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Medical 'Black Mist' Australia 1953, fallout contamination.

  1. Nov 21, 2010 #1
    On 14 October 1953 a ~10kt atomic bomb was tested by the British at a site in South Australia known as Emu Field, the detonation was code-named ‘Totem 1’. One of the purposes of this test, as evidenced in numerous sources, was to determine the permissible quantities of the Pu-240 in fissile material for weapons. Approximately 173 km from the test site was a mission community named Wallatinna.
    In 1980 there emerged various Australian press media accounts suggesting that
    Fallout from this test positively caused the blindness of an Aboriginal man, Yami Lester, within a few days of having been exposed to a ‘Black Mist’ at Wallatinna, allegedly caused by fallout contamination from the Totem 1.
    The report by the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council, British Nuclear Tests in Australia, a Review of Operational Safety Measures and of Possible After Effects, Australian Government Printing Services, Canberra, 1983, suggested that immediate ailment at this distance from a small fission bomb test was all but impossible, as did similar report material from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (UK). The findings of the (Australian) Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia on the matter were inconclusive. However, a great deal of source material on the public record suggests that fallout from Totem 1 doubtless was responsible for Lester’s blindness. A google search on ‘totem, black mist’ will verify this. This raises the question: Is this possible? It was also recently alleged in the 2005 Film Australian Atomic Confessions that it was due to the presence of the heavier Pu isotope in the fissile core of the device which was responsible for the high degree of contamination, is this also, indeed, possible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2010 #2
    It truly depends on the content he was exposed to. Residual radiation could easily cause a malformation of the proteins in the lens and cause the victim blindness.
  4. Nov 29, 2010 #3
    It's possible. One malformed protein would obstruct light.
  5. May 16, 2011 #4


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    Really this is more of a medical question then physics. I am moving it to a life science forum.
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