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First Hours: Radiation Emergencies


Possible terrorism events could involve introducing radioactive material into the food or water, using explosives (such as dynamite) to scatter radioactive materials(called a "dirty bomb"), or destroying a nuclear facility. These are considered "radiation emergencies." A “nuclear event” involves explosion of a nuclear device, which produces a large fireball that creates a mushroom cloud and fallout. A radiological event typically involves the release of much less radioactivity than a nuclear event. An example of a radiological event is a dirty bomb.

This section includes information on two types of radiation emergencies:

For more information on radiation emergencies, including radiological and nuclear events, go to the CDC Radiation Emergencies website.


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  • Page last reviewed: May 14, 2007
  • Page last updated: March 1, 2013 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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