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How Can We Treat Radiation Poisoning?

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Published on Aug 3, 2019

It's been more than 30 years since the Chernobyl nuclear accident, but if another disaster were to occur, how would we handle the radiation poisoning?
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In 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, a safety test on a nuclear reactor led to what is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history.

The most recent portrayal of the impact of the Chernobyl explosion, the Chernobyl radiation levels, and the radiation poisoning people experienced can be seen on HBO’s “Chernobyl.”

The Chernobyl disaster exposed people to high doses of radiation in a short period of time, or acute radiation syndrome, and the health effects are painful and often life-threatening.

Some of the treatments for radiation poisoning that we had back in Chernobyl’s day were palliative: treating the symptoms and supporting vital functions as your body either recovered or didn’t. For example, impaired bone function due to radiation means fewer blood cells and decreased immunity, so treatment for that includes blood transfusions and antibiotics to fight off any potential infection.

So, if a nuclear disaster like Chernobyl were to happen again, how would we treat the radiation poisoning today? There might be some solutions to help, learn more on this episode of Elements.

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https://www.who.int/ionizing_radiatio...
"Ionizing radiation is radiation with enough energy so that during an interaction with an atom, it can remove tightly bound electrons from the orbit of an atom, causing the atom to become charged or ionized."

Prussian Blue
https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/em...
"Prussian blue traps radioactive cesium and thallium in the intestines and keeps them from being re-absorbed by the body.
The radioactive materials then move through the intestines and are passed (excreted) in bowel movements."

A 3,2-Hydroxypyridinone-based Decorporation Agent that Removes Uranium from Bones In Vivo
https://www.nature.com/articles/s4146...
"Chelation therapy for internally deposited actinides has been shown to reduce acute radiation damage and chemical toxicity and the severity of late radiation effects."

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