Risk and reality: a tale of three bombs, two of them real

Steve Aplin, excerpt:

Recently, in the post-9/11 panic, there was a campaign in the U.S. to phase out cesium-137 chloride, which is used as a gamma ray source to sterilize blood prior to transfusion. The rationale for the proposed phaseout was fear of the so-called dirty bomb. The dirty bomb sounds scary but when you think about it, it is probably one of the most cockamamie ideas ever trotted out.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the Cs-137 phaseout campaign fizzled. Hopefully it is gone for good. If you don’t give blood a strong dose of gamma energy immediately before transfusion in an infant or an immuno-deficient patient, there is a chance the recipient will catch a transfusion-associated disease that is fatal in nine out of ten cases.

It is interesting that there was no post-9/11 campaign to phase out chlorine, which is ubiquitous, far easier to get, and far easier to use than Cs-137.

As I mentioned back in the early hysteria over Fukushima, which has yet to produce its first casualty, we do risk wrong in our society.

How can we make Cs-137 as widely accepted as chlorine? Because like chlorine, Cs-137 is hugely useful when it’s used right.

2 thoughts on “Risk and reality: a tale of three bombs, two of them real

  1. Perhaps Cs-137 could also be used to make water systems safer. There are some troublesome micro organisms that are not killed with chlorine.

  2. Good point. There may be an exposure limitation, and also a cross section issue. Public water systems need process water in cubic meters per minute.

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