Acute Radiation Syndrome, the Atomic Bomb and what this means for Japan today (part 1)
Part 1 Part 2
As fears of radiation poisoning grow more severe as the Japanese Fukushima plant may have a damaged reactor and widespread radiation leak, following a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, many have asked what radiation poisoning means for those in Japan. Radiation poisoning is officially known as “Acute Radiation Syndrome,” a condition first detected after scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla X-rayed his fingers in 1896 to determine the effects. Though Nikola Tesla’s fingers were injured, the damage healed and Tesla went on with his work for another 47 years, clearly indicating he had not suffered a deadly level of radiation from his tests. Still, it was learned that radiation can harm the human body.
Hermann Joseph Muller, the Nobel Prize winning American geneticist, continued studies on radiation and concluded that there was a connection between radiation and genetic mutation. Muller won the Nobel Prize in 1946 for work he conducted in 1927.
Those in the medical profession understood that radiation was dangerous. Madame Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia, a condition that affects bone marrow and results in low red blood cell count as well as a lowered white blood cell count that damages the immune system. Madame Curie developed the condition as a result of radiation exposure.
In 1945 and 1946, two scientists died during separate incidents at the Los Alamos laboratory. Known as the “Demon Core” the scientists were working with plutonium in tests that were designed to study the impact of an atomic bomb. On August 21, 1945, scientist Harry Daghlian dropped a brick on the plutonium core causing it to go critical. He was exposed to a lethal amount of radiation and died within one month.
Shortly after the death of Harry Daghlian, another scientist, Louis Slotin, worked with the plutonium “Demon” core when something went wrong. He was exposed to a lethal amount of radiation and died nine days later. The deaths of Daghlian and Slotin confirmed the dangers of radiation but they were nothing compared to what was witnessed on August 6 and August 9, 1945 with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
The exact death toll of those who lost their lives during the A-bomb is unknown but it is believed that up to 166,000 Japanese were killed within four months following the bombing in Hiroshima and up to 80,000 died from the bombing in Nagasaki. The aftermath from the atomic bombs was devastating and scientists continue to study the long term impacts of the radiation on the survivors. The Radiation Effects Research Foundation located in Japan continues to monitor the impact of the bombings on the genetic structure of survivor’s children and seeks whether there is a genetic tendency to develop cancer in those who’ve suffered Acute Radiation Syndrome.
The Radiation Effects Research Foundation performed a study that monitored cancer and leukemia deaths in survivors of the bombings. The study showed that there is a significantly higher rate of cancer and leukemia in the survivors. You may read about the LSS study here.
You may see photos of the effects of radiation on victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan here.