|Epilation, or loss of hair, is one of
the symptoms of acute radiation sickness.
Hair is made of protein which is formed by a cluster
of cells residing in the hair follicle or hair bulb (see Hypothetical
mechanism of epilation). These cells die when
exposed to radiation or toxic chemicals (eg, chemotherapeutic
agents for cancer). As a consequence, each hair becomes
thinner and, when combed, easily is broken, which is recognized
as hair loss, ie, epilation.
In the days to weeks following the atomic bombings, the
heavily exposed survivors experienced fever, nausea, vomiting,
lack of appetite, bloody diarrhea, epilation, purpura or petechia,
sores in their throat or mouth (nasopharyngeal ulcers),
and decay and ulceration of the gums about the teeth (necrotic
gingivitis). The time of onset of these symptoms varied,
but it generally occurred sooner among the heavily exposed.
Editor's note: Definition adapted
from The Effects of Atomic Radiation. A Half-Century
of Studies from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by William
J Schull, p 12, Wiley-Liss, New York, NY, 1995.