~e; Public awareness of EM radiation

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Tue, 25 Mar 2003 23:16:45 -0600
Cc nova@wgbh.org

  Tonight there was a NOVA television program on the public
  channel in the .US, entitled 'Dirty Bomb' in which "Radiation
  experts play out a frightening terrorist scenario -- exploding
  a bomb laden with deadly radioactive materials." It's website
  has a few details, <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/dirtybomb/>,
  including a TV Program Description located at the following URL:

  Oddly, the program on a Dirty (Electromagnetic) Bomb had a
  'moral to the story', which was about the public's education of
  the realities of radiation, versus the fear it can inspire as most
  of the general populace to this day knows so little about it that
  is beyond an ever-debated link to cancer, and now, terrorism.
  This is one place that Electromagnetic Education could provide
  assistance, in emergency planning scenarios, as much as for
  raising public awareness of electromagnetism, and the vast
  issues, questions, and complexities of living in the world today.

  Most people may recognize there is a muffled but 'great debate'
  about electromagnetic (EM) radiation going on with the rise and
  use of cellular telephones and, prior to that, high-voltage power-
  lines transiting neighborhoods which have become the focus of
  studies of concentrations of various effects, including the cancer
  levels of these populations versus that of the larger populace.
  This debate has been politicized, it seems from a distance, and
  appears to be volleyed back and forth in the professional realm.
  It may be a lawsuit that defines the role of EMFs and humanity,
  rather than scientific objectivity operating in politicized environs.

  The reason the cellphone radiation issue is important is that it
  shares an attribute of that presented in the 'dirty bomb' scenario,
  that low-levels of radiation have different effects than high-levels
  and long-term exposure to the source. Somewhat similarly, what
  is happening with the cellphone-cancer equation has to do with
  the effects of certain frequencies of EM radiation upon the human
  body and brain, that is, radio waves used for the transmission and
  reception of cellular telephone signals, and the antennae on the
  cellphones, used for these data exchanges, and their proximity
  and position and electromagnetic frequency next to the eyes, the
  brain (blood-brain barrier), the ear, jaw, and cancerous tumors
  appearing in these places with a contested relation to cellphones.

  That is this lay-person's attempt to describe a base-situation for
  the ongoing debate on EM radiation issues with cellphones, yet
  what is curious from this perspective is that EMFs are disregarded
  as having no effect, even though common sense would seem to
  indicate there is reason to question the relationship between this
  technology (and wireless, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, for that matter),
  and the general health and immunity of the community. Opposing
  views have seemed to rely on an argument bordering on lack of
  evidence and the ambiguity of information (an issue of language,
  psychology, and politics if one takes a philosophical perspective),
  centering on the lack of precedence for asserting that frequencies
  in a certain range can affect the human organism in a negative way.
  That is to say that, in this case, unlike 'dirty bombs' possibly, that 
  one takes a general argument, it would not apply for cellphones as
  it would for dispersed particles of radiation in the same way, and so
  this is written to clarify a difference and yet a similarity for 
  as it is approximated by this writer, who has no expertise in EMFs.

  And yet, like cellphones and electrical powerlines, there is a common-
  sense aspect which one does not need to be an expert to pursue and
  try to learn from. It has a specter of forbidden knowledge, and this is
  because this is a contested realm in which persons have pioneered
  a way to include humanity, their needs, and the potential harms of a
  detached scientific and technological electromagnetic development.
  Case-in-point being that when nuclear radiation and its effects need
  to be addressed by the public, it is at the level of hysteria and 
  and not informed and proactive approaches, through the education
  of the populace, about this most basic of empirical ways of knowing.

  It is common-sense, given what is agreed upon by the international
  guidelines that persons should not be exposed to certain amounts,
  types, or degrees of radiation, for specific lengths of time. This 
  to be a common trait. There is radiation everywhere, the background
  radiation of the environment, such as one hears astronomers talking
  about when peering into the sky. This means that, if one where to sit
  underneath a high-voltage powerline everyday for a thousand years,
  that this may have a different effect than if a person did not do 
this, or
  if one were to sleep with their head next to an electrical power socket
  versus several feet away, or if one were to use a cellular telephone,
  and its antenna sent signals in all directions (into the human brain)
  versus a directional antenna that only sends and receives signals
  away from the user's brain. The moral argument being exemplified
  if one considers the risks of placing a high-powered cellular phone
  tower in a children's schoolyard, where barrages of exposure to EMFs
  of a certain radio frequencies and long-term exposures are debated
  in terms of public health and knowledge, versus quick monetary gain
  with the caveat that no conclusive link exists between EM and cancer.

  Yet, an ordinary person may have one ask- is it really worth this risk?
  Another example of EM radiation is found in depleted uranium which
  is used by the military, taking nuclear waste and reforming it as 
  and shell casings, which litter the landscape after being fired in 
  and on ranges, for their benefit in piercing (metal) armored equipment.
  Common-sense, given public knowledge of these radioactive sources
  would have one wondering about their connection with other events.
  Sick and dying children, increased cancer rates, even Gulf War illness
  experienced by the .US military after GWI have been related to this
  potential cause. One thing is clear is that with contamination of soil,
  or sand, for that matter, that the 'ingestion' of this contamination 
  at times be relevant, and thus it causes one to wonder why soldiers
  in Gulf War II (GWII) are outside in sandstorm conditions, with their
  eyes, ears, noses, ears, and throats open to potential contamination
  through the internalization of sand from the previous campaign, when
  this 'redistribution' of radioactive material appears most dangerous
  when it is traveling about, contaminating more people or places in
  its dispersal, and its remaining half-life as a source of 

  Common-sense again would make one imagine that protective gear
  would be wise if indeed the environment had levels of radioactivity
  that for prolonged periods there had potentially large concentrations
  of a radioactive source which could have long-term effects on health.
  This simple analysis directly relates to the questions raised in the
  television broadcasts about Dirty Bombs, and various scenarios for
  public awareness about the dangers, risks, and need for grounded
  decision-making and consensus, in addition to amounts of exposure,
  dispersal, and intensity of the radioactive materials in a dirty bomb.
  It should not be just a professional's debate, due to political factors
  heavily involved in the above-mentioned areas. And, if a dirty-bomb
  discussion is where to start learning more about electromagnetism,
  it will basically allow addressing the above issues, albeit indirectly.
  And this is a Good Thing for the public, its health, welfare, and 
  As education can inform and reform certain practices, whereas other
  approaches can lead to conflicts, political battles, and what might be
  called the existing state of 'virtual knowledge', that which is opposed
  to the 'real' information that is being used to wage GWII at this time,
  as described by the .US administration on 3/25/03 in a war briefing.

  In this fuzzy state of virtual knowledge, where little is conclusive 
  yet there is so much complexity that an idea or situation can cut one
  or multiple ways under various scenarios, at different times and also
  simultaneously, it is helpful to begin reasoning with basic language.
  The first thought that entered this recipient's mind when watching the
  program Dirty Bomb was: where does one get a gas mask (and also
  a bunny-suit for that matter)? This reaction results from the general
  use of fear in relation to this topic, but it is of radiation and its 
use as
  a terroristic device, against the population and its sense of things,
  moreso than actual cancer deaths from any contamination bomb.

  This lack of public knowledge and consensus, even understanding,
  is the greatest weapon and threat in a dirty EM bomb attack, as the
  the NOVA program stated. It would be the public's fear and hysteria.
  Education, in this way, becomes not only a defense, but an offense
  in learning how to engage the present situation, to empower people
  with public knowledge, and make inroads into stalled professional
  debates, in order to proactively address these scenarios, and also
  to better design our environments and ourselves for living with EM.

  For instance, information reported on the Electronetwork-List many
  months back included information about 'nuclear batteries' of a sort
  in which a radioactive source provided power for now discarded (and
  sought-after by terrorists) equipment from the former Soviet Union. A
  dirty bomb could be produced from these materials and they are not
  all accounted for, and one of two scenarios were presented in the TV
  program, using this type of radioactive material in a city center, and
  its explosion via plastic explosives, the resulting radioactive cloud
  that it creates full of cesium particles, and their dispersal over an
  area with an epicenter defined as the 'ground zero' of this event.
  Only a few would be killed by the detonation of the dirty bomb, and
  the more dispersed the cloud of toxic particles, the less likely one's
  exposure would result in a fatality or cancer, in short- or long-terms.
  The flakes of this cesium cloud, through, would cover everything in
  various concentrations, and would be blown about by the winds. To
  decontaminate this same area post-attack would require billions, in
  addition to the human toll. Much of it psychological, as people may
  not have enough information and panic and hysteria could spread.

  A second attack scenario included more common industrial radio-
  active sources being made into a dirty bomb, mounted on a fire-
  cracker and exploded in a subway system. In this scenario particles
  would be sucked through the pneumatic system via the winds of
  the tunnels and trains and opening and shutting of doors, and the
  other passageways such as stairs and street ventilation systems,
  which would redistribute the small concentrated amount over a
  vast area, likely unsuspected by the populace (unless there are
  radiation detecters, which there likely are, both for pre- and post-
  attack detection) and thus this very small dirty bomb could travel
  very far with very little effort. It was stated that more people would
  likely die from car accidents trying to escape, once hearing the
  news of the dirty bomb, than fatalities from the radioactive dust.
  Again, education is an important element, but the expertise of
  professionals to determine the risk of a certain attack would be
  necessary to proceed advice on what the populace is to do. To
  mean: is it the case, in any dirty bomb attack, that the same rules
  apply about the proximity to the event, its dispersal, concentration,
  and how one responds to the events, or may the contents of the
  dirty bomb also be a defining factor in its deadliness? This is a
  question that remains fuzzy in this program, and fear remains.

  Common sense remains, too, though. And the questions asked
  by the experts in radiological attacks in some ways seems very
  limited by the presentation of questions of how to address such
  a situation in the public realm. For instance, while it is clear that
  the dispersal of this radioactive material and where it travels is of
  great concern, dealing with contaminated environments appears
  very counter-intuitive, as these particles contaminate, and when
  they settle somewhere they likely contaminate that area and if
  they blow around, they probably contaminate more and more of
  an area and a populace. Thus, when decontamination of these
  environments are shown with the destruction of buildings, and
  knowing the vast dust clouds created through demolishing, it
  would be another way to redistribute the radioactive particles.
  Maybe a building is scrubbed before demolished, but it makes
  one wonder if the compartmentalization of knowledge is that
  specialized that the dusts of building demolitions may not be
  taken into account in this regard. Hopefully this is not an issue.

  Another priority after an immediate dirty-bomb attack seemed
  to be related to a pre-decontamination cleanup, which it was
  proposed would possibly be unnecessarily expensive for the
  human risk the radiation levels posed, versus normal radiation
  levels (background radiation or varying levels measured by it).
  The first thing that would seem necessary, besides having a
  checklist of what to do with contaminated clothing and if one
  has ingested or been in an environment (ranging from if a
  person should bathe, if they should avoid or consume certain
  liquids or foods, if they should stay in one place or go another)
  is that the particles, should they have been distributed to the
  ground or on people and their belongings (cars, buildings) is
  how to keep the radioactive particles from going any farther
  via the wind or transportation, and further contaminating the
  populace and environment, so as to contain this radioactivity.

  The analogy that arose is how oil slicks in the ocean are often
  depicted in dealing with, and also new military technologies
  using chemical solutions. That is, as oil slicks are 'bounded'
  by floating barriers, maybe there is some way to use giant
  fans or engines to 'catch the cloud' of radioactive dust as it
  is in the air, as a giant vacuum as one level of defense. This
  is similar to ways it appears oil is taken from the surface of
  the ocean. Another common attribute of oil slicks is when it
  washes ashore there are often people picking up globs of
  oil and its resulting destruction of the environment, placing
  this material into a special place, decontaminating the areas
  effected, during an active, offensive-based defense against
  the catastrophic effects of oil spills on sea and its shore. In
  this way, peoples clothing and other objects could have an
  emergency plan, such as how one is to deal with such a
  situation to dispose of contaminated materials and get out
  of the zone through a decontamination process. One of the
  possibilities for an active offensive-based defense may lie
  in the development of experimental chemical materials such
  as those used by the .US military, in creating giant stretches
  of sticky material over an area to make movement difficult.

  If one of the main issues of a dirty bomb is to keep its impact
  bounded, if at all possible, and avert secondary contamination
  through chaos, people running, driving, trying to escape, and
  thus bringing the radioactive particles along with them into
  new environments, it may be possible to create some chemical
  spray which would act as a sealant between the radioactive
  material and the surface it effects, such as with oil and the
  ocean, before the particles are redistributed into the air or
  through human movements, it could be glued into place,
  with some spray that seals it in place but also allows it to
  be 'lifted' off the surface, if at all possible, or at least to be
  able to contain the dirty-bomb fallout as much as possible.
  Such as, if a block of cars were near the ground zero of the
  dirty bomb and were statistically likely to be contaminated,
  a spray could be applied via helicopter or compressed tanks
  by teams which would seal the radioactive object in place.
  Then, when cleanup is needed, the object is preserved and
  remains radioactive waste, yet does not redistribute fallout.
  In a world of science-fiction, such a chemical would form a
  layer of 'film' which could be peeled off, with said particles.

  In any case, the large questions of the Dirty Bomb program
  as presented on TV by NOVA surround how to address the
  environment and human psychology in relation to probable
  future dirty-bomb attacks. Whether whole city centers should
  be demolished if the half-life of the radioactive material is
  30 years, say. Whether certain levels of radioactivity are to
  be deemed safe enough to remain in, thus partial occupation
  of ground-zeroes, else their complete destruction (including
  civic and domestic aspects) and the economic, social, and
  political impacts of how people succeed or fail in addressing
  and dealing with such disastrous electromagnetic scenarios.

  Yes, some but not all people will die from cancer in a dirty-
  bomb attack, though only a percentage. And, its effects may
  not be immediate but may appear over time, and over the
  area of initial and, it is guessed, secondary contamination.
  But what do people, in general, know about radiation, about
  its relation to cancer, and about the probability of risk when
  hearing of a radiological bomb attack? In the U.S. it is likely
  to be almost no one, as there exists no common knowledge
  beyond the contested debates over cellphones, powerlines,
  and other electromagnetic devices and cancer. In fact, this
  stalled ability to cope with health issues related to EMFs is
  a major contributor holding back the public's ability to deal
  with the reality of dirty bombs, and instead everything is to
  remain as 'virtual information', where basic knowledge and
  common sense do little good, if nothing is acknowledged as
  a basis for judgments about the severity of EM radiation in
  relation to human health in varying ways and intensities.

  For this reason, a lay-person is still asking questions about
  gas masks and bunny suits, about contamination, should-I-
  stay-or-should-I-go decision making, and how to judge the
  crisis, if and when a dirty bomb attack makes itself known.
  For the good of the public, this is the right time and place to
  begin to outline the basics of electromagnetic knowledge,
  'real information' for the populace, not just about the scary
  aspects of dirty-bombs, but also the empowering aspects
  that just because it is radioactive does not mean it can or
  will kill you, and that entrance into a learning, educational
  aspect can bring a great change in the public's ability to
  reason 'what to do' after an attack, with city planning, with
  continuing to persevere, and with helping those affected,
  and to best contain and prevent future such attacks using
  common sense approaches to basic questioning, with an
  active vocabulary so that people can reassure and help
  each-other in the strangeness of the electromagnetic realm.

  If you have a chance, please visit the NOVA website about
  the Dirty Bomb program as listed above and consider what
  you might do and what questions you have, or suggestions.
  These words are being sent to the producers as feedback,
  as the program requested public dialogue on these matters.
  Hopefully electromagnetic education can proactively deal
  with these issues, not through fear and hysteria, rather by
  empowering individuals to better understand the everyday
  electromagnetic environment we live in, and how to survive.

bc  (no-copyright 2003)

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