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Ionising radiation

Environmental Radioactivity - Medicine - Occupational Radiation Protection - Nuclear Hazards Defence

Ionisierende Strahlung

How is the radiation exposure of the population determined after a nuclear accident?

  • In the case of a nuclear accident, the Federal Länder (federal states) establish emergency care centres in the affected areas after the passage of a radioactive cloud. People who have been in the area of the cloud can register and seek advice there.
  • The emergency care centre staff can measure whether individuals have been radioactively contaminated, that is, whether they have got radioactive particles on their clothing or skin.
  • In the emergency care centres or at a later date, the individuals can be asked where they were during the period following the accident. With the data from the radioactivity measuring network of the BfS, the level of radioactivity in this area and consequently the exposure to the individual can be determined.

In the case of a nuclear accident, the Federal Länder (federal states) establish emergency care centres in the affected areas after the passage of a radioactive cloud. People who have been in the area of the cloud can register and seek advice there.

Is the individual contaminated?

The emergency care centre staff can measure whether individuals have been radioactively contaminated, that is, whether they have got radioactive particles on their clothing or skin. If necessary, contamination can be removed there. In most cases it is enough to remove and dispose of the clothing and to wash oneself thoroughly.

How much radiation exposure has been received?

In the emergency care centres or at a later date, the individuals can be asked where they were during the period following the accident. With the data from the radioactivity measuring network of the BfS, the level of radioactivity in this area and consequently the exposure to the individual can be determined. If required, stool and urine samples can additionally be tested for radioactive substances to obtain more detailed information on the exposure.

Is there an increased risk of cancer?

By determining the radiation exposure, individuals who have an increased risk of developing cancer at a later time can be identified. Their health should be permanently monitored and if required, they should receive psychological counselling. An increased risk of cancer can be statistically proven starting from a dose of 100 millisieverts.

Is prompt medical treatment necessary?

Estimating an individual's radiation exposure can help to distinguish if medical treatment is required for the exposure received or not. Many symptoms such as nausea and vomiting can also have other causes - for example stress.

As a rule, medical measures are only taken for apparent radiation symptoms such as burns and to improve the chance of survival in the case of very high radiation doses. A radiation exposure once suffered cannot be reversed. Medication for intensifying the elimination of incorporated radioactive substances has side effects so severe that it should only be given in justified individual cases in specialised hospitals.

In principle, the medical treatment of cases with radiation doses under 1,000 millisieverts is not appropriate. An increased risk of cancer is best met by regular check-ups for early detection.

State of 2016.12.15

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