The world's nuclear arsenal has been declining since the 1950s, but fears of nuclear war are still plentiful.
Last month, the United States withdrew from a nuclear treaty with Russia that banned the two countries from owning, producing or testing thousands of land-based missiles. Subsequently, the US conducted a missile test that would be banned under the treaty.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several doses and should not be remembered by citizens in the event of a nuclear explosion. One practice that you should avoid at all costs is the use of hair balm, as the balm can act as a glue between the hair and the radioactive material.
Rinse with gentle shampoo, on the other hand, is a critical part of the decontamination process. Several differences between the ingredients in shampoo and conditioner make one life-saving tool and the other a dangerous agent due to an explosion.
Read more: If a nuclear bomb explodes nearby, this is why you should never get in a car
Nuclear explosions release radioactive dust that can land in your hair
Nuclear explosions give people little time to seek asylum. About a tenth of a second after the explosion, the sky is overtaken by a brilliant flash and a giant orange fireball. The blast also emits shock waves that can knock down buildings, along with swollen temperatures that can burn the skin and ignite fires.
Those closest to the bomb face death, while people up to 5 miles away can suffer third-degree burns. Even those within 53 miles could experience temporary blindness.
But a longer-term threat comes minutes and hours after the explosion: Nuclear explosions can produce clouds of radioactive dust and ash that scatter into the atmosphere – it's a nuclear outbreak. These particles can land in your skin and hair, exposing you to radiation poisoning, which damages the body's cells and can be fatal.
Use shampoo but not balm after a nuclear explosion
If you find yourself outside during a nuclear explosion, the CDC recommends that you seek asylum in the nearest brick or concrete building immediately. Ideal structures also have a basement and little to no windows.
Once inside, the CDC instructs people to seal contaminated clothing and jump in the shower as soon as possible. As recommended by the agency, it is advisable to use soap as long as you apply it carefully. Excessive cleansing can break the skin, which acts as a natural barrier. The water should also be warm but not dripping and you should cover any cuts or scrapes.
Washing shampoo with hair is also crucial as the shampoo is designed to stick oil and dirt into the hair and then throw away all the dirt when you rinse the shampoo out. The molecules responsible for this process are called surfactants – they attract water to one end of the molecule and oil to the other.
Balsams also contain surfactants, but their properties have different properties. Most conditioners have so-called cationic surfactants that are positively charged. Meanwhile, shampoos contain anionic surfactants that are negatively charged. Because hair fibers have a negative charge, they are more attracted to conditioners than shampoos. So not all balms are washed in the shower.
Another ingredient in conditioners is silicone, which helps to smooth out the fibers, but is insoluble in water. This means that it will stay in your hair and capture particles of dirt (or radiation) along with it.
In addition to the CDC, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also advise people to protect themselves from air conditioning after a nuclear explosion.
As a general rule, it is best to use products of your body that are intended to be flushed if you are exposed to a nuclear failure. Things like dry shampoo, body lotion and face cream can wait until you get dirty.
After 48 hours, the exposure rate of a 10k explosion (the type that can damage but not destroy a city) decreases to only 1%. At this point, it may be safe to step outside and resume your usual personal care routine.