Alpha radiation becomes a hazard only if alpha-
emitting contaminants are taken into the body by
breathing, eating, drinking, or by absorption
into the bloodstream through broken skin. Major
alpha contamination in a nuclear attack is not
likely; however, it will present a hazard in the
event of a nuclear weapons handling accident.
BETA . Beta radiation has a range in the air
of only a few feet and has limited penetrating
power. Generally, you cannot stop beta radiation
with light-porous material, such as ordinary
clothing, particularly since the contaminant tends
to impregnate the material. However, you can
stop beta radiation with dense material, such as
heavy-duty gloves and foul-weather clothing. Beta
contamination is primarily a skin-contact hazard.
GAMMA. Gamma radiation is similar to X
radiation (X rays). It has an effective range in the
air of many hundreds of feet and is highly
penetrating. It cannot be completely stopped by
a barrier. A sufficient thickness of material can
reduce the intensity of gamma radiation to an
insignificant level. Because of the penetrating
power of gamma radiation and the large amount
of gamma rays emitted by fallout contaminants,
it is the most significant radiation hazard in most
contaminated ship situations.
CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL
The threat of attack with chemical or bio-
logical warfare agents is more likely on land.
However, their uses are still a definite threat in
naval engagements and amphibious operations.
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE (BW)
Large-scale use of biological warfare (BW)
agents has not occurred in modern times.
Therefore, there is little experience with the
military potential of BW agents except by noting
that naturally occurring diseases have affected the
outcome of some past wars. Any nation with a
modern scientific program can produce effective
Biological warfare is the intentional use of
living infectious microorganisms (germs) to reduce
or destroy the military effectiveness of personnel.
The exception to this is the recent use in Southeast
Asia and Afghanistan of toxins classified as BW
agents but are not living organisms. BW agents
are living microorganisms (except toxins) that
cause disease in personnel, plants, and animals.
BW agents differ greatly from chemical agents in
that a living microorganism can grow and multiply
in a susceptible host. Once infected, an incubation
period is required before the infection produces
a casualty. This incubation period varies greatly
among infectious microorganisms. For this
reason, use of BW agents are unlikely to be used
in situations where results are needed in less than
48 to 72 hours.
Detection and Identification
Because of the incubation period, there is a
lapse of time before victims realize they are
infected. Detection before the first symptoms are
noticed is difficult, and identification of a
particular agent may take considerable time. It
is possible to detect excessive organic life in the
atmosphere, but identification of the particular
agent is still in the development stage. Once a
biological infection is started, it may spread by
normal contagious processes without further agent
deployment. BW agents will infect an individual
if they enter the lungs, stomach, or bloodstream.
BW agents are likely to be dispersed as
aerosols of solid or liquid particles and are
invisible except near the source of dissemination.
These particles, when inhaled, can penetrate the
lungs where they can start an infection. Aerosols
of BW agents can penetrate buildings and ships.
The microorganisms required to infect an in-
dividual are so small that it is possible for a single
delivery vehicle to spread a casualty-producing
aerosol over many hundreds of square miles.
When biological agents infect biting flies,
mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks and are released
into an area, they, in turn, bite and infect
people. BW agents may also be spread by
saboteurs, who may contaminate food and
water supplies, food processing plants, and air-
conditioning systems. Shells, rockets, and mortar
bombs are not suitable for dissemination of these
agents because of the adverse effect of heat and
shock in an explosion.
If you suspect that BW contamination has
taken place, put on your protective mask and
observe the basic principles of preventive