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Harold McCluskey : The Atomic Man

Hanford Site Recovery Act Workers Maintain Momentum to Prepare Plant for Demolition
Harold McCluskey was a chemical operations technician at the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant. On August 30, 1976, McCluskey was exposed to 500 times the occupational standard for americium-241 as the consequence of an explosion and embedding radioactive americium (Americium is an artificially produced element) in his skull, turning him into the Atomic Man. He was exposed to the largest amount of radioactive americium ever recorded.

Harold McCluskey
                            Image credit : nbcnews
The impact tore the mask and his face. His body covered in blood and shards of metal and glass was taken to the decontamination center where he stayed in an isolation of concrete and steel for five months. No one was permitted near him out of fear of radiation he still emitted. Nurses wearing respirators and protective cloth treated him like an alien. Nurses cleaned him three times a day and shaved every inch of his body every day. Bathwater and thousands of towels became nuclear waste, because of high radioactivity.

Read: How Much Radiation Is In A Single Banana? Is it safe to Eat?

McCluskey was given some 600 shots of experimental drug zinc DTPA that helped him excrete the radioactive material. When the radioactivity in his body had finally dropped 80 percent after five months in the isolation facility, he was permitted to go home. When McCluskey returned home, friends and relatives avoided him. His minister finally had to advise people it was safe to be around him. He died on August 17, 1987, of coronary artery disease.


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