Jenna’s Bored: High Yield Board Review From a 2nd year Fellow

Jenna LeRoy, MD

Tox History: Radiation disasters

Dial Painting disaster:
In the 1910’s and 1920’s, thousands of girls and women watch painting workers were exposed to high amounts of radium. Turns out, they were licking the paintbrushes as they were painting. Unfortunately, the luminous paint contained high amounts of radium. The exposed workers had an increased incidence of bone cancers, aplastic anemia, and leukemia.

A patent medicine that contained radium 226 and 228 isotopes. It was marketed as being an aphrodisiac and stimulant. In 1932, a wealthy American socialite and athlete, Eben Byers, died from chronic radiation poisoning. This led to the regulation and subsequent demise of the radioactive patent medications.

Chernobyl Disaster:
In 1986, a reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine accidentally caught fire. The explosion was responsible for 31 direct deaths. Thyroid cancer has been a predominant consequence, especially in children exposed to the radiation.

Goiania, Brazil accident:
In 1987, a radiotherapy unit abandoned by a medical group and subsequently placed in a junkyard was stolen and eventually sold. 4 people died of acute radiation sickness and overall 244 people were exposed to Cesium-137.

Tokaimura Nuclear Accident:
In 1999, workers of the Tokaimura plant in Japan dumped too much uranium into a nuclear tank, setting off an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, exposing 49 people to radiation. 2 deaths reported.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster:

In 2011, an unfortunate series of events occurred: an earthquake off the coast of Japan led to a tsunami which then damaged the cooling system at the power plant, causing a meltdown. Cesium-137 and Iodine-131 were released into the nearby food and water.

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