, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 355-359
Date: 25 May 2010

The Polonium-210 Public Health Assessment: The Need for Medical Toxicology Expertise in Radiation Terrorism Events

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In 1989, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) brought together a group of subject matter experts to form the Radiation Studies Branch (RSB). CDC tasked the RSB staff with assessing potential environmental health impacts of radiation released from US Department of Energy nuclear weapons production facilities. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, however, the mission of the RSB expanded to include (and to focus on) preparing the nation’s public health community, healthcare providers and citizens for intentional (i.e., terrorism-related) radiological incidents, accidents involving exposures to radiation, and unintentional environmental releases of radioactive materials.

In late 2006, an event occurred in the UK for which the RSB was uniquely suited to respond. The radioactive isotope polonium-210 (210Po) was deliberately used as a weapon against one person and, perhaps accidentally, released into the environment. Initially, it was unclear how many bystanders might

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.