Alcohol and Radiation Poisoning <–a visit to Chernobyl, ~8 min

So these fellas load up on alcohol to prevent radiation poisoning, they say.

And come to think of it, I’ve come across the idea that alcohol somehow shields or cures you from radiation in a couple other places.

And yet, I can’t find any information on it anywhere, so what gives?

I recall that in some movie (K-19?) after the reactor failure the sub doctor prescrived more red wine for the crew. That had me puzzled so I did some research.

I´m not certain about it, but one of the isotopes likely to be released is strontium 90, which is absorved in the bones because it´s chemically similar to calcium. So you end up with nuked bones cooking you up from the inside. Not good at all.
Wine, and apparently red in particular, contains strontium 85, non radioactive, so if you load up on booze you saturate the ammount of strontium you can absorb with the good stuff and thus the bad isotope just passes through without attaching to the bones.

At least that´s what I could piece together on my own. How effective it actually is in preventing radiation poisoning I have no idea.

Something similar is done with Iodine; it tends to accumulate on the thyroid gland in the neck, and a harmful isotope of iodine is generated by nuclear fission so in case of disaster one of the measures is to plop some iodine tablets to prevent the uptake of the radioactive isotope.

My ex-wife was russian, and she told me that it’s common knowledge in Russia that a soldier was passed out on a nuclear test range during a test, and was totally fine after the test. According to her, vodka will protect you. Being trained in radiation safety, this of course made me go :dubious: :rolleyes: , but a lot of things she said and did made me go :dubious: :rolleyes: , hence the “ex-”.

I always chalked it up to either:

  1. The soldier was passed out in a ditch that shielded him.
  2. Complete propaganda designed to calm the soviet public during the cold war.
  3. A mixture of the two.

Loading up on non-radioactive isotopes as Ale describes works, but I suspect you’d have to be completely blitzed on red wine to get enough strontium 85 to do the job. The russian navy is notorious for it’s radiation safety record. If an event similar to that in the movie ever happened, I suspect the red wine was just to get them drunk enough to believe it would protect them while they did whatever needed to be done in a high radiation area.

I’ve seen that repeated in a popular science magazine, with the reasoning given as “sweating out the alcohol”.

In school they told us alcohol makes one’s blood more viscous, reducing it’s ability to oxygenate tissues. If that’s true (not certain in school learning), perhaps alcohol also retards the absorption of other substances long enough for them to be flushed from the system.

Offhand, I think alcohol just makes soldiers more likely to believe they’ll be OK.

And when doled out as a ration ostensibly to protect them, makes them more compliant in following dangerous instructions, perhaps?

Alcohol is a diuretic, which couldn’t hurt, moving out the soluble stuff a little more quickly. I still wouldn’t count on it too much.

Radioactive piss, huh? Just another excuse to drink.

The only thing I have heard is that the best treatment for tritium ingestion/inhalation is drinking beer. This is because the tritium becomes part of the water in your body and drinking a lot of fluids will reduce the biological half-life through urination. While true, it wouldn’t have a large effect, and drinking pure water would work almost as well. Just not as much fun.

Registered to necropost because I found this in google:

It doesn’t cite the exact study, however I find it plausible enough that I would advise drinking moderatly after radiation exposure as at best it will save your life and at worst do nothing.

Keep in mind that if you ever ingest antifreeze, you should drink a few shots of vodka before driving to the ER so that it will be metabolized first and the antifreeze will pass through your system.

Add that to the alleged fact that you are less likely to die from trauma while inebriated, and I’m going to go get a few cheap bottles of vodka to keep in the pantry and take a shot a night of vodka.

I really hope that you are not a doctor. Advising anyone, ingested antifreeze or not, to consume vodka before driving is quite stupid.

Well yes, but it gives you one hell of an excuse if stopped for DUI.