The catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear power plant showed that mankind has far advanced in the methods of personal protection from gamma radiation – no direct rescuer has died from the direct effects of irradiation. Officially, at least, what was achieved through the use of leaded linen, in an appendage to the basic protective suits. Oren Milstein, co-founder of the company StemRad, believes – his offspring could have coped with the task much better.
The principle of the StemRad antiradiation belt is based on the work of Soviet scientists who, during the Chernobyl disaster, faced the problem of rapid bone marrow death in irradiated people. This is one of the most fatal factors of contact with radiation, but thanks to their work today we know two things. First, the bone marrow and after partial death from irradiation can regenerate and fully recover. Secondly, it is enough to save only 2.5% of the bone marrow, so that the body survives.
StemRad’s belt covers only 11% of the body area, but under it is concentrated almost half of the entire bone marrow, which constantly generates blood cells. The belt is a barrier that can either permanently cover the bone marrow from weak gamma radiation, or maintain a critical mass with a single strong irradiation. Experiments in mice showed that in both cases the risk of radiation sickness is minimized.
Wearing a belt instead of a cumbersome suit is certainly more convenient, although Milstein and his colleagues are already preparing an advanced version in the form of a vest called AstroRad. The only problem is that from other factors of irradiation such an accessory does not protect and walk around the infected zone will not work. This is the protection of the front line, which is mandatory for pioneers – many experts agree that such belts and waistcoats could save lives, even if not health, of the first liquidators at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.