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Radiation is caused by the interaction of unstable nuclei within certain atoms, which under certain circumstances begin to decompose spontaneously. The result is the release of an ionizing substance called radiation. The energy of this reaction is so great that it is able to enter into communication with other substances, changing and creating ions of different signs.
Alpha particles like helium nuclei are heavy particles with a positive charge.
Beta particles are ordinary particles called electrons.
Gamma-particles are very similar in nature to visible light rays, but their ability to penetrate is several times higher.
Neutrons are electrically neutral particles. They appear in limited access zone near any functioning reactor due to having an extremely destructive effect on living organisms.
X-rays are similar to gamma radiation, but their force is sometimes weaker. The Sun is a natural source of x-rays.
This figure illustrates the relative abilities of three different types of ionizing radiation to penetrate solid matter. Alpha particles (α) are stopped by a sheet of paper while beta particles (β) are stopped by an aluminum plate. Gamma radiation (γ) is dampened when it penetrates matter.
Alpha, gamma and beta particles present the greatest danger to humans. These particles can cause irreversible harm to human health. The effects of radiation on a human organism depend on the intensity of the radiation in question and how long the subject remains exposed to it.
High doses of radiation affecting humans generally lead to serious consequences. Radiation may enter the organism in a number of ways, including when eating, with food intake, when breathing, and even through the skin. During the irradiation process the body receives a certain dose of hazardous particles, which penetrate cells in the organism and begin to destroy them.
Diseases caused by radiation may vary, starting with ordinary metabolism disturbances and ending with severe chronic diseases.
There is currently no treatment for high doses of radiation, and irradiated people can only hope for a miracle.
In the case of a human organism receiving smaller doses of radiation, doctors prescribe a specific list of foods and vitamins, which help to remove radionuclides from the body.
The effect of radiation on the human organism lies in disturbing the basic functions of the body’s various systems and organs. The nervous system is the first to suffer, followed by hematopoietic organs and the gastrointestinal tract, all signs that testify to the fact that radiation sickness is developing.
Severe impacts are explained by the fact that the penetration of radiation into the organism excites atoms and changes the structure of molecules, which means that living cells can no longer function normally, in turn causing various pathologies in human organisms.
Radiation Around Us
Minimal radiation doses surround us continuously and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, but these doses are not harmful for human beings. According to research such small amounts of radiation even have positive effects on our health.
High doses of radiation are plentiful in space, but due to our wonderful atmosphere they do not reach the Earth’s surface. The presence of large quantities of radiation in space is connected with the fact that the Sun emits a very large amount of radiation in doses large enough to destroy any life on our planet within minutes. Fortunately, the atmosphere keeps almost all the Sun’s radiation away from the Earth.
Protection from Radiation
Radiation is characterized by three main components: alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
Keep in mind that a thick sheet of paper is enough to protect against alpha particles. External alpha radiation is not dangerous for a human being.
Beta particles are much smaller than alpha particles and can thus penetrate a human body. However, beta particles can be stopped with an aluminum plate several millimeters thick.
The greatest danger to human health is gamma radiation. Upon learning of the release of radioactive substances in your local area, do not panic and try to carry out all measures of protection calmly:
Hide in a building, preferably in your own house or apartment. Concrete and brick walls are able to reduce the influence of gamma radiation by nearly two times. Close all windows, doors and ventilation grates, preventing the influx of air from the street.
Pack your clothes and footwear you wear outdoors into plastic packaging and take a shower.
Stock up on ordinary drinking water and food if possible.
Make masks for respiratory protection via improvised means. You can use cheesecloth or other fabrics.
Consume food and medicine containing iodine as well as foods rich in cellulose.
Rates and Doses
- 0.22 - 0,30 μSv/h – Normal background radiation that all of us are subjected to in everyday life.
- 1.00 μSv/h – Radiation received by the crew of an airplane making a Tokyo – New York flight over the North Pole.
- 2.28 μSv/h – Permissible level of radiation for employees in the atomic industry.
- 11.42 μSv/h – Sharp increase in possible development of cancer.
- 40.00 μSv/h consistently – Evacuation necessary, e.g. evacuation after the disaster at Chernobyl.
- 114.15 mSv single dose – Causes radiation sickness with nausea and reduced content of white cells in the blood, but not lethal.
- 570.77 mSv single dose – Half of those who receive such a dose die within a month.