By: Sharon Packer (TACDA Board Member)
The nuclear threat from North Korea has prompted many callers during the past few weeks, asking about the effects and attenuation of radiation. There is a great deal of misinformation about radiation from fallout. The following old rule of thumb for shelter design still holds true. NBC shelters should have four feet of dirt cover, or three feet of concrete cover to give a minimum PF level of 1,000 from fallout. If a “rainout” should occur, or if the sheltered area is within 1.5 miles of a potential primary target, the shelter will require a minimum of eight to ten feet of cover. Shelter entrances require careful engineering, as most of the radiation exposure will come from these entrance areas.
I recently reviewed a series of articles about Nuclear Weapons Effects, written by Carsten Haaland, of the Oak Ridge national Laboratory. The entire series of articles can be found in our Journal of Civil Defense published in 1990. Some of you may be fortunate enough to still possess these journal articles. I have re-typed, in part, the section on ‘Fallout’ and ‘Rainout’ for this current article.
FALLOUT FROM NUCLEAR DETONATIONS
Carsten M. Haaland, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
What is Fallout?
Fallout is the radioactive dust that comes back to earth as a result of a nuclear explosion at the surface of the earth, or at an altitude low enough for the fireball to engulf solid materials. Fallout dust may look like sand, ash or crystals, depending on the kind of material engulfed by the fireball. If the material engulfed is ordinary earth or sand the fallout will look like sand, but if the engulfed material contains calcium to the extent found in concrete buildings or coral, the fallout may look like ashes. Large dense particles will descend faster than very small particles. For this reason, fallout particles several hundred miles downwind from a nuclear surface burst will be very small, somewhat like particles in atmospheric pollution, and the nuclear radiation from the fallout will be greatly reduced.
The danger of fallout arises from the intense and highly penetrating nuclear radiation emitted from it, which produces a potentially lethal hazard to people in the vicinity unless they have protection. Large areas, covering hundreds to thousands of square miles, depending on the yield and number of surface detonations, can be poisoned with fallout such that radiation from the contaminated area is hazardous or lethal to an unprotected person passing through or dwelling in the area, for periods of days to weeks after the detonations.
How is Fallout Produced?
When a nuclear weapon explodes near the ground, the instantaneous release of incredible energy makes a huge pit or crater. Tons of earth in the crater are instantly changed from solids into hot gas and fine dust, by the tremendous heat and pressure from the bomb explosion. This hot gas and dust, together with vaporized materials of the bomb itself, form a giant fireball that rises like a hot-air balloon to high altitude. This material spreads out, cools, and becomes more dense as it rises. The fireball stops rising when its density reaches the same density as the atmosphere into which it has risen.
Some of the dust and heavier particles that are drawn up with the fireball form the stem of the mushroom cloud. The dust in the cap of the mushroom spreads out horizontally when the fireball stops rising, and begins to be shaped and drawn along by the winds at that altitude. This dust cloud can be carried for hundreds of miles by the upper winds. The dust falling and drifting to the earth from this moving cloud becomes the radioactive fallout with which we are concerned. Somewhat confusingly, the process itself; that is, the dust’s action of falling and drifting to the ground, is also called “fallout”.
The dust in the stem and in the mushroom cloud becomes radioactive mostly from the fission products created in the nuclear explosion that become stuck to part of the dust particles. The air around the particles does not become radioactive, and neither do the ground-surface materials on which they settle.
The smallest particles of fallout can be carried hundreds of miles by the wind before reaching the earth. Most of the fallout will come down to the ground within 24 hours after the detonation. Very small particles come down very slowly and may be spread over large areas of the earth’s surface in the downwind directions over time periods of many days, even weeks. This delayed fallout is sometimes called “worldwide” fallout, although most of the fallout comes down in the hemisphere in which it is produced (Northern or Southern). Fallout that arrives within the first day or two after the explosion poses a much greater threat to human life than does delayed fallout.
Because the rate of fall of a fallout particle depends on the size, shape and density of the particle and on the local winds (Haaland, 1989), the pattern of deposition on the ground can be highly irregular. The pattern shown in Fig. 1 resulted from measurement of radiation intensities on the ground after the nuclear test named TURK at the Nevada Test Site in 1955, a 43 kiloton tower shot (Glasstone, 1977). The pattern shown in Fig. 2 shows how an “idealized” fallout pattern is used to estimate fallout on the city of Phoenix, Arizona, resulting from a hypothetical ground burst of a 10 megaton nuclear weapon on Luke Air Force Base (Haaland, 1987a).
Radiation from Fallout
The radioactivity from fallout decays and fades away by natural processes. The radioactive materials produced by the nuclear explosion are unstable. These materials change (or decay) into a stable condition by shooting out nuclear radiation, such as alpha, beta, and gamma rays. Gamma radiation is by far the most dangerous of the three kinds of fallout radiation, because it can penetrate the entire body and cause cell damage to all parts, to the organs, blood and bones.
A more detailed discussion of the kinds of fallout radiation and their potentially harmful effects may be found in Radiation Safety in Shelters, CPG 2-6.4, 1983, available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC. The penetration of gamma radiation through matter, dose-factors for the body, comparison of fallout radiation with initial nuclear radiation, and other topics, are discussed in great technical detail in Fallout Facts for Nuclear-Battlefield Commanders (Haaland, 1989). Methods of providing protective shielding from lethal fallout contamination have been presented by Chester (1986) and Spencer (1980).
Decay of Radioactivity
Some materials decay into their stable form faster than others. Those that change fast produce intense nuclear radiation in the first few moments after a nuclear explosion. Those that decay more slowly, such as cesium-137 and strontium-90, may be responsible for measurable nuclear radiation years after the explosion. These particular radioisotopes may enter the body through the food chain and may remain for long periods in certain parts of the body. The increased radioactive emissions from these isotopes (above the normal radioactive emissions from potassium-40 which exists in our bodies) may increase the potential for various cancers.
Because many materials in the fallout cloud decay quickly, the nuclear radiation from a given quantity of fallout is most intense in the first moments after detonation and its intensity rapidly falls to lower levels. This behavior can be approximately described by a rule of thumb called the seven-ten rule. This rule applies only to fallout of the same “effective” age. If the fallout results from unclear detonations that all exploded within a few minutes of each other, then the “effective” age is the same as the actual age, the time measured from the mean time of the detonations. If the fallout is produced from detonations that are separated in time by more than a half-hour or so, then the average decay rates of the different clouds of fallout are sufficiently different. The concept of “effective” age must be applied to estimate the decay rate of the composite fallout. Methods have been developed for determining the effective age of composite fallout from simple measurements by a survey meter and the use of a monogram (Haaland, 1989).
The seven-ten rule states that the measured radiation intensity from a given quantity of fallout particles will decay to (1) one-tenth as much when the fallout becomes seven times older than the effective age at the time of measurement, (2) one-hundredth (1/10 x 1/10) as much when the fallout becomes forty-nine times (7 x 7) older than the effective age at the time of measurement, and so on. The unit of time can be seconds, minutes, hours, half-days, days or whatever period of time is appropriate for the situation. For instance, if the measured level of radiation is 1,000 R/hr., after 7 hours the radiation level will decay to 100 R/hr. After 7 x 7 hours (about 2 days) the radiation level will decay to 10 R/hr. After 7 x 2 days (about 2 weeks) the radiation level will decay to 1 R/hr.
If the air is humid, the nuclear explosion may start a local rain. The fireball from a low-yield nuclear detonation, less than a few hundred kilotons, may not rise above the troposphere. In this case, if it is already raining or if the explosion starts a rain shower, much of the radioactive material will come quickly to the ground as “rainout”. A light rainout produced low-level fallout-type radiation after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki detonations, even though the fireballs did not engulf solid materials on the ground. Radiation from rainout could be extremely intense and localized if the fireball does not rise above the rain cloud, because the fallout cloud has not had a chance to spread out as it does when carried a long way by the wind, and it has not had as much time to decay. If the rainfall is heavy, the fallout may be washed into gutters, ditches, and storm sewers, from whence it may be carried into streams and rivers. In this case the earth surrounding the ditches, sewers and streams, and the water itself will provide shielding to greatly reduce the fallout hazard to local residents. However, radioactive material, like dirt and sand particles, can collect in unpredictable locations under these circumstances to produce highly lethal concentrations. A radiation survey meter will be needed to help detect, and avoid remaining in such locations.
Fallout radiation is a potential hazard that must be considered in the event of nuclear attack. The magnitude of the area covered, the geographical shape, and the levels of radiation intensity CANNOT be precisely predicted. Protection by shelters is possible, and radiation management through the use of rate meters and dosimeters will reduce the potential risk.
A John Farnam “Quip” – July 7, 2017
“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance, when the
need for illusion is deep.”
It represents enormous conceit to believe that police can do anything
to stop crime, particularly violent crime. What we do is deter/displace it.
We discourage it at a particular moment, and thus move it to other places.
That’s about it!
There is nothing we can do to “make people obey the law.” All we can
do is make them wish they had. In most of Western Civilization, our
tools for accomplishing the latter are extremely limited and largely
ineffective, and becoming less effective all the time!
As individual Operators, we can make ourselves, our routine, and our
personal environment, as invisible and unattractive as we are able, to both
conventional criminals and violent leftist political ideologues. There is
little we can do to influence world events, which are currently more
than a little frightening and ominous.
Something every Infantry Officer learns early in his career:
“Any position can be taken, when the attacker is willing to pay the price.”
Thus, sufficient determination and commitment will overcome all
“access controls.” When VCAs must be physically stopped, you will have
no choice but to personally, decisively effect the “stopping”. You’ll
get dirty, maybe wet!
“Proactive security” is mostly myth. Some still insist that people with
evil, violent intent can somehow be “detected” shortly before they
carry out their terrible crimes. Mostly wishful thinking, and “false positives”
create all kinds of civil-rights issues!
The only reliable predictor of individual future behavior is
individual past behavior. Best advice is to have nothing to do with
people who have displayed toxic behavior in the past. Get away from
them, and get them out of your life!
1) The only authentic “first responders” to precipitous, violent
criminal acts, are prospective victims directly at the scene, at the
critical moment. Even then, they are effective in preventing/limiting
carnage only when armed, trained, alert, and pivotally decisive.
2) Imagining that it is possible to predict/prevent spasmodic, violent
criminal acts through “scientific preemptive measures” represents a
fatal fantasy. Don’t bet your life on it.
3) Imagining that “access control,” no matter how sophisticated nor
formidable, will suffice to protect you from harm, represents another
4) Imagining that police/security personnel will arrive “in the nick
of time” represents yet another fatal fantasy.
5) Imagining that it is somehow “immoral” to effectively defend oneself,
including the precise application of deadly force, is a foolish concession to
naive liberals/leftists. Liberals are only too anxious to “sacrifice”
the lives of others (but never their own), in order to “preserve their
6) Only the well-armed, well-trained, aware, and otherwise
well-prepared have any chance of living through a violent attack by
traditional VCAs, or as we’re seeing in increasing numbers, violent leftist ideologues.
“There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and
dishonest men. Any man who says the world owes him a living is
dishonest. The same God who made you and me made this Earth. And, He
planned it so that it would yield every single thing that people on it
need. But, He was careful to plan it so that it would yield up its wealth only in exchange
for honest labor.
Who insist on sharing that wealth, while contributing nothing, are dishonest.”
John S. Farnam, president of Defensive Training International, is one of the top handgun instructors in the world. He has personally trained thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel, as well as non-police, in the serious use of firearms. In addition, he has authored four books on the subject — “The Farnam Method of Defensive Handgunning,” “The Farnam Method of Defensive Shotgun and Rifle Shooting,” “The Street Smart Gun Book,” and “Guns & Warriors – DTI Quips Volume 1.” (For all book orders, contact Vicki at email@example.com)
Thoughts on water purification as shared by one of TACDA’s advisory board members, Paul Seyfried ….
Thanks for the heads-up. As most of the attendees are well into their fifties, sixties, and seventies, I wonder just how far they’ll get on foot or pushing a bicycle. Water is HEAVY, and there may be precious few (none) sources of water that are suitable for using a single or two-stage water filter. Pollution. Even the best “emergency” water filters cannot deal with urban chemical pollutants.
So far, most evacuees in the US in recent memory had a source of good water in the areas they evacuated to. The EMP problem will eliminate that stop-gap. No one, without a well and the ability to use that well without grid power, will have safe water.
Don’t be a refugee. Find a relative out of town that is willing to have you pre-position generous supplies there. That will assure your support if you are able to get out, and that you won’t be a burden on the host. Over-achieve on the food and clothing end of the list….it may last a lot longer than you think! From casual conversations with guys like Bron Cikotas and Lowell Wood, they revealed that any species of a new grid will take between 10 and 20 years, and it may not be Americans that restore it. The “experts” that assert a “months-to-a year” time window for restoring the power grid are just not realistic. Also consider that among the suffering and dying population will be the very people who know now to install high voltage transformers and equipment. IF they can get it, and IF they can pay for it with now-worthless American dollars from suppliers abroad, and IF they can transport it around the country without fuel, water, food, and security that we now enjoy at re-supply points along the way.
I know a man who is one of only a dozen or so who know how to splice high voltage cable. I’m not talking the 12,000 volt stuff, I mean 500,000+ transmission lines. A dozen such men are adequate for the random incidents where their skills are needed. It’s the same demand for installing 700 ton extreme-high-voltage transformers at power plants. Don’t need too many of those on a daily basis. But melt down 6,000 EHV transformers, and you have a problem. How do we contact these men (no communications)? Which of them are willing to leave their starving and thirsty families to travel long distances in a grid-down country to work on your power plant (assuming they could get the huge list of gear to restore the plant) assuming they are alive by the time they need him?
With all of the perils and pitfalls of evacuation, it is probably the only way forward for city dwellers, because there will be nothing in the city for them. The cities will die.
You can pass this short video of a talk by Bronius Cikotas about the consequences of a CME or EMP on the nation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpHjP1j70Xo The follow-on videos about EMP are also excellent! He softened his remarks for the audience….but over a hamburger at Hires in September 2014, Bron left his line of conversation about life in Virginia to say, “They cities will die. Get OUT.” The way he said it, out of the blue- and then moved on, was unexpected. I’m going somewhere with this, and it relates to a conversation I had with the water works engineer in West Jordan in the lobby of his building. I just drove to the water works and walked in asking for someone from the engineering staff. A kindly man in his fifties came out and addressed my questions about how, where, West Jordan gets it drinking water. Indeed, his comments applied to the Wasatch Front, not just WJ, with the possible exceptions of their wells.
West Jordan gets 82% of its water from the reservoirs in the mountains….Jordanelle, Pine View, etc. It is piped down through very large concrete aqueducts. If an earthquake damages these, it may take 3 or 4 months to repair them. “But we could keep the city alive with the wells, if the quake didn’t disrupt them…….if no one takes a shower. It would be close.” I then asked, “What about EMP?” I got no tap dancing, hemming or hawing. He looked right at me and said, “The city will die.” Almost exactly what Bron said at Hires. It’s likely he had attended the EMP seminar Bron was presenting at the Little America Hotel on the morning of 9/11, which was adjourned by the events in New York City. About 600 city and state officials were in attendance, those associated with law enforcement, utility management, etc.
In Lowell Wood’s 1999 testimony on EMP, he discusses the challenges of “bootstrapping” the grid. It is bleak. It is wise to consider the importance safe, clean water has on the priority list of our preparations. Without the grid, municipal water will be a fond memory and the largest factor in the demise of hundreds of millions of Americans. Those relying on emergency backpack filters will soon find themselves in serious trouble as their filters become hopelessly clogged using ditch water. Virtually all filter manufacturers use tap water to rate their capacities. In my experience in the high Uinta mountains, I had to clean my Katadyn filter after only a few quarts of clear stream water. It was frustrating and time consuming. With cloudy, muddy water, it would be much worse.
What is needed for long-term water filtration is multiple stages….starting at 20 microns, and moving down to the .3 micron level so that one filter is not overwhelmed by trying to handle the whole task. Processes to handle viruses and chemicals need to be included. The best filter I’ve found for the long-term water problem is the Lakewater Filter by Vitasalis (Equinox) out of Michigan. Six processes (still not as good as the 19 to 23 stages your city uses) instead of one or two. It requires power to use….so alternative power is also high on your list. It will provide plenty of water for the long haul for showers, cooking, drinking, etc.
Plan and DO for the long haul. In virtually any nuclear confrontation with our very real enemies, you can count on loss of the grid and all its attendant benefits.
From the “Journal Archives” ….. Journal of Civil Defense, Jan-Feb 1978
Reports and repercussions of the 1977 American “Civil Defense Debate” are appearing in foreign publications. In Great Britain, The Journal of the Institute of Civil Defense digs into Congressional hearings and says: One Republican, Congressman William Whitehurst, also argued that it would be criminal to give up hope of defending against a nuclear attack when civil shelters could reduce casualties “down to 20 million.” But the new director of the Pentagon’s Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Mr. Bardyl Tirana, said there was no question of building blast shelters for the civil population, which would cost far more than the sums being voted. “Frankly, we do not seek an increase,” he said. “All we would do with the funds is accelerate our program. We’re not going to build shelters or do any industrial hardening, as some people have suggested.”
Russians carefully monitored the hearings, and General of the Army A. I. Radziyevskiy in an interview with V. Aleksandrov printed in the Canadian Emergency Planning Digest for September-October 1977 has praise for “sober minded” Americans who play down civil defense. In answer to a question about claims of a stepped-up Russian civil defense made by the American press, American generals and Boeing Aerospace Company Radziyevskiy says:
“They are totally baseless. Soviet civil defense has never threatened anyone and has always pursued humane aims.
“As in the past, the main tasks of civil defense are: to protect the population during war; to increase the stability of the functioning of the national economy in wartime and to eliminate the consequences of an aggressor’s attack on peaceful cities and villages . . .
“Naturally, the civil defense organization and its methods of protecting the population and national economy from an aggressor’s air attacks and natural catastrophes are constantly being improved. However, this fact, which was recognized during the conclusion of the ABM Treaty, was no obstacle to its signing and alarmed no one until 1976, when the struggle over the US military budget for the next few years broke out.
“Seeking an increase in the military budget, American ‘hawks’ are now trying to belittle US civil defense potential as much as possible. Yet in the past, when the military-industrial complex had to convince American public opinion that the vast sums being spent at the taxpayer’s expense to implement extensive civil defense programs were being used most effectively, they enthusiastically praised the achievements of US civil defense . . .
“While knowing of the United States’ extensive civil defense programs, the Soviet Union has never called these measures a threat to the peace and security of other peoples, and has never tried to depict them as an obstacle to ending the arms race or to general disarmament. Indeed, it is not hard to understand that with the ending of the arms race and the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, the need for civil defense measures will also recede of its own accord. Therefore, the attempt to present civil defense measures as an insurmountable obstacle to further progress at the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks is just as ridiculous as an attempt to lead a jackass backwards along a road . . .
Closer to home, Soviet Scientist M. A. Markov writes a persuasive article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November 1977) which is meant to refute Richard Pipes’ statement in the July 1977 Commentary. Pipes said:
“Since the mid-1960s, the proposition that thermonuclear war would be suicidal for both parties has been used by the Russians largely as a commodity for export. Its chief proponents include staff members of the Moscow Institute of the USA and Canada, and Soviet participants at Pugwash, Dartmouth and similar international conferences, who are assigned the task of strengthening the hand of anti-military intellectual circles in the West.”
Markov tackles his mission pretty well and he tries to reemphasize the title of his article, which is “Have We Learned to Think in a New Way?” He quotes the Pugwash Manifesto in saying that “There can be no winners in a third world war.” A familiar goblin, and he points out:
“With the appearance of the nuclear weapon, and with the threat of global destruction of life on earth, arose the realization that the use of this weapon was tantamount to self-destruction . . .
“The duty of scientists is to warn the world about this god of war donning the mask of a pacifist, and to warn about the military strategists’ temptation to unleash a preventive war for ‘humanistic’ ends. . .
“The genie has been released from the bottle, and it only remains for us to search for different forms of limiting its spread and preventing its aggressiveness. The danger is that an accumulation of plutonium can take place in reactors designed for generating nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
” . . . The disappearance of an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and fear in favor of an atmosphere of security will lead to a new economic order and to the peaceful cooperation among people in solving tasks common to all mankind.”
Prominent among those whom the Soviets would like to discredit is Major General George Keegan, who retired a year ago as Chief of Air Force Intelligence . Following are excerpts of an interview published in Human Events of September 24, 1977:
“ . . . The Soviets have taken extraordinary steps to harden, protect and shelter their military, leadership, industrial and population resources from nuclear attack . While Soviet cities would be destroyed, they would probably suffer no more than four or five million fatalities to our 160 million.
“ . . . Future catastrophe can be averted – just as World War II could have been prevented.
“All the United States has to do is continue making a prudent, objective assessment of what the Soviet Union is doing and assuring that we don’t let it happen. Prudent and adequate investment in security and defense is basically what is required. In my opinion, we are not doing that today . . .
“Altunin [Soviet Chief of Civil Defense] has over 200 general officers on active duty from the several services, serving directly on his staff, or in command of civil defense in all the major cities of the Soviet Union. He is known to have many dozens of regiments of civil defense troops that are assigned principally to supervising city defense throughout the Soviet Union. His organization includes several large military academies like the Air Force Academy or West Point exclusively devoted to training civil defense officers.
“After four years of the most intensive training in civil defense, they graduate with the equivalent of a college degree, are commissioned second lieutenants, and spend their entire 35- to 50-year career in civil defense. Ultimately, these young officers become the commanders of civil defense detachments throughout the cities of the Soviet Union.
“ . . . There is no longer any mystery about the matter of Soviet civil defense . The difficulty is that you cannot get senior officials of the U. S. government to believe, because to believe would simply be to put detente, SALT and the ABM treaty of 1972 in an extremely adverse light.”
We here at the American Civil Defense Association felt this was important to share;
Statement for the Record
Dr. William R. Graham, Chairman
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Chief of Staff
Commission to assess the threat to the United States from
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Hearing
October 17, 2017
North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack:
An Existential Threat
During the Cold War, major efforts were undertaken by the Department of Defense to assure that the U.S. national command authority and U.S. strategic forces could survive and operate after an EMP attack. However, no major efforts were then thought necessary to protect critical national infrastructures, relying on nuclear deterrence to protect them. With the development of small nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles by new, radical U.S. adversaries, beginning with North Korea, the threat of a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S. becomes one of the few ways that such a country could inflict devastating damage to the United States. It is critical, therefore, that the U.S. national leadership address the EMP threat as a critical and existential issue, and give a high priority to assuring the leadership is engaged and the necessary steps are taken to protect the country from EMP. (Read entire address here.)
When putting together a disaster plan, it’s important to prioritize human needs in the way that you prepare. To put together a solid short-term survival plan, you need only to address the most basic of human necessities: water, shelter, food, and security, but as short-term survival transitions into “well I guess this is what’s left of the world now,” it’s important to have a plan in place that can help you get by a bit longer than just the first few days after a disaster.
While ensuring you have adequate food and water will prevent death from hunger or dehydration, it’s important to remember that those are often the very easiest forms of death to avoid. We worry about supply lines drying up after the collapse of our infrastructure for good reason, but humans have been surviving without grocery stores and running faucets for millennia… what tends to kill us in such situations often isn’t a lack of food, but rather a lack of hygiene.
Enter my favorite survival item: hydrogen peroxide. Most of us are familiar with the brown bottle of bubbling goodness from our childhoods, when our mothers would pour a bit of the elixir onto our scraped knees to disinfect it before armoring the wound with a Batman band-aid and providing an emergency booboo-kiss for pain relief. While wound care is certainly one of the things hydrogen peroxide is good to have around for, it’s far from the only thing.
In order to discuss some of the other important uses for the magic brown bottle, I’m going to have to delve into some of the health issues that may impact a person in an extended survival scenario; some of which are likely to sound gross, but it’s important to plan for potential health hazards other than gunshot wounds and zombie bites, because dying of an infection all by yourself will leave you just as dead as the sexier alternatives we see on TV.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Mouth Care
I’m not normally one to close my eyes during a rough scene in a movie – but watching Tom Hanks remove an infected tooth with an ice skate in “Cast Away” was tough for me. I don’t like going to the dentist, let alone the idea of serving as my own using bits of trash I found on a beach, but I have to credit the movie for including an element of survival that is often ignored in movies and television: dental hygiene.
An infected tooth is a serious issue. If left unchecked, and infection can spread throughout your body, possibly even killing you without antibiotic treatment. Beyond that, an infected tooth can make eating an excruciating endeavor and can serve as a serious distraction when you need to keep your wits about you. If at all possible, one should avoid having to do their own oral surgery, and hydrogen peroxide can help.
That same brown bottle you use on cuts and scrapes is also a FDA approved mouth wash. Pouring a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water into your mouth and swishing it around once in a while may not give you the same fresh breath you’d get from a tooth-brush and a new tube of Crest Whitening, but it could keep the bacteria in your mouth from going rogue and rotting you from the inside out. Keeping your teeth intact will keep you eating, and hydrogen peroxide can help stave off infections and even cavities.
Hydrogen Peroxide to Fight Fungus
Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections of the hands and feet can be serious trouble for the long-term survivor. The reduction in available means of hygiene that may come after a disaster could leave you more vulnerable to this sort of ailment, and yet again, hydrogen peroxide can help kill the fungus causing itching and burning on your extremities.
Perhaps more important though, is hydrogen peroxide’s ability to combat yeast infections. While we tend to think of such things as a uniquely female issue, and in today’s world, we even see it as more of an inconvenience than a matter of life and death, developing a yeast infection in a survival setting is bad news and must be addressed.
Hydrogen Peroxide is safe to be used as a douche for women suffering from a yeast infection after the stores have long stopped stocking Monistat, and can be used externally for men suffering from the same ailment. Didn’t know men could get yeast infections? They absolutely can – and the resulting itching, burning and open sores could lead to any number of further infections, or simply leave you too distracted to handle your day-to-day survival needs with the level of focus they require. Hydrogen peroxide will not work as well as traditional anti-fungal medications, but as a multi-use tool, it’s good to know that you can keep the swamp-rot off your fingers and toes as well as out of your underoos with the same bottle you keep around for wound care and oral hygiene. I’d just recommend cleaning the spout before switching between uses (just kidding, do not put the spout inside any part of you, use a different means of application).
Hydrogen Peroxide for Cleaning (everything)
If you wear contact lenses, hydrogen peroxide and water can be used to clean them between uses – extending the life of your contacts and possibly your ability to see if you don’t have access to your glasses. It can also be used to clean food containers and utensils, water carriers, or even cooking surfaces to kill things like salmonella.
You can also use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water to clean and disinfect your clothes. A clean pair of undies may not sound like the most important thing after the end of the world, but remember, we haven’t evolved to prefer the smell and touch of clean things for no reason. Cleaning your clothes will help prevent skin irritations and even infections. In fact, using hydrogen peroxide to clean your underwear could prevent you from having to using hydrogen peroxide to treat a yeast infection in the first place.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Farming
In a long-term survival situation, cultivating your own food may be a necessity, but if you weren’t blessed with a green thumb, you’ll likely need all the help you can get in order to turn your little garden into something that’ll feed your family. Believe it or not, hydrogen peroxide can also help you start to grow your own food.
Adding a small bit of hydrogen peroxide to the water you pour on your plants can help fertilize the soil, prevent mold and mildew from developing, and even help an ailing plant regain its health. Soaking seeds in water that contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide will even make them germinate faster. It’s important to use the correct amount of hydrogen peroxide however, otherwise it could kill your plants before they have a chance to grow. Check out this chart to help you determine how much peroxide you should mix with water for various agricultural needs.
These handy uses for the old brown bottle in your medicine cabinet are far from all of the ways hydrogen peroxide can benefit a disaster victim attempting to transition from short-term to long-term survival. I highly recommend doing some research and attempting to use hydrogen peroxide for things like oral hygiene once or twice before the world comes crashing down on you.
And maybe grab an extra bottle or two of the stuff the next time you go shopping. Just in case.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Hollings served as an active duty Marine for six and a half years before being medically retired from service. As an athlete, Hollings has raced exotic cars, played Marine Corps football and college rugby, fought in cages, and even wrestled alligators. As a scholar, he has earned a master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as undergraduate degrees in Corporate and Organizational Communications and Business Management.