Jaw Bone Reveals Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Radiation Far Worse Than Thought
In August of 1945, the US dropped Little Boy, a 9,700-pound atomic bomb, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb exploded with the force of 15,000 tons of TNT and leveled 90 percent of the city, killing roughly 80,000 people in the blast. It was the beginning of a terrifying new chapter in human history, but the real horror of atomic weapons is arguably what happens to those who survive the blast...and soak up the radioactivity it leaves in its wake.
A new study has re-examined the jaw bone of a victim of the Hiroshima bombing, which was first studied in the 1970s by measuring the bone's "paramagnetism," a phenomenon where an object gains weak magnetic properties.
The magnetism came from exposure to X-rays and gamma radiation, which are two major products of a nuclear explosion—gamma radiation can also cause skin burns, cancer, and mutations, while X-rays can cause hair and skin loss among other effects.
Forty years ago, the investigation into the jaw bone yielded some insight into just how much radiation survivors soaked up in the aftermath of Little Boy, but more accurate measurements granted by electronic spin resonance spectroscopy have pinned the amount at around 9.46 Grays (Gy)—almost double the amount needed to kill a human being.
To get a sense of what different radiation levels do to your body, here's a quick guide: At 1-4 Gy, you're going to need a blood transfusion to help deal with the side-effects of your blood cells dying off.
At 2 Gy, your skin starts to fall off.
At 4 Gy and higher, you're almost guaranteed to develop a fatal form of cancer.
With this in mind, you can start to imagine what happened to the tens of thousands of people who survived Little Boy, but succumbed to radiation sickness in the weeks and years after.