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The Contamination Threat

user profile picture Chris Martenson Feb 11, 2014
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Executive Summary

  • The “usual suspects” of dangerous radioactive contamination
  • Recently reported incidents of contamination
  • How bioaccumulation and biomagnification exacerbate the impact of contamination
  • Prudent advice post-Fukushima

If you have not yet read Part I: Fukushima’s Legacy: Understanding the Difference Between Radiation & Contamination, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Sources of Radioactive Contamination

As mentioned in Part I, polonium provides an excellent and dramatic example of something that is perfectly safe on the outside of the body and perfectly deadly on the inside. That’s the difference between radiation and contamination.

“Radiation, just like with any toxic chemical, is related to dose,” said Cham Dallas, a professor and toxicologist at the University of Georgia’s Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense. “If you get a big dose, then you’ll die sooner.

And with polonium-210, a dangerous dose can be a matter of micrograms: smaller than a single speck of pepper, he said.

If you ingest polonium-210, about 50% to 90% of the substance will exit the body through feces, according to a fact sheet from Argonne National Laboratory. What is left will enter the bloodstream. About 45% of polonium ingested gets into the spleen, kidneys and liver, and 10% is deposited in the bone marrow.

Radiation poisoning from polonium-210 looks like the end stage of cancer, Dallas said.

Liver and kidney damage ensue, along with extreme nausea and severe headaches. Victims often experience vomiting, diarrhea and hair loss. The alpha particles emitted from the decaying substance get absorbed in the body, which is what causes harm. Death may come in a matter of days, sometimes weeks.

(Source)

Yes, polonium-210 is highly radioactive a half gram of it in a vial will heat itself up to 500 degrees Celsius all on its own just because of radioactive decay but it is not at all lethal until and unless it is ingested.  Once it gets inside, then a fleck the size of a grain of pepper is lethal.

The much-feared plutonium-238 is also an alpha emitter. 

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I just surveyed some review articles on this topic since I used to do research in this area.  I once published a paper that discovered...
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