Effects of Radiation


Radiation is an example of energy moving through the air as rays or particles. Dust, powder, and liquid are some materials to which radiation can cling. These substances can potentially develop radioactivity, which means that they emit radiation.

Nearly every day, one comes into contact with or is exposed to small radiation doses. This radiation is produced by manufactured and natural sources, such as the sun’s rays (like microwave ovens and medical X-rays); however, these radiations do not impact negatively.

Nevertheless, radiation events, like a nuclear power plant catastrophe, could expose anyone to higher, riskier doses. Precautions must be taken depending on the radiation type to safeguard human health and the environment from the effects of radiation while enabling us to reap the benefits of many applications.

What is Radiation?

Energy, known as radiation, travels from one location to another through waves or particles. However, the energy that emanates from a source and moves through space at lightning speed is radiation. The above said energy has wave-like qualities and is accompanied by an electric field and a magnetic field. Radiation may also be referred to as electromagnetic waves.

Radiation can take the form of light or heat. Because it has sufficient energy to knock an electron out of an atom, the type of radiation covered on this website is known as ionizing radiation. These atoms release extra energy or mass from radiation to achieve stability. The two types of radiation are particulate and electromagnetic (like light) (i.e., group given off with the energy of motion).

Some examples of electromagnetic radiation include X-rays and gamma radiation; some examples of particle radiation include beta and alpha radiation. However, another source of ionizing radiation is equipment like X-ray machines.

Radiation exposure is referred to as irradiation. When the whole or a portion of the body is exposed to radiation from the source, irradiation occurs. Humans are not radioactive after radiation exposure.

Effects of Radiation

Exposure to very high radiation levels, such as being close to an atomic blast, can cause acute health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (“radiation sickness”). It can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Exposure to low levels of radiation in the environment does not cause immediate health effects but is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk. Let us understand the impact of radiation on the following:

· The Environment

· The Human Body

· A Pregnant Woman

The Environment

The environment comes in second to people regarding the likelihood of harm being experienced. This is primarily because a nuclear power plant requires a high concentration of radiation to operate, and it is well-recognized that these facilities release much radiation that is hazardous to human health. These power plants have the potential to malfunction or even have accidents, which would be extremely harmful to both people and the environment.

Having to understand the fact environment is secondary to a human, I chose to talk about it first since it is the environment in which we all live and survive.

Other radiation types, such as those released after an atomic or hydrogen bomb explosion, are highly hazardous to the environment. Because of such radiation, the immediate area is destroyed, resulting in everything in its path being burned by the intense heat of thermal radiation, including people, trees, and buildings.

Animals, both domestic and wild, and agricultural plants, can become contaminated by dust made of dangerously broken atoms that are highly radioactive. Scientists can estimate the environmental impact of minor nuclear conflicts due to various areas’ development. An actual example of the above is the radiation produced at Chornobyl, which is equal to nearly a dozen atomic bombs being detonated at a height that would result in the most significant degree of blast damage.

At Chornobyl, a fire that burned for ten days emitted significant quantities of the radioactive particles iodine-131 and caesium 137 into the atmosphere. Living things are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of these isotopes. Atomic bomb blast sites can release radioactive particles that can travel to nearby waterbodies contaminating marine life. Additionally, berries and other plant life in the vicinity and woodlands would become contaminated due to the explosion of several atomic bombs.

The generations of animals and people that followed pollution would likewise experience genetic alterations and sickness. For instance, according to scientists, Chornobyl’s forests have high concentrations of radioactive caesium in their wildlife, which will remain the same for many years.

The Human Body

Exposure to various radiation sources specifically affects particular body parts. The potential adverse effects of radiation exposure on health depend on several variables, such as:

  • The quantity of the dose (amount of energy deposited in the body)
  • The radiation’s capacity to damage human tissue.
  • Affected organ systems.

Numerous exposure mechanisms might lead to internal or exterior radiation exposure, i.e., a radionuclide enters the bloodstream when inhaled, consumed, or comes into contact with the body (for example, by injection or through wounds). Thus, the internal exposure ends radionuclide is expelled from the body, either naturally (via faeces, for example) or as a result of medical intervention.

When airborne radioactive material (such as dust, liquid, or aerosols) is deposited on skin or clothing, external exposure may result. This kind of radioactive substance is frequently washable off the body. Irradiation from an external source, such as medical radiation exposure via X-rays, can also lead to ionizing radiation exposure. External irradiation ceases when the radiation source is protected, or the subject passes outside the radiation field.

The effects of radiation on the human body include effects on:

· Hair

Radiation exposure of 200 rems or more results in rapid and clump-like hair loss, thus damaging the hair.

· Brain

Brain cells do not divide; unless the exposure is 5,000 or higher, they will not be directly harmed. Radiation damages small blood vessels and nerve cells, like the heart, and can result in seizures and immediate death.

· Thyroid

Exposure to various radiation sources impacts some body areas more than others. Radioactive iodine can potentially harm the thyroid gland, and radioactive iodine can entirely or partially damage the thyroid when used in high doses. The effects of exposure can be lessened by taking potassium iodide.

· Blood System

The blood’s lymphocyte cell count will decrease after exposure to about 100 rems, making the subject more vulnerable to infection. This condition is frequently called mild radiation sickness. If a blood test is not done, the early signs of radiation sickness may go unrecognized since they resemble flu symptoms.

· Heart

Small blood arteries would suffer instantaneous damage from intense radiation exposure between 1,000 and 5,000 rems, resulting in heart failure and death.

· Gastrointestinal Tract

Nausea, bloody vomiting, and diarrhoea are symptoms of digestive tract lining damage by radiation. When the victim is exposed for 200 rems or longer, this happens. The radiation destroys the body’s quickly dividing cells, which damages the DNA and RNA of the remaining cells, including blood, GI tract, reproductive, and hair cells.

· Reproductive Tract

Rem levels as low as 200 can cause harm to the reproductive tract since its cells divide quickly. Some radiation illness patients will eventually become sterile.

Effects on Pregnant Woman

Most radiation exposures that a pregnant woman can experience, like diagnostic medical exams or work exposures within legal limits, are unlikely to impact the fetus negatively. However, unintentional or deliberate disclosure that exceeds legal limits may be of concern. The risk of radiation exposure to the unborn child will depend on the following factors:

  • The radiation dose: smaller doses (amounts) are safe
  • The fetus’s age: the further along in pregnancy a woman is, the better
  • The location of the radiation exposure: tests on the abdomen or pelvis or where the radiation is carried in one’s blood pose a higher risk than other tests.

The effects of radiation on pregnancy include:

· Malformations

During the organogenesis stage of early pregnancy, the chance of abnormalities increases (2 to 8 weeks). The threshold for potential prenatal radiation damage in a fetus under 16 weeks of gestation is roughly 0.10 to 0.20 Gy (100 to 200 mg, 10 to 20 rads). After 16 weeks of pregnancy, the threshold is substantially higher, at least 0.50 to 0.70 Gy (500 to 700 mg, 50 to 70 rads). The fetus is resistant to the teratogenic effects of ionizing radiation beyond 20 to 25 weeks of gestation or late in the second trimester.

· Growth Restriction

A lasting physical development restriction was seen in follow-up data from atomic bomb survivors as radiation exposure increased, particularly over 1 Gy. The same was especially clear when the exposure occurred in the first trimester. At age 18, the height decreased by 3% to 4% anytime the cumulative dose exceeded 1 Gy.

· Mental Retardation

According to studies, the risk of mental retardation and microcephaly was highest between 8 and 15 weeks after conception, when the exposure took place. The anomalies were linked to improper neuronal development, most likely due to altered cellular differentiation, poor neuronal migration, and radiation-induced permanent cell injury. No cases of severe intellectual impairment were observed in newborns of survivors exposed before eight weeks or after 25 weeks post-conception. With a threshold of 0.12 Gy (120 mGy, 12 rads) at 8 to 15 weeks and 0.21 Gy (210 mGy, 21 rads) from 16 to 25 weeks, the risk became apparent as a linear function of the dose exposed.

· Miscarriage

A miscarriage can also result from radiation exposure while pregnant, and a baby in the womb dying before 20 weeks of pregnancy can be the same. Furthermore, the embryo may fail to implant. In addition, there are cataracts, congenital malformations, and central nervous system disorders.

Understanding the harmful effects of radiation on humans and the environment, thoughts to reduce time and effort must be emphasized, and focus must be laid on simple portable equipment.

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