Effects of Radiation

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What is Radiation ?

The  process of emission and propagation or transmission of energy in the form of waves, particles or rays through a material medium or any space is called Radiation . Radiation can

be of number of types such as heat waves or particle radiation , radio waves , gamma radiation,

microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays ,etc depending upon their nature and characteristics .

Types of Radiation 

Types Of Radiation: Radiation is energy that is emitted by a source, then travels through a medium, such as air, until it is absorbed by matter. Based on the energy of the radiated particles, they are classified as follows:

1 Ionizing radiation

2. Non-ionizing radiation

Ionizing Radiation : Radiation that produces ions with sufficient energy in the matter at the molecular level upon the interaction is called Ionizing Radiation. In other words,  it can remove tightly bound electrons from its  orbit, thus causing the atom to become further charged or ionized , thus when  interacting matter is a human body, resulting in significant damage including damage to DNA and denaturation of proteins.

Since ionizing radiation is caused due to unstable atoms that either have excess energy or mass or both. Therefore to get back to a stable state, they have to release the extra mass or energy in the form of radiation to acquire their initial state .

The different types of Ionizing Radiations are:  

  1. Alpha particles

  2. Beta particles

  3. Gamma rays

  4. X-rays

Effects of Radiation on Human Body

Exposure to very high levels of radiation may affect living things by damaging their cells that make up the living organism which  can further cause acute health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (“radiation sickness") .The effects of radiation on a cell are random i.e the same type and amount of radiation could strike the same cell many times and have  different effect, including no effect.  The most common early side effects such fatigue (feeling tired) and skin changes , hair loss, etc.It can also cause mouth problems when radiation treatment is given to this area .

 Whether the source of radiation is natural or man-made, there will be some biological effects that overall may result into Symptoms of radiation sickness may include Weakness, fatigue, fainting, confusion , Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum, bruising, skin burns, open sores on the skin, sloughing of skin, etc whether it is a  small dose of radiation or a large dose.

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Following are Biological Effects of Radiation 

(1) Hair : Radiation causes quick losing of hair in clumps generally when 200 rems or higher exposure is there.

(2) Brain: Like the heart, radiation kills nerve cells and small blood vessels, and can cause seizures and immediate death and also  Since brain cells do not reproduce and they won't be damaged directly until and unless  the exposure is 5,000 rems or greater.

(3) Blood System: the blood's lymphocyte cell count will be reduced, when a person is exposed to around 100 rems leaving the victim more susceptible to infection and which  is often referred to as mild radiation sickness. symptoms of radiation are  sickness mimic and  of flu and may go unnoticed unless a blood count is done . Data from Hiroshima and Nagaski, suggests that symptoms may persist for up to 10 years and may also have an increased long-term risk for leukemia and lymphoma.

(4) Genetic Effects due to Mutation of the reproductive cells passed onto the offspring of the exposed individual ,also many chemical agents as well as biological agents (such as viruses) that cause mutations.

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(5) Heart : Immediate damage to small blood vessels and probably cause heart failure and death directly when there is intense exposure to radioactive material at 1,000 to 5,000 rems

(6) Gastrointestinal Tract : When the victim's exposure is 200 rems or more,the Radiation damage to the intestinal tract lining will cause nausea, bloody vomiting and diarrhoea . Thus will begin to destroy the cells in the body that divide rapidly. These include blood, reproductive and hair cells, which  harms their DNA and RNA of surviving cells.

(7) Reproductive Tract : Reproductive tract cells divide rapidly thus these  areas of the body can be damaged at rem levels as low as 200. Long-term, some radiation sickness victims will become sterile.

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Classification of Radiation Effects

Biological effects of radiation are typically divided into two categories ,the   first category includes exposure to high doses of radiation over short periods of time producing acute or short term effects while the second category represents exposure to low doses of radiation over an extended period of time producing chronic or long term effects. The high doses of radiation tend to kill cells , while low doses tend to change them or damage them . High doses can kill so many cells that tissues and organs are damaged  in turn may cause a rapid whole body response often called the Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS).  The effects of low doses of radiation occur at the level of the cell, and the results may not be observed for many years as the low doses often  spread out over long periods of time thus cannot  cause an immediate problem to any body organ.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is Radiation ?

Ans: The  process of emission and propagation or transmission of energy in the form of waves, particles or rays through a material medium or any space is called Radiation.

Q 2. Classify radiation based on the energy of the Radiated Particles?

Ans: Based on the energy of the radiated particles, they are classified as follows:

1.Ionizing radiation

2.Non-ionizing radiation

Q 3. Where does Radiation come from?

Ans: There  are both  natural and man-made sources of radiation naturally present in our environment, as it has been since before the birth of this planet ,while the  radiation can also  be produced artificially, such as in medical x-rays and microwaves for cooking.