New Study Shows Full Extent of Radiation Damage to Hiroshima Victims

2018/05/1525332393.jpg
Read: 494     12:36     03 May 2018    

A study decades in the making shows victims may have absorbed double a deadly dose.


The atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II, alongside the bombing of Nagasaki days later, one of the deadliest military actions undertaken in human history. A new study has been able to use human tissue samples to understand precisely how much radiation victims absorbed in their bones. It's nearly twice the lethal amount.

A weapon drastically different than any other ever used in war, the atomic bomb in Hiroshima instantly killed over 100,000 people and left thousands more dealing with radiation fallout. By the end of 1945, it is estimated that 160,000 people had been killed directly from the bombing. Several historians have argued that while the bombs effectively ended World War II, their unprecedented destructive capabilities started the next global conflict, the Cold War, at the exact same time.

Attempting to measure the damage done to Hiroshima by the atomic bomb overwhelmed science for decades. There were simply no computers or radiation-measuring devices capable of understanding the damage. Personal stories, like those of the survivors describe in John Hershey's Hiroshima and art works of survivors, took hold as the dominant narratives.

But that didn't mean scientists weren't trying. When the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) formed in 1947, the agency quickly realized it would need long term study to understand what had happened. Japanese scientists like E. T. Arakawa and Takenobu Higashimura were releasing studies about the effects of the bombings by the early 1960s.

In 1973, Brazilian physicist Sérgio Mascarenhas was trying to date archaeological items in his home country based on radiation absorption. Radiation occurs naturally in sand through elements like thorium, and techniques like radiocarbon dating use similar principles.

However, Mascarenhas realized that this method might have applications beyond archaeological items. He flew to Hiroshima and, with help from the Institute of Nuclear Medicine in Hiroshima, was able to obtain a jawbone from a bombing victim's body. While he gained some understanding of what the victim's body had endured, technical issues stood in his way. He was unable to separate background radiation levels from the bomb blast radiation.

Flash forward four decades later and Angela Kinoshita of Universidade do Sagrado Coração in São Paulo State has reexamined the jawbone using modern technology. Kinoshita's team was able to determine that the jawbone absorbed 9.46 grays of radiation. A mere 5 grays can be fatal. That number lines up with measurements taken of bricks and other inorganic objects measured at the time. The work is published in PLOS ONE.

Beyond gaining a better understanding of what happened to the victims of Hiroshima, who ranged from prisoners of war to soldiers to civilians, the study offers insight into what might happen if a nuclear weapon was ever used again.

“Imagine someone in New York planting an ordinary bomb with a small amount of radioactive material stuck to the explosive. Techniques like this can help identify who has been exposed to radioactive fallout and needs treatment,” says study co-author Oswaldo Baffa of the University of São Paulo in a press statement. 

Popular Mechanics 



Tags: Hiroshima  



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New Study Shows Full Extent of Radiation Damage to Hiroshima Victims

2018/05/1525332393.jpg
Read: 495     12:36     03 May 2018    

A study decades in the making shows victims may have absorbed double a deadly dose.


The atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II, alongside the bombing of Nagasaki days later, one of the deadliest military actions undertaken in human history. A new study has been able to use human tissue samples to understand precisely how much radiation victims absorbed in their bones. It's nearly twice the lethal amount.

A weapon drastically different than any other ever used in war, the atomic bomb in Hiroshima instantly killed over 100,000 people and left thousands more dealing with radiation fallout. By the end of 1945, it is estimated that 160,000 people had been killed directly from the bombing. Several historians have argued that while the bombs effectively ended World War II, their unprecedented destructive capabilities started the next global conflict, the Cold War, at the exact same time.

Attempting to measure the damage done to Hiroshima by the atomic bomb overwhelmed science for decades. There were simply no computers or radiation-measuring devices capable of understanding the damage. Personal stories, like those of the survivors describe in John Hershey's Hiroshima and art works of survivors, took hold as the dominant narratives.

But that didn't mean scientists weren't trying. When the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) formed in 1947, the agency quickly realized it would need long term study to understand what had happened. Japanese scientists like E. T. Arakawa and Takenobu Higashimura were releasing studies about the effects of the bombings by the early 1960s.

In 1973, Brazilian physicist Sérgio Mascarenhas was trying to date archaeological items in his home country based on radiation absorption. Radiation occurs naturally in sand through elements like thorium, and techniques like radiocarbon dating use similar principles.

However, Mascarenhas realized that this method might have applications beyond archaeological items. He flew to Hiroshima and, with help from the Institute of Nuclear Medicine in Hiroshima, was able to obtain a jawbone from a bombing victim's body. While he gained some understanding of what the victim's body had endured, technical issues stood in his way. He was unable to separate background radiation levels from the bomb blast radiation.

Flash forward four decades later and Angela Kinoshita of Universidade do Sagrado Coração in São Paulo State has reexamined the jawbone using modern technology. Kinoshita's team was able to determine that the jawbone absorbed 9.46 grays of radiation. A mere 5 grays can be fatal. That number lines up with measurements taken of bricks and other inorganic objects measured at the time. The work is published in PLOS ONE.

Beyond gaining a better understanding of what happened to the victims of Hiroshima, who ranged from prisoners of war to soldiers to civilians, the study offers insight into what might happen if a nuclear weapon was ever used again.

“Imagine someone in New York planting an ordinary bomb with a small amount of radioactive material stuck to the explosive. Techniques like this can help identify who has been exposed to radioactive fallout and needs treatment,” says study co-author Oswaldo Baffa of the University of São Paulo in a press statement. 

Popular Mechanics 



Tags: Hiroshima