New York hospitals to be equipped with radiation detection

The city health department plans to spend nearly $1.4 million (Ђ1.2 million) equipping hospitals with radiation detection devices that might become essential if terrorists detonated a "dirty bomb." The equipment, largely paid for with federal grants, could help medical centers diagnose the thousands of people who likely would flood hospitals after such a blast, the department said.

"In the event of an incident in New York City involving radioactive contamination, hospitals will be on the front lines of receiving potentially contaminated persons with and without injuries," the department said in a statement.

The devices would go to public and private hospitals, whose staff members would be trained how to recognize and treat radiation injuries, and how to protect and decontaminate themselves while dealing with patients who may have been exposed.

The program, to be implemented in the coming months, is part of a nationwide effort to prepare for possible attacks with nuclear material.

Unlike nuclear weapons, which create huge fireballs fed by nuclear chain reactions, dirty bombs would use conventional explosives to scatter radioactive material. That type of blast would not be particularly powerful and would be unlikely to cause many deaths, experts say, but the fear of contamination could spark panic. Land and buildings hit with radioactive particles might be unusable for years. Tens of thousands of people likely would besiege hospitals, wondering whether they had been contaminated by radiological material.

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases issued more than $47 million (Ђ39.7 million) for grants and contracts aimed at making it easier to diagnose and quickly treat dirty-bomb attack victims, reports the AP. I.L.

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