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Explosion, not radiation, 'dirty bomb's' worst fallout

Explosion, not radiation, 'dirty bomb's' worst fallout

(CNN) -- It's the chaos, not the chemicals, that likely would cause the most harm should a "dirty bomb" explode, experts say. Heart attacks, not radiation poisoning, might claim more victims.

People within a half-mile radius of even a particularly potent dirty bomb would be exposed to less than the average dose of radiation a person receives naturally within a year, according to the American Institute of Physics' Web site. Most people who work in radiation environments annually receive 10 times the exposure of a person within a half-mile of a dirty bomb, the site states.

Stress and fear-induced heart attacks are more likely to cause deaths after a dirty bomb explosion than the radioactive material.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines the range of health problems that could be caused by a radiological explosion (June 10)

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It's the ignorance of the actual threat that produces the most harm. People may mistakenly envision a small-scale version of the nuclear devastation experienced at Hiroshima, Japan. But the radioactive material in dirty bombs would not likely cause any more harm than that of the explosion itself, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The size of the explosive device would dictate the extent of any death toll.

Information is the best way to combat the terror a dirty bomb would create, according to the American Institute of Physics. The site advises using radiation officers to quickly measure radiation levels, provide a realistic risk assessment and curtail public panic.




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