People living in the vicinity of a nuclear facility live under a constant threat of leakage and exposure to radiation. The nuclear disaster that took place in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 is the most recent example of the damage caused when almost negligent measures are taken to protect the people from radiation exposure.
This is why the Stemrad belt was created – to protect people from life threatening radiation exposure. The belt has been created for the first people to respond to nuclear disasters and it claims to shield the wearers from the effects of gamma radiation by protecting the bone marrow.
Usually, the employees of a nuclear reactor are the first people to respond to a disaster, and usually the number can be anything between ten and fifty. But, in the event of more severe disasters (like the one in Fukushima or the Chernobyl disaster in 1986), the first responders usually receive support from surrounding fire and police stations. This raises the number of people potentially exposed to radiation to hundreds.
In order to keep the public safe, these brave men and women can be exposed to high doses of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Normal clothing can repel alpha and beta radiation, but gamma radiation causes severe damage to the bone marrow stem cells. The body cannot produce white and red blood cells, and platelets without stem cells. This can result in severe anaemia, leukaemia, or acute radiation syndrome. These conditions require bone marrow transplants, or else the patient is likely to die.
This belt shields the pelvic area that contains 50 percent of all bone marrow with a leaden harness. This means that it cannot provide full body protection against radiation. This could be a serious drawback because some of the most affected areas of the body include the thyroid and the liver.
The 15 kilograms belt is made of differently shaped lead plates that have been layered on top of each other, with Teflon tissue in between them to allow for flexibility. The frame is covered with a fire – resistant Kevlar fabric that ensures full protection against every factor involved in a nuclear disaster. The company says that the belt protects up to five percent of the bone marrow in a person’s body. This amount is enough to regenerate a new batch within a month’s time.
The belt has a Geiger counter built in that works as a gamma radiation monitor, thus keeping the wearer aware of potential dangers through a chirping sound. It also has a cumulative dose decimetre card that displays a scale of rads a person was exposed to.
The makers have already sold the belt in many countries like Israel, Japan, and Russia, and has pending sales in Germany and in the USA. Stemrad also plans to make a protective belt for civilians that will be lighter and more economical than the regular belt. Quite recently, three noble laureates joined the advisory board of the company – Aaron Ciechanover, Roger D. Kornberg, a prominent American biochemist, and biophysicist Michael Levitt.