Eastern Shore (VA) Health District
What is a “Dirty Bomb” ?
A dirty bomb or radiological
dispersion device (RDD),
is a bomb that combines
such as dynamite, with
radioactive materials in the
form of powder or pellets.
Purpose and Function
The main purpose is to
frighten people and make
buildings or land unusable
for a long period of time.
The function of a dirty
bomb is to blast radioactive
material into the area
around the explosion.
Dirty Bomb vs Atomic Bomb
The atomic explosions
that occurred in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki were
weapons involving a
A dirty bomb is designed
to spread radioactive
material and contaminate
a small area.
Control of Material
There are over 21,000 organizations in the
united states licensed to use radioactive
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission
together with 32 states regulate radioactive
Other than nuclear facilities most are of
Sources of Radioactive
Most potentially harmful
type of radioactive
materials can be found
– Nuclear Power Plants
– Nuclear Weapon Sites
Most nuclear facilities are
under extreme security
making it a less
Locations of U.S.
Nuclear Power Plants
Other Source Locations
More reasonably accessible
sources of radioactive material
– Construction Sites
– Food Irradiation Plants
– College and High School Laboratories
– Research Facilities
– Smoke Detector Manufacturers
Extreme risk due to minimal to
complete lack of security present
Impact of a Dirty Bomb
The extent would depend on a
number of factors:
– Size of the explosive
– Weather conditions RADIOACTIVE
– Density of population
– Type of radioactive material
Distance of Effect
To minimize exposure maximize your distance
HOT ZONE WARM ZONE COLD ZONE
DOWNWIND WIND UPWIND
areas could effect
if not thousands
Potential Dirty Bomb targets are usually
highly populated public areas such as:
– Subways and Trains
– Trash Cans or Dumpsters
– Amusement Parks
Anywhere that people passing by might get a significant
dose of radiation is a potential target hazard.
Firefighters / Paramedics (Responding to fires,
explosions, hazmat spills, and medical calls)
Law Enforcement (Investigating suspicious
activity, serving warrants, etc...)
US Coast Guard (Inspecting vessels, responding to
Hospital Emergency Department Staff
(Large event and walk in emergencies)
Recognition of a
The radiological nature of a nuclear facility and
placarded transportation accidents may be self
Less obvious is the radiological components of;
– Fire involving radiological materials,
– Radiological “dirty bomb,”
– Dispersed material (fire, sprayed, etc…), and
– Exposed high intensity sources.
Tools are needed to help first
Responders recognize the
radiological nature of an event.
Is your key to
Time is a huge
factor in how
one could receive.
Desirable Properties for
Alerts user of radiation above background
Detect alpha & beta radiation
Alarms in hazardous situations
Work continuously without user intervention
Simple and intuitive, requiring little training
Small size, something easily worn
Inexpensive to purchase and maintain
Radiation meters that
look like pagers,
watches, key chains,
rings and even pens.
– Alarms in hazardous situations.
– Can identify a significant radiological event.
– Records dose.
– Long battery life.
– Small size.
– Simple operation and often very rugged.
– Not necessarily sensitive enough to detect low levels of
– Won’t detect alpha or low energy beta radiation.
What to do if it Actually
Move away from the immediate area. At least
several blocks and go inside a building – this will
limit exposure to radioactive airborne dust.
Remove clothes and place them in a sealed plastic
bag. Save the contaminated clothes for testing.
Take a shower to wash off dust and dirt. This will
reduce total radiation exposure absorbed through
Turn on local radio or TV channels for advisories
and instructions from emergency personnel.
Law enforcement should maintain a
perimeter around the incident.
Strict hot, warm and cold zones should be
enforced to limit people exposed leaving the
scene and potentially exposing others.
Medical triage should be established to
prioritize patients level of medical need.
Help identify potential suspects by being observant of
Warning signs may include:
– Dress (Tourist style clothing, abnormal for current weather)
– Speech (Broken English, foreign accent)
– Writing (hand drawn maps, written in other language)
– Actions (Watching clocks, looking for authority figures)
– Markings (Tattoos, scars)
All suspicious activity should be reported to the police
immediately for questioning.
Is there a Risk of Cancer ?
Some cancers can be caused by exposure to
Just because you are near a radioactive source for
a short time or if you are exposed to radioactive
dust does not mean you will get cancer.
Doctors will be able to determine appropriate
counteractive measures once the source and
exposure level can be determined.
Potassium Iodide (KI)
Potassium iodide, also called KI, only protects a
person’s thyroid gland from exposure to radioactive
KI will not protect you after
exposure. It must be taken
KI can be dangerous to take, taking KI is not
recommended unless there is a high risk of being
Radiological attacks constitute a credible threat,
especially following September 11, 2001 tragedies.
Many radiological bomb making materials are easily
accessible with little to no security measures
Dirty bombs likely would result in some deaths but
not constitute hundreds or thousands of fatalities as
could be seen in conventional high power
Early detection equipment,
observations from law
enforcement and citizens, in
conjunction with level headed
decisions from emergency
personnel, could limit or even
prevent a potential “dirty bomb”
exposure from occurring and
ultimately the conviction of a