dailyKos diary on dirty bombs

Here's another good source of information on Cs-137:
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/isotopes/cesium.asp . The following
section is really good:

How can it hurt me?
External exposure to large amounts of Cs-137 can cause burns, acute
radiation sickness,
and even death. Exposure to Cs-137 can increase the risk for cancer
because of exposure to high-energy gamma radiation. Internal exposure
to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive
material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle
tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma
radiation and increasing cancer risk.
For more information about Cs-137, see the Public Health Statement
by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at
or visit the Environmental Protection Agency at
For more information about health effects related to radiation
exposure, see CDC’s fact sheet on “Radiation and Health Effects,” at
For more information on protecting yourself before or during a
radiologic emergency, see CDC’s fact sheet titled “Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQs) About a Radiation Emergency” at
and “Sheltering in Place During a Radiation Emergency,” at


Cs-137 is an extremely nasty fission product, obviously. It's a
gamma emitter, which means it's penetrating radiation; it can
penetrate cement walls!

Plutonium and uranium are alpha emitters; you can hold Pu (or U) in
your hand, and it won't hurt you, because alpha particles are large and
"heavy" and cannot penetrate skin. What's extremely dangerous about
the transuranics (U and elements beyond it in the periodic table) is
that they're "bone seekers": if you inhale them or get them into your
bloodstream (through a cut), they bind irreversibly to bone, so the
alpha particles blast your bone marrow, and you wind up with leukeumia.

Finally, since we're talking about nuclear waste, I should point out
that Cs-137 isn't the only fission product. Plutonium is there, as
well as radioactive iodine (I-125, for instance), among a myriad of
other radioactive elements. Radioactive iodine is extremely dangerous
because it knocks out your thyroid. After working at Hanford, my
thyroid is dead... long story (they claimed there was no iodine
release, but I don't believe them).

Anyway, I'll stop rambling. If you have any more questions, feel
free to ask! I'm on Yahoo instant messenger as well as AIM, if that's
easier for you.

Re-post that diary. It's timely now, in the context of the looting
at al-Qaqaa.



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