Home Education Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
Education By Joe Burgett -

While we hope to never experience any sort of nuclear war in our lifetime, we must prepare for the worst case. With so many countries having access to nuclear weapons, there are not enough deterrents to stop all bombs that could hit us. . We have not seen a nuclear bomb dropped on a country since the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan back in August of 1945. Several countries have had access to nukes, so why have none been used since?

The answer to this is simple: mutually assured destruction. Essentially, if we dropped a bomb on a country, they’d drop one on us. While we can use some deterrents to prevent some destruction, there will still be catastrophic damage. Once one bomb is sent, it would be a domino effect. For if someone is going to hit our nation with a bomb, the initial victim will surely retaliate. Not only would the initial strikes be devastating, but the environmental impact would be world-changing. What if this type of thing does occur or what if just one region was hit on Earth? In this article, we’ll discuss everything one would need to consider about the radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Justin Tyler Tate/Shutterstock.com]

The Fallout Composition

When a radioactive fallout occurs from something like a nuclear explosion, there is a lot to worry about. Perhaps the first thing you’d need to keep an eye out for is fallout composition. Think of things like dust particles, soil, debris, and even vaporized material. These particles can obviously vary when it comes to size. Some of it can be microscopic such as the aforementioned dust particles. Yet it can also be fairly large too, such as debris. When it comes to debris, you could be in quite a lot of danger as it could be falling out of the sky. Sometimes debris is on the move from an explosion and could be headed toward local communities incredibly fast. You’ve seen how explosion vibrations are able to break windows. Imagine debris as it’s headed into a community. It could take out entire communities alone!

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Avula Kodanda Raghuveer/Shutterstock.com]

Heat Wave

Naturally, one big issue in a radioactive fallout situation is exposure to heat. Nuclear explosions obviously carry quite a punch, but the bomb itself is so hot that it vaporizes just about anything within the region it hits. During its peak energy output, a nuclear weapon at just 1 megaton is able to produce temperatures of 180 million degrees Fahrenheit (100 million Celcius) at its center. This is between four to five times the heat level at the center of our Sun! While it’s hottest here, as the bomb spreads out, that heat is released more. It’ll eventually reach a point where it cools down the further out it goes. This doesn’t mean it’s over yet. People unaffected by the initial heat will still be hit with a heat wave of sorts. This could be possibly hot enough to cause severe burns and even expose you to the bomb’s radioactivity.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Vanity Fair]

Hot Particles

Obviously, when you think about the heat wave side of things, that should tell us that things are gonna be hot. This will include several things around you, which might be tough to see. For example, in radioactive fallout, you might come across microscopic specks. These specks are radioactive and powerful enough to even emit intense radiation. The closer you are to where the bomb hit, the higher the radiation levels will be for these specks. It should go without saying that this poses a significant health risk to those who come in contact with the specks. The problem is that you might do so even if you don’t want to. Most will likely inhale or ingest the stuff without ever realizing it. At least, not until they begin to get sick.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Lux3000/Shutterstock.com]

Long-Distance Fallout

When it comes to radioactive fallout, we cannot just assume one local area will be affected by this. A prime example of this can be seen in the Chernobyl disaster. For those unaware, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the north of Ukraine is the worst-ever civil nuclear incident in history. The nuclear energy accident rating was a 7. The only other to reach this was the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The Number Four RBMK reactor went out of control during a safety test, leading to an explosion and a fire. While anyone at the plant would naturally be exposed to a lot of radiation, you’d be exposed to high radiation levels for at least 20 miles. This is not including fallout that can be carried by wind currents for hundreds to thousands of miles. Thus, regions far away from the drop site could be affected.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Lester Balajadia/Shutterstock.com]

Fallout Patterns

The distribution of radioactive fallout, weirdly, can be influenced by the weather. Recall that we just referenced how wind currents can carry fallout for several miles. The same can be said about weather conditions overall. Wind direction and how fast it’s moving can affect the patterns of contamination. This is the very reason some areas end up seeing higher levels of radiation compared to others when a region is exposed. Thus, let’s say you have a city to the east and west of a drop site. If the wind is moving at 30 mph to the east that day due to a storm, then the city in the east will be exposed more than the one to the west. While the western city could still be impacted, it simply won’t see as much fallout as the eastern city.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Margarita Alshina/Associated Press]

Radioactive Rain

Technically radioactive rain isn’t a new thing. You’ve likely already seen something similar to it in places like China and Russia. You may have seen news articles about orange snow or rain. This is due to pollution in the air caused by the extreme levels of pollution from factories in the region. When a nuclear weapon is used, the atmosphere is affected dramatically. Radioactive fallout particles will combine with moisture in the atmosphere and then return to the ground in the form of rain. This is a huge problem for the overall environment, as this rain can contaminate water, soil, and vegetation. Of course, should one drink this rain, it could cause them to get very sick. This type of rain is often referred to as “Black Rain” as it blends with everything in the air to return to the ground in a black color.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Amit kg/Shutterstock.com]

Contaminated Airborne Dust

Perhaps the worst thing to deal with when it comes to radioactive fallout is airborne dust. This stuff can go pretty far and can truly become a pain to deal with. We’re going to have dust particles blowing by no matter what. Yet when it comes to contaminated airborne dust, problems can occur that we’d rather avoid. The dust can be stirred up to become airborne again due simply to natural processes. However, this can also occur due to human activity like construction, farming, or even firefighting. The issue here is that inhaling or ingesting the contaminated dust causes radiation exposure. Sometimes, it’s not big enough to worry about. Other times, it can potentially make you sick as we have a threshold for how much radiation we can take before it causes health problems.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Axz700/Shutterstock.com]

Resuspension Of Fallout

Just like with the dust we referenced above, radioactive fallout particles settled on the ground can be stirred up again. This can easily occur too, as it’s not as if everything radioactive will remain in one central location forever. Things like wind, vehicle movement, or human activity can cause this stuff to be stirred up and moved around yet again. That can be a big problem because resuspension can lead to the recontamination of a previously clean area. This, in turn, would actually increase the overall reach of a particular fallout. Of course, depending on what is in the area and how populated it is, the reach of the fallout could extend even further.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Stratos Brilakis/Shutterstock.com]

Superfires Following A Nuclear Explosion

You should know that “superfire” is a relatively new term, coined by the environmental protection community. They have been around for a long time but due to the extreme rise of their occurrence, these fires could not just be labeled that alone. Most of the time, it is utilized as a term used for major forest fires. Think of some of the major fires in California forests over the years. After a nuclear explosion though, superfires are not only possible but would actually be expected. These types of fires can burn hotter and also be a lot tougher to put out compared to normal fires. This can also make the reach of superfires quite large, putting many communities at risk of fires coming their way. You also run the risk of seeing things like firenadoes due to the potential wind and vacuum of air all of this would create.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Angela Schmidt/Shutterstock.com]

The Disruption Of Infrastructure

It should go without saying that when a bomb hits, the entire region around it is going to experience problems. This also means the infrastructure of an area will be impacted heavily too. It can be heavily disrupted to the point that it can cripple an entire region, not just the area the bomb hits. We’re talking about things like power grids, communication networks, and transportation systems here. It goes further than this too, as roads are a main part of our infrastructure too. They will likely be so damaged that it can make driving on them nearly impossible. Road bridges are also in jeopardy, as they could be completely destroyed. Which can be a major problem for people. All of this can make escaping a radioactive fallout far harder, not to mention make it harder for emergency services to come in and assist.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Eldar Nurkovic/Shutterstock.com]

Interference With Emergency Services

We did just mention this, so it is worthy of expanding upon how emergency services will be impacted. Radioactive fallout can cause several problems for emergency teams, as they could simply be unable to reach people. This might mean that infrastructure is so bad that people would be impossible to reach by traditional means. That would mean that things such as helicopters might be used to get people out. The issue here is that helicopters only have so much room. If communication systems are down, it would be impossible for many emergency responders to find people that need medical treatment the most. Overall, radioactive fallout would be a nightmare for emergency teams as they’d essentially go in blind. This is why it might be best to have medical supplies in your home, just in case this type of thing ever occurs.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Peera_stockfoto/Shutterstock.com]

Contamination Of Water Sources

It’s pretty obvious that if we could get radioactive rain, we wouldn’t be able to trust a lot of water sources in radioactive fallout. All of the water sources in an area where a nuclear explosion occurs will be contaminated. That means all rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, and even wells will be impacted. That obviously threatens all of the aquatic wildlife living in those places. This would result in a lot of problems for them, as it could result in their early demise. This also means anything eating those animals will also be at threat of radioactive poisoning. Of course, the water would also be unsafe to drink too. Contamination like this can extend for a long period of time and it can spread heavily through a water source downstream.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Smileus/Shutterstock.com]

Impact On Agriculture

If the water is contaminated, naturally that does not give much hope for any agriculture in the area. Radioactive fallout can truly devastate most agricultural systems. It is much bigger than one might think too. Of course, any current crops would be contaminated, same for any fruit you grow. However, even if trees do not die from the radioactivity in the area, any fruit they manage to produce couldn’t be eaten ever again. It does not end there though. Crops will likely fail to grow going forward and soil will be too contaminated to make consumable crops anyway. Livestock could also not eat anything in the area and would likely die sooner than expected. They too couldn’t be eaten upon their death as they’d be contaminated as well. This would cause a regionwide, potentially worldwide food insecurity issue.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Silvae/Shutterstock.com]

The Effect On Ecosystems

We’ve referenced how agriculture will be affected, but we cannot forget about the overall ecosystem. For example, plants overall will be heavily impacted. The Chernobyl Disaster alone led to pretty much everything dying in its area. There is still radioactivity there and all of this made the area uninhabitable. Not just for humans, but for most living things. Of course, some plants can still grow there but they could not be safely consumed. When very few can live in the area, most major ecological systems simply collapse. Biodiversity and long-term sustainability are both gone, so nothing can ever make the place “home” ever again. At least, not in a way that would be useful for building up a proper ecosystem. Most of the area around Chernobyl is still black to this day for a reason.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Reinhold Leitner/Shutterstock.com]

Impact On Wildlife

Of course, if we’re discussing ecosystems then we cannot forget about how wildlife will be affected by radioactive fallout. It’s obvious that any plants wildlife consumes in an area will essentially poison them. The same for any water they drink from a contaminated area. If they eat an animal affected negatively by high radiation levels, this could kill some animals. Others, meanwhile, will be able to survive the radiation amounts. However, long-term exposure to radiation can lead to many issues. The animals may have trouble reproducing. Yet it is also possible that offspring that are born could have genetic defects or mutations, which last for several lines or become a permanent fixture in the species. Surprisingly though, some animals thrived in exclusion zones. This is likely simply due to a lack of humans there to kill them.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Maxbelchenko/Shutterstock.com]

Persistent Soil Contamination

We know that agriculture and overall ecosystems can be damaged by radioactive fallout. The big reason that areas tend to just die and become useless for crops and even many plants is due to one factor. The soil in these areas will be contaminated. This makes the soil simply useless for agriculture, and not just for a short few years or something like that. We’re talking persistent soil contamination here. That means the soil will have long-lasting consequences for any food production and land use in the affected area. Thus, even if you can get something to grow here again, the soil would damage it so much that it couldn’t be safely consumed by anyone.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Kukun Kurniawan/Shutterstock.com]


This might be the biggest and most risky thing humans will need to consider. People and objects will come in contact with one another. This is simply the way of the world and everyone knows this. The problem is that during radioactive fallout, humans and any mobile objects will be spreading contamination to other locations. This will cause a lot of cross-contamination. While one would ideally like to get out of a radioactive zone, the people and objects they take with them will still be radioactive. Thus, there will be quite a lot of challenges when it comes to containing or mitigating the effects of the fallout.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Photosite/Shutterstock.com]

Radioactive Decay

It should be noted that a place that experiences a nuclear explosion will not always remain critically radioactive. Over time, the radioactive isotopes in a fallout will end up decaying and becoming less radioactive. However, this is not something that will happen overnight. To get to safe radioactive levels, the process of decay will take several years. It is important to remember that going back to a place too early could be harmful. Taking any objects home with you from these places can pose a risk for you as well. It’s not just you that could be harmed, because as referenced, cross-contamination is still a problem to consider. Therefore, you’re putting others at risk too.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via CDC]

External & Internal Exposure

It needs to be noted that there are different types of exposure one can experience in radioactive fallout. You can experience external or internal exposure. However, you could also experience both too. This will obviously depend on the situation. External exposure means that the radiation came in contact with your skin, hair, or clothing. Internal exposure occurs when radioactive particles are inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin. Simple external exposure could lead to heavily damaged skin, the loss of your hair, etc. Internal exposure could cause organ damage, issues with your blood, and even brain problems. This is just scratching the surface too.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Egoreichenkov Evgenii/Shutterstock.com]

Indirect Exposure

While external and internal exposure might be the two most notable forms of exposure, another exists. Known as indirect exposure, you do not have to be right near the site of radioactive fallout to be affected. Some of the fallout can come into contact with others and contaminate people, objects, and surfaces. This will, in turn, possibly cause various health problems people will need to keep an eye on. While indirect exposure does not typically mean you will see similar issues as those closer to the site of the explosion, there are cases of indirect exposure leading to severe health issues. However, there are cases where people weren’t affected long-term. It clearly varies.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Dr Ake Krisda/Shutterstock.com]

Delayed Health Effects From Radioactive Fallout

When one is exposed to high levels of radiation, they might not experience health problems immediately. In fact, you may not see any problems or symptoms from your exposure for several years. One of the biggest things high levels of radiation expose a person to is cancer. Yet it has also been known to cause various cardiovascular problems too. Obviously, it takes time before cancer will start to cause a problem enough for any of us to notice. There have been cases where people live several years with cancer in their body but never notice it until it has reached a critical level. The same can be said for cardiovascular issues too. That is why it is so hard to truly assess the full impact of exposure after a nuclear event occurs. Exposure affects people differently, and that makes things difficult.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Nastyaofly/Shutterstock.com]

Radiation In Breast Milk

Women (and trans or biological men) that experienced high levels of radiation need to be aware of something. If you plan to breastfeed your child, this could potentially be harmful to them. While normally breastfeeding would be terrific if you can do it for your child, you also still have harmful radiation isotopes inside of you. Those isotopes can accumulate in breast milk. That means you’d be exposing your infant child to radiation through the act of breastfeeding. It should go without saying that this could be a huge problem for the child’s health and development.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Quanta Magazine]

Genetic Damage

While breastfeeding a child can be problematic for those exposed to radioactive fallout, you might have more to worry about. It has been proven that high levels of radiation can cause issues when it comes to reproduction. Even managing to get pregnant after this is remarkable. However, those reproductive cells did not just escape the radiation just because they were inside you. This means that you have a much higher risk of your child inheriting a disease or disorder, along with having problematic birth defects. These won’t stop with your one offspring, as the disorders or defects could last for several generations.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Prostock-Studio/Shutterstock.com]

Psychological Trauma

It wouldn’t be crazy if someone develops a psychological trauma due to a nuclear event. In fact, the radioactive fallout from one can also be traumatic for people. This trauma might be due to the problems they developed from their exposure to all of this. For others, it might be due to all of the horror that surrounded them on that fateful day. This type of thing can have long-lasting effects on someone’s mental state. This could cause a person to develop post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, anxiety, depression, and various other mental health disorders. That is why psychologists/therapists should be provided for all that need one.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Reader’s Digest]

Contamination Of The Emergency Facilities

When radioactive fallout occurs, one of the first things mankind will do is offer aid to those affected. The problem is that nearby hospitals will be seeing a ton of patients coming in. Keep in mind, they will already have people to attend to for a variety of reasons. People will be getting surgeries, coming in for a variety of illnesses, among a sea of other reasons. THEN you add in those affected by the nuclear event. The big issue too is that those coming in from this will be radioactive themselves, thus causing hospitals to be this way. On top of emergency shelters and other facilities, anywhere one goes will be contaminated. Thus, offering medical care will be tricky because most places are not exactly going to have a ton of hazmat suits lying around. Thus, people will be turned away from hospitals to avoid contamination.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via The Walt Disney Company]

Limited Treatment Options

One big reason most affected by a nuclear event will be turned away is likely due to the very limited things that can be done for them. Radiation exposure, regardless of the form, is going to be very difficult to treat. Even acute forms of radiation overexposure can be tough to treat. Usually, radiation sickness will occur. Therefore, the only real thing that can be done is to offer supportive care. This would be trying to offer treatment to manage symptoms from the sickness and prevent further complications. Along with that, a bedside manner will be useful. It was proven that morale in wartime hospitals during both the Civil War and World Wars was increased with the presence of female nurses. While a woman being around was nice for the men, the real thing they offered was true care and support.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Stockr/Shutterstock.com]

Lack Of Resources For Recovery

There is a lot that can get in the way of possible recovery from the effects of radioactive fallout. The area be contaminated for a long time, and precious belongings might have to be left behind to stop further contamination. The aftermath of a nuclear event will be difficult for a region. Of course, the overall recovery time for everyone involved will likely depend on how widespread the event was. In the wake of a large-scale event, demand for resources will more than exceed the available supply. Simply put, if perhaps a place the size of the United Kingdom experiences this, several might die. However, you’ll still have several million alive that need help. You’ll need medical supplies, food, water, etc. Other countries might chip in to help but even then, it might not be enough.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com]

Displacement Of Populations

We just referenced a lack of resources, but it can get much worse. Not only will this be a problem in the aftermath of radioactive fallout, but population displacement will also be a huge issue as well. Remember, many of these people might be contaminated so it would be a bad idea to bring them into your home. You also cannot put most of them in one place because that might only expose them to more radiation. However, let’s say people heard of a nuclear event occurring, then mass evacuations take place. Many of these people will still lose their homes, places of work/business, etc. You’ll then still see a huge strain on resources, where evacuations of one community will cause issues for communities that take them in. It will be a massive problem and very few countries are prepared for such an event to occur.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via New Africa/Shutterstock.com]

Economic Impact

In the aftermath of any nuclear event, several economic issues are likely to take place. The first to consider is clean-up, if it is even possible. Radioactive fallout may have destroyed homes, places of business, etc. Infrastructure will certainly be hit hard by this, and overall decontamination will be a long-term project. Healthcare costs are likely to be massive. Long-term monitoring and surveillance of the area where the nuclear event and radioactive fallout took place will also be important. A government could go dramatically in the red. Even if other countries offered aid, it is unlikely to ever be enough. The financial burden put on a country or entire region will be immense and it would possibly tank their economy and even the value of their currency.

Disturbing Facts About Radioactive Fallout From A Nuclear Bomb
[Image via The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation]

Global Impact

Speaking of economic impact, don’t think that an issue in one region won’t have an effect on the overall planet. We already referenced how some radioactive fallout could travel thousands of miles/kilometers. Therefore, that alone could be worth worrying about. The radioactive particles in the atmosphere could also have global implications too. This will affect neighboring countries and that could cause tension on an international level. On top of this, several countries might also take on refugees fleeing their radioactive countries. Most countries have a policy that allows people to seek asylum for events like this. Yet as we referenced earlier, there could be a lack of resources that might force nations to put a cap on the number of people that take in. There are only so many peaceful places people can end up.


Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

United States Department of Energy (DOE)

World Health Organization (WHO)

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

International Committee Of The Red Cross (ICRC)

Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF)

United Nations Institute For Disarmament Research (UNIDAR)

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Massachusetts Insititute of Technology (MIT)

Harvard University

Oregon State University

International Energy Forum

United States Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory

Atomic Archive

Mayo Clinic