- In his traveling slide show, Dr. Cham Dallas lectures
about potential nuclear, chemical and biological attacks and how the government
is preparing for mass casualties.
- We,ve been preparing for this for a number of years now,
Dallas recites calmly.
- We,ve been preparing our police and fire departments,
and our medical people. The preparation is for mass casualties, says the
doctor, national civilian consultant to the surgeon general for weapons
of mass destruction.
- Long before Sept. 11, Dallas, associate professor of
pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary
Toxicology Program at the University of Georgia, was using a hypothetical
attack on the World Trade Center as a model to prepare health professionals
to cope with casualties from a terror event.
- In 1999 Dallas helped initiate a campus group called
the Bio/Chemical Task Force,,, which went on to develop plans for a local
center to train medical professionals to deal with mass-casualties either
from a natural disaster or terrorists attacks. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga.,
spoke to the Senate in support of the Dallas proposal as a model for a
larger national effort.
- "I,ve been very surprised at the lack of follow-ups.
They,ve lost the element of surprise to a certain extent, and I,m surprised
at how much time they,re giving us to gear up, Dallas told the Augusta
Chronicle last week.
- "A nuclear incident will be very hard to respond
to effectively because of the numbers of casualties, which could easily
top a million, he said. An exploded nuclear device could fill every burn
bed in the United States, he added.
- But Dallas sees accelerated biological and possibly chemical
attacks as more likely than any nuclear scenario. "A biological weapon
is the cheapest and most readily available to groups such as the one coming
against us now, he said.
- In his presentations, Dallas typically sooths the natural
paranoia generated by recent events by declaring that the country is now
better prepared to handle the next attacks. He attributes this preparedness
to the public,s sense of belonging to a larger community. "It is an
excellent response when you look at it from an organizational anti-terrorism
point of view.
- Potassium Iodide No Silver Bullet for Nuke Attack
- In a joint study with counterparts in the former Soviet
Union, Dallas noted that beginning about four years after the Chernobyl
nuclear accident, there was a steady increase in the incidence of thyroid
cancer observed in children and adolescents. Most of the thyroid cancer
cases were diagnosed in settlements situated on major railways and roads.
- Radioactive iodine (radioiodine) is a major radioisotope
constituent of nuclear power plant accidents and nuclear bomb explosions
and can travel hundreds of miles on the winds.
- After the U.S. nuclear spill at Three Mile Island and
the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union, available stocks of
potassium iodide disappeared for months. Taken before or within four hours
of exposure, potassium iodide will fill a person,s thyroid gland with safe
stable iodine to where there is no room for later uptake of radioactive
- However, as Dallas and other scientists have pointed
out, potassium iodide protects only against radioactive iodine, just one
of hundreds of poisonous "radionuclides that people might be exposed
to in a nuclear event.
- This rational consideration did not stop the latest public
run on sodium iodide that occurred Oct. 17 when officials closed two Harrisburg,
Pa., airports and launched jets in response to a terrorist threat against
Three Mile Island.
- The threat alone (later judged to be not credible) drove
flocks of locals to seek out potassium iodide tablets. Lancaster County,s
Emergency Management Agency had stored enough tablets for emergency crews,
but had to refer the concerned citizens to private labs.
- Reversing an old policy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
set aside $400,000 in fiscal year 2001 for potassium iodide stocks and
requested more funding in fiscal year 2002.
- Some experts have suggested that several million dollars
of the $40 billion Congress tagged to defend against terrorism be used
to stockpile potassium iodide pills at schools and town halls across the
- Other countries have a long history of stockpiling the
pills. As Dallas and other students of the world,s worst nuclear disaster
noted, after the Chernobyl accident nearby Poland distributed 10 million
doses of the medication. Subsequently, there was no upswing in the incidence
of thyroid cancer there despite encroaching radiation.
- We have been saying that we are living in November 1941,,,
said Dallas. There was this expectation of a mass-destruction event, probably
with conventional weapons. Now that the line has been crossed, the kinds
of people who think this way are now inspired to go forward.,,
- Dallas said that thousands of lives may depend on the
country,s ability to respond quickly and well to a small nuclear explosion,
a more deadly anthrax attack or a smallpox outbreak.
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