:24 CDT 2009

Hi, Dr. Scott.

I don't see that your statement changes things.  This is still a technology in search of a problem.

The goal of a dirty bomb is panic.  If the Bad Guys wanted to maximize actual damage and injury, they would use any of a couple dozen other attack methods (and no, I am not going to list them).  I think Sr-90 is a very unlikely choice, because the difficulty in detecting it decreases the panic value.  The isotopes most likely to be used will be fairly hot gamma producers, that will be pretty easy to find with meters.

Regardless, for a dirty bomb you only have the activity you bring with you.  This means that there is only so much radmat to go around.  If the bomb ignites the source material (not a given, and highly dependant on the chemical form of the material) then there will be more people possibly contaminated, but the levels of contamination will be small in comparison to the source.  Decon will be relatively easy; uptake will be small, occur in a fairly small number of easily identifiable people (they will be the ones whose noses were contaminated).  

The device described is for screening based on cellular damage.  As you yourself point out, "Shortly after radionuclide intake not much radiation dose and not much biological damage may occur."  So this device requires that we wait a significant length of time in order to expensively screen people, when we already have cheaper ways of screening them quickly.

I am not saying that the things you talk about aren't interesting and worthy of research.  I am saying they aren't emergency response.  It is vitally important to study the P-chem aspects of combustion, but some times you just need to put the fire out.

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf Of Scott, Bobby
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 9:48 AM
To: Garner, William H; radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] "Dirty Bomb" Treatment Technology Developed in U.K.


Dirty bombs release radionuclides (e.g., radiostrontium). If taken into the body (e.g., via inhalation), a radionuclide then undergoes physical decay delivering internal radiation dose over a prolonged period that depends on its effective half-life in the body. Shortly after radionuclide intake not much radiation dose and not much biological damage may occur. Monitoring a blood sample at an early time after radionuclide intake via inhalation may therefore not reveal the much larger amount of biological damage and larger radiation dose that could occur over a period of prolonged internal irradiation. One would also want to investigate what radionuclides entered the body and the level of contamination (internal and external). Such information would facilitate planning radionuclide decorporation and decontamination strategies.

For those who have interest, the paper that follows will be published in the Dose-Response Journal (specific issue not yet determined):

Scott BR. Calculating hematopoietic-mode-lethality risk avoidance associated with radionuclide decorporation countermeasures related to a radiological terrorism incident.

The web address for the journal follows: http://www.dose-response.com/ .

Bobby R. Scott
Senior Scientist
Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute
2425 Ridgecrest Drive SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108 USA

-----Original Message-----
From: Garner, William H [mailto:whgarn2 at email.uky.edu]
Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 1:48 PM
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: [ RadSafe ] "Dirty Bomb" Treatment Technology Developed in U.K.

"Dirty Bomb" Treatment Technology Developed in U.K.
Monday, Sept. 14, 2009
New technology developed in the United Kingdom could enable doctors to more quickly treat a large number of people following exposure to a radiological "dirty bomb," the London Independent reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 14, 2007).

Scientists have created a suitcase-sized device that needs only a short amount of time to determine the level of cellular damage a person is suffering following exposure to radiation. The system, set to be publicly unveiled this week, could allow for hundreds of people to be tested in a period of hours.

Existing systems require blood to be drawn from potential victims and then extensively tested. No more than 100 samples could be tested each week at British laboratories, analysts say.

"If there was a major radiological or nuclear event the hospitals in this country could be overwhelmed," said Kai Rothkamm, an official with the British Health Protection Agency.

The new device could test 30 samples each hour (Nina Lakhani, London Independent, Sept. 13).

William H. Garner
University Of Kentucky
Radiation Safety Department
110 Dimock Animal Pathology
Lexington, KY  40506-0076
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