Causes And Effects Of Nuclear Radiation
We are surrounded by natural radiation coming from the sky, the ground and even the foods we eat However, man-made radiation such as that which comes from a bomb or reactor accident can be highly concentrated, delivering a
lethal dose in minutes or seconds.
What is radiation?
- Radiation is energy in the form of waves or high speed particles. It can be naturally occurring or artificially generated. Ionizing radiation, the most energetic type, can knock electrons out of atoms in a process called ionization. This
can damage the DNA within your body's cells: 1) Non-ionizing radiation (radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet) - electromagnetic spectrum (long wavelength); 2) Ionizing radiation (X-ray, gamma ray) (breaks
molecular bonds) - electromagnetic spectrum (short wavelength).
How do we measure a radiation dose?
- In the metric system, a radiation dose is measured in units called sieverts.
- Small doses such as those received from medical X-rays are measured in millisieverts (1/1.000 sievert) or microsieverts (1/1.000.000 sievert).
- In the United States, the unit rem is sometimes used (1 rem equals 10 millisieverts).
What dangerous materials come from a damaged reactor?
- Half-life means the time it takes for a materials undergoing radioactive decay to be reduced in half (keys: half-life; danger): 1) Nitrogen-16: Half-life - 7 seconds; Danger - short-lived, hazard only to power plant workers; 2) Tritium
(heavy hydrogen): Half-life - 12 years; Danger - collects in groundwater; 3) Iodine-129: Half-life - 15.7 million years; Danger - can be inhaled and collects in the thyroid, causing cancer and other thyroid-related problems; 4) Iodine-131:
Half-life - 8 days; Danger - can be inhaled and collects in the thyroid, causing cancer and other thyroid-related problems; 5) Strontium-90: Half-life - 29 years; Danger - tends to deposit in bone and blood-forming tissue (bone marrow)
and is linked to bone cancer and leukemia; 6) Cesium-137: Half-life - 30 years; Danger - if it enters food it can be metabolized by the human body, where it causes cancer; 7) Plutonium-239: Half-life - 24.200 years; Danger - inhalation
of aerosols causes lung cancer, liver cancer and bone sarcoma.
- The World Health Organization suggests that potassium iodide should be taken prior to exposure to radiation. potassium iodide is a benign material that block the body's uptake of radioactive iodine.
What are some health effects of radiation?
- A dose of one-half to 1 sievert will cause radiation sickness.
- Immediate effects: 1) Vomiting and diarrhea. Cells that maintain intestinal integrity are damaged; 2) Bleeding; 3) Reduction in number of blood cells; 4) Damage to blood-producing cells in the bone marrow cells cannot produce
platelets that coagulate blood.
- Delayed effects: 1) Cataracts; 2) Genetic damage cause by DNA molecules being broken; 3) Cancer; 4) Anemia and risk of infection due to loss of protective white blood cells; 5) Temporary sterility.
- Comparing exposure (in microsieverts: 1) Smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for one year - 80.000; 2) Average radiation dose to Chernobyl disaster evacuees - 33.000; 3) CT scan (abdomen) - 8.000; 4) One mammogram - 700;
5) One chest X-ray - 100; 6) Full body X-ray airport scanner - 0.0148.
How does nuclear contamination spread?
- In the case of a reactor meltdown, the potential is high for radioactive materials to be released into the environment. How the release can increase exposure to radioactive material: 1) Damage nuclear plant; 2) Danger from potential
radiation source decreases with distance; 3) Radioactive material release; 4) Soil, crops and animals; 5) Air and precipitation; 6) Exposure by: Direct radiation; Ingestion or inhalation of radioactive material.
Ross Toro, Karl Tate/MyHealthNewsDaily.com | Sources: US Environmental Protection Agency; Los Angeles Times; World Health Organization; hazardous Substances Data Bank; National Institutes Of Health; http://:toxnet.nlm.nih.
gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/r?./temp/~r3Xz53:@na+@term+ionizing+radiation; http://:we.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/osradtraining/biologicaleffects/page.html; http://:epa.gov/radiation.