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Protective Actions for Radiation Emergencies - Self-Decontamination

If you are outside in an area

when a radiation emergency

happens,

you could be contaminated with

radioactive material.

Radioactive material can fall

from the air and land on people,

buildings, roads, cars,

and other objects.

This is called contamination.

Contamination may look like dust

or sand,

or it may be too small to see.

Radioactive contamination can

spread in the same way that dust

or mud can be tracked into the

home or spread to another person

or object.

It is important to get

radioactive contamination off

your body as soon as you can to

lower your risk of harm.

Removing contamination is called

decontamination.

One of the best ways to

decontaminate yourself is to

take a shower.

If you can't do that,

remove your outer layer of

clothing and wash your hands and

face.

Anything you can do to reduce

the amount of contamination on

your clothes or body will help

lower your exposure to

radiation.

Here are some ways to clean or

decontaminate yourself.

Take off your outer layer of

clothing: Depending on how you

are dressed,

taking off your outer layer of

clothing can remove most of the

contamination.

The less skin you have showing,

the less contamination you will

have on your body.

Be very careful in removing your

clothing to prevent radioactive

dust from shaking loose.

Put the clothing in a plastic

bag or other sealable container

and put the bag in an

out-of-the-way place,

away from other people and pets.

Wash yourself off.

If you can take a shower,

take a warm shower and gently

wash yourself with lots of soap.

Do not scald, scrub,

or scratch your skin.

Your skin helps protect the

inside of your body from

radioactive material.

Wash your hair with shampoo or

soap.

Do not use conditioner because

it will cause radioactive

material to stick to your hair.

Keep cuts and abrasions covered

when washing to keep from

getting radioactive material in

open wounds.

If you cannot take a shower,

wash your hands, face,

and parts of your body that were

uncovered at a sink or faucet.

Use soap and plenty of water.

If you do not have access to a

sink or faucet,

use a moist wipe,

clean wet cloth,

or a damp paper towel to wipe

the parts of your body that were

uncovered.

Pay special attention to your

hands and face.

Gently blow your nose,

wipe your eyelids, eyelashes,

and ears with a moist wipe,

clean wet cloth,

or a damp paper towel.

Put the used wipes,

cloth or towel in a plastic bag

or other sealable container and

place the bag in an

out-of-the-way place,

away from other people and pets.

Tap water sources may be

contaminated during a radiation

emergency.

If the tap water is

contaminated,

public health officials may

recommend that you drink bottled

water instead of tap water.

You can still use tap water for

decontamination.

Radioactive material that gets

into surface water or ground

water sources will be diluted to

very low levels by the water and

will be safe to use for washing

skin, hair, and clothing.

Washing with tap water that may

be slightly contaminated is

better than not washing at all.

Put on clean clothes.

Clothes in a closet or drawer

are safe to wear.

If you do not have clean

clothes,

go to a room or area away from

other people and pets,

take off your outer layer of

clothing,

and shake or brush off your

clothes.

Cover your nose and mouth while

you do this to keep from

breathing in radioactive

material.

After you have brushed off your

clothes,

you can put them back on.

Wash yourself first,

before helping infants,

small children,

or others who may need help

washing.

When assisting others,

wear waterproof gloves and a

dust mask - or other material to

cover your mouth - if you can.

Keep cuts and scrapes - both

yours and those you are helping

- covered when washing to keep

radioactive material out of the

wound.

Wash your hands and face after

providing help.

If your pet was outside,

you may need to wash them off as

well.

Wash your pet carefully with

shampoo or soap and water and

rinse completely.

Wear waterproof gloves and a

dust mask - or other material to

cover your mouth - if you can.

Keep cuts and scrapes - both

yours and your pet's - covered

when washing your pet to keep

radioactive material out of the

wound.

Wash your hands and face after

washing your pet.

If you think you may be

contaminated with radioactive

material,

it's important to remove

contamination from your clothes

and body as soon as possible.

Regardless of where you are,

you can decontaminate yourself

using any of the techniques we

just described.