Terrorism and Other Public Health Threats (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Chemicals are the most likely source of air contamination. An accident at a plant or factory or a train wreck might release large amounts of a hazardous chemical into the air, for instance. A terrorist attack could involve the deliberate release of a toxic chemical or gas.
In a bioterror attack, bacteria or viruses causing diseases such as anthrax, pneumonic plague, smallpox, or tularemia could be released in an aerosol form. Anyone who inhaled the substance could be affected.
Although air itself does not become radioactive, the release of radiation into the environment can create radioactive dust and dirt (fallout) that can make the air unsafe. A "dirty bomb" could work in this manner, causing a relatively minor explosion but doing its real damage by releasing radioactive materials into the environment.
What you can do
You cannot do much in advance to protect yourself from a hazardous substance released into the air. If there hasn't been an obvious explosion or a known terrorist attack, the air could become contaminated without anyone knowing it until people or animals start to develop symptoms.
As with other potential emergencies, it makes sense to have a disaster kit with water, food, first aid items, tools, and other essentials. Concern over terrorist threats has prompted some people to consider adding the following items to their supplies:
Vaccines for anthrax and smallpox are available for certain high-risk groups but are not recommended for the general public at this time. In 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first vaccine for humans against bird flu (avian influenza). Immunization is not currently recommended for the public. The vaccine will be kept in the U.S. government stockpile.1 For more information, see the Bioterrorism and Vaccinations section of this topic.
If a hazardous substance is released into the environment:
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