The Variables of Dose Effectiveness: The Oxygen Effect.

The oxygen is a widely known variable which determines the effectiveness of a radiation dose. Normally named Oxygen tension, it is seen as a factor active at the level of the cell.

However, in 1946 Hersey reported in his book that Hiroshima doctors had observed a variable response
determined by the state of activity or state of rest of the victims.

He described also the protective effect of burns in relation to radiation sickness.

These factors demonstrate that the prediction of the effects of radiation are not based upon measured external dose alone, but upon other, individually variable factors. These factors have in fact been known for
many years, though nuclear authorities rarely discuss them in public in relation to nuclear disasters.

The following is taken from “HIROSHIMA” by John Hersey
First published in the NEW YORKER, August, 1946

Published in Penguin Books
November 1946

Made and printed in Great Britain
for Penguin Books Ltd. by C. Nicholls and Co. Ltd.

London* Manchester, Reading
This online version at

Page 104 – 105:

“As the symptoms revealed themselves, it became
clear that many of them resembled the effects of over-
doses of X-ray, and the doctors based their therapy
on that likeness. They gave victims liver extract,
blood transfusions, and vitamins, especially B.

The shortage of supplies and instruments hampered them.
Allied doctors who came in after the surrender found
plasma and penicillin very effective.

Since the blood disorders were, in the long run, the predominant
factor in the disease, some of the Japanese doctors
evolved a theory as to the seat of the delayed sickness.
They thought that perhaps gamma rays, entering the
body at the time of the explosion, made the phos-
phorus in the victims’ bones radio-active, and that
they in turn emitted beta particles, which, though they
could not penetrate far through flesh, could enter the
bone marrow, where blood is manufactured, and
gradually tear it down.

Whatever its source, the disease had some baffling quirks.
Not all the patients exhibited all the main symptoms.
People who suffered flash burns were protected,
to a considerable extent, from radiation sickness.

Those who had lain quietly
for days or even hours after the bombing were much
less liable to get sick than those who had been active.

Grey hair seldom fell out. And, as if nature were
protecting man against his own ingenuity, the repro-
ductive processes were affected for a time ; men became
sterile, women had miscarriages, menstruation stopped. ”

Post in progress.

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