News and Terrorism

Fact Sheets on Terrorist Attacks

The National Academies has prepared, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, fact sheets on five types of terrorist attacks. Drawing on our many reviewed publications, the expertise of our members, and the knowledge of other esteemed authorities, the fact sheets provide reliable, objective information.

They were designed primarily for reporters as part of the project News and Terrorism: Communicating in a Crisis, though they will be helpful to anyone looking for a clear explanation of the fundamentals of science, engineering, and health related to such attacks.

These fact sheets are a product of the National Research Council Division on Earth and Life Studies.

Biological Attack (pdf)
Where do biological agents originate?
What's the difference between "infectious" and "contagious"?
How long after exposure will symptoms appear?

Chemical Attack (pdf)
What are the different origins of toxic chemicals that could be used?
How do chemical toxicities vary?
What are the practical steps to take if there's a chemical release?

Improvised Explosive Device (pdf)
What materials are used in an IED?   
What are the effects?  
What should people do to protect themselves? 

Nuclear Attack (pdf)
What is radioactive fallout, and how is it dangerous?
What are the short term and long term effects of radiation exposure?
What is the likely size of a nuclear explosion from an attack by terrorists?

Radiological Attack (pdf)
What are radiological dispersal devices, a.k.a. "dirty bombs"?
How are they different from nuclear bombs?
What are their physical and psychological health effects?