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22 Radiation and Radioactivity ‘Dirty bomb’ Have you ever heard of a ‘dirty bomb’? It is nuclear waste material packed with explosives. Western countries are worried about the use of it by terrorists since September 11, 2001. Why are ‘dirty bombs’ so dangerous? ‘Dirty bombs’ contains radioactive materials that emit harmful nuclear radiation. What are the harmful effects caused by the radioactive materials? Exposure to radioactive materials results in radiation sickness and an increased risk of cancer.