Answer to Question #12156 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

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Q

My great-uncle served in World War II and was sent to Japan to assist with the cleanup and reconstruction after the atomic bombs. He was there for two years. Later in his life he said that they probably shouldn't have been there so soon after the bombings due to the residual radiation. What levels and type of radiation was he exposed to during his two years of work in Japan? Can you please give me an estimate of exposure in millisieverts (mSv)? Would this increase in radiation exposure have had any effects on his health?

A

First, we are grateful for your great-uncle's service and appreciate his response to our country's call to duty.

We could not responsibly estimate the dose your great-uncle may have received in Japan even if you gave us much more information about his type of service, the specific locations at which he served, and the duration of time he spent in those locations. However, the U.S. federal government has set up special teams to perform exactly such estimates.

Because your great-uncle took part in the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, between 6 August 1945 and 1 July 1946, he is an "atomic veteran" according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Please visit the VA's Radiation-Risk Activity website for more information.

According to the VA's Public Health website, "VA has recognized certain diseases as related to ionizing radiation exposure during military service. Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation and health care for these diseases. Their survivors also may be eligible for survivors' benefits."

If your great-uncle has already filed a claim as an atomic veteran with the VA, then the Nuclear Test Personnel Review (NTPR) Program may have already estimated his dose. The NTPR is a Department of Defense program that works to confirm veteran participation in U.S. nuclear tests from 1945 to 1992 and in the occupation forces of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

For confirmed participants of these events, NTPR may give either an actual or estimated radiation dose received by the veteran. The VA will request this information from DTRP during VA claim reviews as needed. The VA may decide that the veteran or his survivors should receive benefits. See the VA's Benefits Overview for Radiation Exposure website.

It is best that the NTPR Program and the VA answer your questions. Here is some contact information that you may find helpful.

Department of Defense NTPR Program
Phone: 800-462-3683
Email:  dtra-ntpr@mail.mil
Website: http://www.dtra.mil/Home/Nuclear-Test-Personnel-Review/

Postal Address:
Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Nuclear Test Personnel Review Program
8725 John J. Kingman Road, Stop 6201
Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-6201
 

Department of Veterans Affairs
Phone: 800-827-1000
Website: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/radiation/index.asp

Postal Address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
1120 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20421

Bob Cherry, CHP, PhD

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 22 October 2017. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.